Palace Guards

Not long ago, a couple of buddies had taken a motorcycle ride from their respective homes to see me on their way to the services held at Washington D.C... One of the guys was from California and the other from New Mexico. The journey was a long one indeed for the two old ass bikers, but the short time spent at my home by these two comrades in arms has made a lasting impression on both me and my family.

During our short get together, some old stories about our combat experiences came into are conversations while we stood and drank our high spirited beverages. One of the subjects of conversation was about the day we were picked as place guards. My mind raced back to 1968 and the subject of conversation.

The day was like any other day in the Republic of Vietnam, HOT. We had just landed by helicopter at our base camp Phouc Vinh combat base, and were making our way back to our seldom seen living quarters.

The trek back to our quarters was of a hike of about one half mile from the airstrip on a long dusty road. Sometimes the dust on the road would come up to the third eye of your combat boots. I did not care about the dust or the heat, the only thing on my mind was the taking a nice cold shower and ridding my body of all the field crud that had accumulated on my body.

Once on our main drag near our billets, we began to dislodge ourselves of our combat gear and lined our equipment in platoon formation. While the company was reflecting on our surviving another mission, our company XO had us gather around him so that he could disseminate information to us about the up coming operation.

The LT started with the statement that because of all our efforts in the field of battle, we have been selected by request to become Palace Guards for the high mucky mucks and the up coming Bob Hope show at Bien Hoa.

We were told that we are to look strike, and that meant we needed to get our jungle fatigues washed, boots polished to a high airborne gloss, and new helmet covers would replace our old ones. We were to show all our airborne sprit of de corps.

At last we get a break, and I began to follow the LTís instructions to the letter. I contacted momma san and had her began washing our clothes. After this was accomplished the task was to get some black shoe polish and spit shine our jungle boots. The men were a buzz with excitement, and conversations were geared towards seeing some round eyed women, especially my chose Ann Margaret

A couple days later we were standing in company formation and being inspected by our command officers. Man did we look good. All the men also smelled like freshly picked petunias in the anticipation of meeting some of the beautiful women that always accompany the Bob Hope USO troupe. All the men were in a jovial mood as we walked to the air strip and our helicopter ride. Here come the birds to gather us up and Wisk us off to see the great Bob Hope, James Brown, and the lovely ladies. I hopped on the bird with great gusto, as did the others. Up up and away and on to our prestigeís palace guard duties.

I was all smiles as the logistics bases of Bien Hoa and Long Bien came into view. On seeing this I began to have ants in my pants in anticipating touch down and the wonderful time that is to be had by all my company buddies.

The choppers continued to fly and the big base began to fade from view. What the hell is going on here? I soon found out what the deal was when we were dropped off in the middle of the jungle. Here we smell like French whores and looking like FNGs on a parade ground review in the middle of the jungle. Talk about being pissed, there is not word to describe how I felt about this snafu.

The Lieutenant called for the men to settle down and he began to explain our mission. Our job was to locate enemy rocket sites and destroy any found. We were put out here to make sure the base would not be hit while all the rear Escalon motherfuckers get to see the show. What a bunch of bullshit. The grunts get shafted again.

The company was disappointed about the show not being seen, but we were really disgusted about our insertion into enemy territory smelling like a bunch of bitches on a Sunday stroll. The smell of perfumed soap on our bodies is like a calling card for the enemy, because the smell is foreign to the musty, hot, humid, tropical jungle. We might as well tell charley to come over and have tea and crumpets.

The company set about our job at hand and we did locate some 122 rocket sites that we lined up and ready to blast the hell out of the USO show. From what we heard from the REMFs after the show, it was one to experience. The guys in the rear with the gear get all that a modern military base can give, while the combat infantryman gets all the blood, sweat, and tears he can handle.

To this day, all who experienced this moment in our combat history still shakes his head in disbelief, and wonders, what the hell were they thinking.

The story continues.

WM Roland Hayes.