A lot happened to the 127th MPs during our year in Qui Nhon, too much to fit in a single book. So here are some more of the 127th's adventures in Vietnam, plus other items of interest.
I'll be adding stories regularly, so be sure to come back again and again. And feel free to leave a comment, if you like.
Captain Richard Leadbetter, me, Mike Ioli
Fellow soldiers and I gathered in Colorado Springs for a reunion of the 127th Army MP Company. Captain Leadbetter and Mike Ioli were there, plus Dave Suttle, the guy with the turntable whose wife sent him all the latest records; "Pops" Whitney, who helped me sneak out for my Lyndabar overnight; and Dave Dersheimer, the swift boat waterskier. A lot of the MPs brought their copies of the book for me to sign. I brought DVDs of my Vietnam footage for everyone. It was great to see everybody.
The ski disc I painted for Dersheimer
In Chapter 23, Lynda pulls a gun on me because she's heard about Nurse Butz, a girl I'd met while gigging at an Army medical staff party. Here's the entire story...
The Banana playing for the 85th EVAC nurses' party. We did a lot of shows for military medical staff. With what they saw every day – all sorts of grisly casualties and injuries – it was no wonder they partied so hard.
The gig was rocking. Scores of medical staff cutting loose, laughing, dancing. Drinking. And drinking. Captain Crown was telling jokes, glad-handing, making sure glasses were full, the life of the party. After all, it was his party.
Captain Crown was an Army doctor. He'd come to Dodge City looking for us a couple of weeks after the Banana's audition show at MACV. He'd heard about the band, and wanted us to play a party he was throwing for some fellow Army docs and nurses. Our club gigs, they'd all been arranged through Steinmetz. Our pay came from the club's food, beer, and soda sales. This gig was different – it was totally on Crown.
Crown was a Virginia boy, like me, but from up north, near Washington, D.C. He was probably a young civilian doctor who happened to get drafted, we thought. He didn't seem to take any of the war stuff seriously, didn't let it cramp his style. We'd heard he was real important around our little corner of Vietnam, had the ear of General McBride at MACV in Qui Nhon.
As you might imagine, not everybody was a fan of the Military Police. I'm glad Giant was my partner this day...
The big guy in the midde's Bill "Giant" Martin, no surprise.
That's Ron Sherman on the left, I'm on the right.
"Yikes, remember the last time we patrolled together? Running traffic, out by the airport? I thought I was a goner for sure. That kid on the bike… Dean, you listening to me?"
Giant nudged my arm.
I had to admit, I was obsessed. It had been weeks since I'd sent the letters. Not a single reply. The band – how I could make it happen– was now all I thought about. Even out on patrol.
"Sorry, man," I said, keeping my eye on the road. Once the sun went down, the streets of Qui Nhon were dark and shadowy. Creepy. I tried to push thoughts of instruments and letters and money and the black market out of my mind as I turned onto Vo Tanh Street. "What'd you say?"
"I was just remembering when we had traffic patrol last week. The kid on the motorcycle?"
I nodded as I thought of it. Giant – real name's Bill Martin, big guy from Illinois, over six foot – had been standing on the half of an oil drum set up in the middle of the three-way intersection, playing human stop sign, directing traffic. We'd alternated thirty-minute shifts so our arms wouldn't get tired; I'd been sitting in the jeep waiting my turn. Out of nowhere, this Vietnamese kid on a motorbike had approached the intersection. Giant had held his hand up for him to stop, but the kid just ignored him. I remembered Giant looking over at me, his eyes bulging, both of us wondering what the hell was going on, if this was just some idiot kid or if it was Charlie on a suicide run.
The fuel depot explosion mentioned in Chapter 26? The one that had Sug so shaken up? Here's the full story...
The base was buzzing. On high alert. Everybody not out on patrol was armed and on the perimeter, the guard tower and gates double-manned.
Leach and I were checking our vehicle back into the motor pool, grabbing our pots and flak jackets from the back seat. Our hearts were still galloping.
Another jeep tore into the yard and skidded to a halt right next us. Sugden and Voina. Even in the moonlight, I could tell they were filthy, covered in black soot, steel pot to boot.
Sugden jumped out of the jeep, eyes glowing in his blackened face. “Did you guys freaking see that?” His voice was ragged and hoarse.
“See it?” Leach said. “We were all the way across town and we felt the ground shaking!”
“Like a damn earthquake,” I said. “Then we saw the fire. We booked over there, but emergency wouldn’t let us near. You guys okay?”
Ioli ran up before they could answer.
“Did youse guys hear about the fuel depot?” He took a look at Sugden and Voina. “Holy shit, you were there?”
“What the hell happened? Ioli asked. “I was on the front gate, I hear the blast, I thought the whole friggin’ NVA’d come to pay a visit! I was so freaked, I tackled a kid on a bike and put a rifle to his head.”