Battle for the Beam
Anyone that did a tour at the Rose Garden has been involved in or at least witnessed a fist fight between Marines. Most of the time, we never knew the reason for the altercation although you could usually bet that alcohol was a contributing factor.I was never a good drinker. I just didn't have enough practice yet. But one of my good friends(who I will call Cpl M to protect his privacy), was real good at it. Lets just say he practiced alot! After all, there wasn't a wholelot of other entertainment there.
Cpl M would come in after drinking every nite and sit next to my cot and want to talk. Most of the time I didn't mind being woke up because I really thought alot of Cpl M. He was the old vet that took me under his wing when I first got to Nam Phong and showed me around.
I had bought a bottle of Jim Beam at the air base at Udorn (remember, only SNCOs could buy liquor at Nam Phong). I kept this bottle in a mount out box that I used to store my stuff in the hootch. I was saving this bottle of Beam to open upon the announcement of the birth of my son who was due any day.
One night, Cpl M came in from partying. He sat down next to my cot as usual, but he then reached into the mount out box looking for my bottle of Beam. I grabbed his wrist to stop him but he just smacked my face with my own hand.
Now Cpl M was quite a bit bigger than me and a tough dude too, but this really made me mad. In a flash, I'm thinking maybe I can whip him since he is so drunk...so I jumped up and give him a couple of punches. The battle was on and we were rolling around on the floor of the hootch. I was scared to death and was glad when the other guys broke us up. But Cpl M is furious now! He is outside the hootch yelling for me to come out or he will come in after me. I'm thinking maybe I can go out and calm him down..after all we are friends.
I go out and try, but he keeps saying "Man, I really want to hit you" over and over again. Then WHAM!! He smacks me full in the face!!! I literally saw stars. I fell back against a jeep and to the ground. Cpl M jumps on top of me to finish the job, but he sees my face swelling and he sobered up and remembered we were friends. He then said "damn man, we gotta get you to sickbay".
The next morning, the Group SgtMaj called me in to ask about the incident. He says he wants me to press charges against Cpl M. I refused. He said that if the x-rays showed any broken bones, he would press charges himself. Luckily, just a hairline fracture to cheek, so no charges. After a few weeks pass, on 26 December 1972, I get a message from the Red Cross announcing the birth of my son three days earlier on 23 December. I open the bottle and pass it around. First drink to my friend, Cpl M., and I gave him the rest of the bottle when we were done.
My mother has the picture of me with my swollen cheek in her scrapbook with the caption "WOUNDED IN ACTION". Cpl M., if you ever read this, thanks for giving me my best war story! And if you are ever in Southern Missouri, stop by and let's go have a drink.