On an almost daily basis I challenge myself. Sometimes it is a little thing like eating squash. I don’t object to the taste of squash or zucchini, it’s the texture. I don’t care for. A couple of days ago L tried a new recipe, tandoori salmon with squash. I won’t go through the recipe, but it includes garam masala, coriander, chili powder and yogurt and is very East Indian in character. The taste helped the squash go down, and I was glad it wasn’t cooked turnips (I don’t like the texture or taste of those).
For the year that I was in Vietnam I shaved dry at times or with cold water and soap on others. For a year I took cold showers because there was no hot water anywhere. Even in the tropics stepping into a shower of water that just came from a few hundred feet below the surface is bracing.
A Snapshot of the Author Someone Took in Front of the Dispensary at Dong Tam
(We Were Soldiers Once, and Young)
The water heater is out. So, I get to relive an experience from 48 years ago. Forty-eight? It doesn’t seem so far in the past. I remember from then that I would steel myself, go into something like a trance, and pretend that I didn’t feel anything. That was a little thing. Not much of an imposition at all.
One of our pilots was shot down in the U Minh forest, and was the first to recover following the crash. He was hanging upside down by his harness, got free, removed the fifty-caliber machine gun from its mount along with a few rounds of ammo and ran from the helicopter headlong into an NVA soldier. Both screamed and ran in the opposite direction. Fortunately, despite being at the rear of the platoon, someone saw the helicopter go down and part of the formation broke loose, flew back giving fire support while another landed and rescued the crew. No one was seriously injured.
I asked the pilot whether he had ever thought about what he would do in that situation. He had. On his previous tour he had been shot down over North Vietnam and had evaded for over a month – at times able to see the feet of NVA soldiers a few feet away on a trail he had just been on - and escaped. He showed me his .38 revolver. It held one round; for him. Some would call that cowardice, but we know real cowardice when we see it.
When we discovered that there was no hot water, I thought of this story and of John McCain and his capture and ordeal and the absolute craven cowardice of a man who stayed away from combat and then called a veteran who almost gave all, a loser because he was captured.
A Real hero