Sunday, April 12, 2015
I DON’T WANT TO DIE IN VIETNAM: 1968
The year was 1968. The following post is in no way intended to shed any negative light on the Veterans of the Vietnam War. I fully support the DAV and the PVA. These are the causes I donate my meager monies to.
I have a cousin who still suffers horrible nightmares. I have many Vietnam vets as my friends today .
After I got out of the draft, my mission totally morphed into a staunch pro-active crusade to help to end that bloody conflict by any means necessary. I hated the war itself, for it’s pure archaic uselessness. I have always supported the men and women who have to fight in them. They were stuck in the middle of a nightmare.
Well I still have my MC5 nightmares, because my stand to stay and fight here cost me a lot of pain and misery. I know tens of guys who either died, came home missing a limb, and so many with post traumatic stress disorder, heroin addiction, alcoholism, etc.
They got the rawest of deals I can imagine. Millions of Americans and myself included, finally put an end to that war. Of this I am as proud as the vet who fought in it. It took a long time for this nation to heal over that mess.
If you're at all interested I suggest you watch “The Fog of War", an excellent Vietnam War documentary by none other than that war’s former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. He finally comes clean.
For the Record:
I do not support illicit drugs of any kind. I do not support the war in Iraq. I do support the men and women in our armed forces who fight these wars.
I most certainly did not quit college to join the band just to be summarily shipped off to Vietnam.
One month after I quit school my 2S student deferment was revoked and I was now classified 1A. That meant that I would soon see my draft papers. They came in the mail immediately and I was mortified. Shit scared.
Luckily the older guys in the Five had already been to Fort Wayne and they had developed a bulletproof system to get that most important 4F classification which pretty much meant that they would draft women and children before they would draft me. OMG, what had I gotten myself into?!
A mess, that’s what it was. Now I had to put all my faith in these guys to teach me the method of achieving that which I needed most in my life then. That was the freedom to play in the band.
Americans were fast approaching a 50-50 split down the middle on the war. There were those who steadfastedly believed that it was all about “My country right or wrong!”, and those who were aware of the politics of the situation and knew it was a mistake early on, and it was time to negotiate peace.
I am a true patriot, always was and always will be, and my belief system cried out loudly against this slaughter taking place in a “foreign jungle land” to quote Bob Seger in his great song from back in that time “2 + 2 ”.
On to the battle plan.
The army was not quite yet hip to the white counter culture . Their world was based on fear and intimidation. Conversely, having no fear was the key.
I was instructed by my mates to get to the head Army shrink’s office as quickly as possible when I went to the base.
The trick was to bypass all the physical checkpoints and wind up in the psychiatrist’s office. There, you will be faced with a series of questions and how you answer these questions would determine your final classification.
And now the saga…
I asked one of the White Panther gals to make me a super snug fitting pair of pink velveteen bell bottom hip hugger pants. We then tore the crotch along the seam and used three safety pins to half-ass secure it. I had an artist friend make a t-shirt of me playing the drums on the front. In day glo paint, he spray brushed a large caricature of me smashing this tiny drum set to smithereens. On the back of the shirt was sprayed in huge letters: “Kick Out The Jams M****R F*****R!” This would be what I was to wear every day for two solid weeks.
My hair was already down to my shoulders. I did not bathe, wash, brush my teeth, or shave for those two weeks. I just lived my life like everything was jake. The people in the band house would say, “Good Den, you stink!” “Go to the damn draft board already, phew…!” I laughed at all this, but inside I was pretty fragile.
Finally it’s D-Day. Draft Day.
I am supposed to be there at 7:00 am sharp. I pull into Fort Wayne at nine o’clock. The only thing I did before going was to drop some mega powerful LSD. I felt anxious and strong at the same time. This was as dangerous to pull off as anything I had ever done in my life before. I was determined to win. What the heck, I either wind up in Army green or not. I either succeed or I don't... so it came down to my personal battle with fear. The rest my friends was pure acting.
The first stop is the scholastic testing station. All the other guys were done with the test, and well on their way to being inducted. When I walked in, half the guys there taunted and jeered at me. “Hey queer where do you think your going?" "Let’s kick his ass." "What a punk", etc. Little did they know.
This black drill sergeant yells at me. “Here asshole, sit down and take this test." "You're only two hours late!” My first encounter with the "man". Whoooh….I am not scared at all. In fact this is going to be fun , I think to myself.
