By: Ed Creamer
Those who’ve served in combat look upon death in a different light. There’s no disputing the end result is viewed as an earthly final for both civilian and combatant. However, the game of combat seems to place death on a slightly different plain for the participants. Also, to the surprise of life long civilians, the clash of government philosophies bring out an avoidance humor for the combatants unlike that of comedians.
Most missions flown turned out to be routine. One frequently found time to discuss the latest hangover cure or the last time skirts were chased. However there would come that time when shots fired in anger were anticipated. As the crews were heading for the flight line a voice could be heard saying, “Leave me your watch”. The words seem to imply one thing when in actuality they were the crew’s version of the theater’s “break a leg”.
Once, before leaving on a mission I overheard two crew chiefs talking outside the line shack. Each knew the mission that day was going to be a difficult one. While neither spoke of it, each seemed to know what the other wanted to say. Each had told the other to look after the other’s girlfriend if anything happened. One said, “Listen, if anything happens to you, your girl will get one look at me and wonder what she ever saw in you.” While civilians would take that as a threat, these two took it as a matter of trust. When our Air Group was being ferried to Vietnam, we stopped in the Philippines and took on 5,000 cases of San Miguel.
When we reached Vietnam, we offloaded on a deserted beach. Since there was no refrigeration, we drink the beer warm. However, one enterprising soul asked permission to store a few cases in the totally refrigerated B-Medical morgue. After a few days we all agreed it was the best damn beer we’d ever had. My civilian friends think this is gross.
Whenever we gather as a group, we remember the lengthening list of those no longer here. We remember them as good poker players, good pilots, good machine gunners, friends and lastly, comrades in combat. Each remembers for a reason that is personal because we each touch each other in a special way. And, you can bet, when we’re in a group you’ll hear someone say, “Do you remember the time when he………..?” Or, “You should have been there when he…………” Even if you weren’t there at that specific time, you were transformed there now. Into the memories we had for each other. Almost as if they were standing there right beside us just like the day we went into combat.