“Man, you're a mess boy, I’ll give you one hour!” barks the Sarge. I scribble swastikas, faces, and airplanes on the test. I answer the first two questions. Wrongly, of course. This test is like eighth grade level. What a scam. The hour is up, the sarge looks at my test and drags me to his office. “Your file here tells me that you have almost two years of college boy." "How do you explain this test performance?
“Well, uh, gee sir, general sir, I didn’t feel like doing it.” “What?" “Nope, wasn’t up to it." "I hate tests, always did…” “You tryin’ to pull a fast one on me here son?” “No sir, commander sir, not at all.” “Alright then smart ass, get over to the main physical facility on your right down the corridor. Now, asshole!” “Yes sir!” I clicked my heels and saluted.
The next station is where about thirty guys are lined up in three rows and they tell us to strip down to our skivvies. Oops. I have no skivvies, (part of the plan) so I just strip down buck naked. I get the laughs and wisecracks again. The soldier in charge of testing us for hernia’s comes up to me right in my face and shouts, “You, Get the f**k out of here right now!”
Now I get a two man Military Police escort to the hearing station and I’m starting to sweat. I should be at the head shrink’s office by now. “Arghh, I’m gonna get drafted!" Shit! Visions of jungle warfare are dancing in my head. I am getting a little scared again.
They put me in this little booth. They explain to push this button on the hand held trigger when I start to hear a sound. Then push it again when I don’t hear any sound. You got it. I do exactly the opposite. The grunt comes up to me and re-explains very patiently the rules of this test. Now I just start pushing the button all the time. This works.
Finally the MP’s grab ahold of me rather roughly and escort me past an all female secretarial pool. I pull at my safety pinned crotch and the pants rip and my family jewels are exposed. Ha, ha. The girls notice and giggle and blush and I shout “Hi girls , how you all doin?” Some of them even waved to me. The MP”s are laughing and shaking their heads. I think I am going to Dr. Freud’s. Yes!! Almost there, almost there…
They throw me in the chair and the Doc asks me what is wrong with me.“Nothing Doc, what’s wrong with you today?” I stifle a laugh. Ever see that movie about the Martians with Jack Nicholson?”It’s called “Mars Attacks.” The Martians are always going “Ack, ack…ack, ack.”
Well I did something similar to that and Billy Bob Thornton’s Slingblade character. I started to clear my throat every three seconds or so. Ahem, ahem, grunt, grunt…
“Now what is your problem” said the army shrink?“ I’m allergic. I think I am allergic to you. Or maybe the army.”What is your religion Mr.Thompson?” “I used to be a Catholic but now I believe in drugs and sex and rock n’ roll…all the time!”
He is burning a hole through my head with his eyes. I know he is looking for the slightest quiver of fear. That slightest tell that lets him know that it is all a con job. I banish that thinking immediately and say. “I really like orgies too. We all make love together because the universe wants us to love each other not kill each other. Don’t you think so?”
“No I do not.” His pencil tip snapped on the questionnaire he was filling out.”“Son, do you take drugs?” “Yes I love drugs, all types of drugs.” “Are you on drugs right now, here, this minute?” “Absolutely not sir, absolutely not…"
That’s it. The secret weapon. You must tell them you are not on drugs at the camp. They can legally hold you over for three days to detox you and do the physical all over again as many times as they want. The key to freedom. It was as simple as “No, I am not!”
A little bit of irony happens when I stroll out of the place to my car. Got my 4F in hand and the relief I feel is way over the top. Now it is my turn. “Hey you, I hope you make it home!” “Hey buddy, remember me?” I said to this one particularly sullen dude who razzed me when I first came in.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going home." "I’m gonna take a long bath, change these stinkin’ clothes, drink a six pack, smoke a joint, listen to Coltrane, and get laid." "Good luck and I mean that.” But I told him that with as much sarcastic sobriety that I could muster. "I’m goin’ home…"
We better pray Obama does not re-instate the draft. You never know, he might have to. In Israel, everyone has to do their tour. Here, there is a problem with stop-loss. Young men and women doing repeat tours in Iraq, and that is unfair.
Now I just saw on CNN that we have major Afghanistan Taliban trouble what with those clowns trying to get a hold of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Terrorism is a concept, not a tank division. But the bullet’s and the blood are real. We need new tactics such as more sincere diplomatic interactivity, not hegemonial domination. Funny, how far we have come to only be in the soup again.
Man, the beat goes on. We gotta keep movin’, I’m telling ya…Next post is rock n’ roll. Stay tuned.