“NOTHING ELSE MATTERED”
by OPOVV, ©2020
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to ‘The Pulse of the Nation,’ the place to hear it here first. Thank you for tuning in to a rather unique subject, ‘What was your most memorable military experience?’ With us today is Ted who was in the Navy, isn’t that correct?”
“That’s right, Roving. I was in the Navy aboard a destroyer over in Vietnam in 1965.”
“What was your job aboard the ship?”
“I was a Signalman, and when I heard you were looking for interesting stories about getting blindsided, well, I knew your listeners would enjoy hearing mine.”
“I thought we were looking for interesting stories, not getting, what did you say, blindsided? Mind telling us how that came about, that is, after this commercial?”
“Yuki and Taku in Singapore” (2:25)
“We’re here with Ted who is about to tell us the story of being blindsided while in the Navy.”
“Let’s see now, while we were on our way for a WestPac cruise…”
“Oh, sorry: a Western Pacific tour of duty. Anyway, the Captain wanted us to have some kind of landing parties, some kind of force for whatever reason. He wanted four of them made up of all members of the crew, ten each, a real mix of talent. I was assigned to Squad: Forward Port and the Master at Arms said, ‘Lucky you: you get the .30 cal. Browning machine gun.’ So I went over to where it was and picked it up and that’s when the other members of the squad started to pat me on my back and shake my hand. I felt like I won some kind of prize. Little did I know that I did win something, but it wasn’t a good win, if you know what I mean.”
“Don’t have a clue, Ted. How can you win and lose at the same time?”
“Easy, and let me tell you how. Couple of months later, while we were steaming north of the DMZ (demilitarized zone), we got a call about a downed pilot. Next thing we’re steaming up some river, nice and quiet-like, no smoke: super stealth mode. So we stop and the word comes down, ‘Squad: Forward Port,’ assemble on the fantail.’
“It’s night with, lucky for us, a new moon as we embark towards shore in the lifeboat: rowing so as not to make noise.
“Meanwhile, little Pedro Gonzales, somewhere in Brazil, just opened his birthday present, a BB gun, and it just so happened that Jimmy Nichols did exactly the same thing in La Grange, Illinois, on his birthday. Somewhere in the wide vast Pacific Ocean, the countdown of a Polaris ICBM test from a boomer just started.
“We landed in mud, deep smelly mud and then trekked toward the signal that showed the way to the pilot when, all of a sudden, it seemed like the whole world didn’t like me. Little Pedro and Jimmy ran outside and aimed at the sky and, if their guns had enough power, their BB’s would’ve landed on my head; the Polaris just launched and was heading right for me before it self-destructed due to a failed gyro; the guns from everywhere on the whole blasted planet seemed to be aimed at yours truly, which kills the rumor that they go for the officer and the radioman first: not so, they go for whoever is the unluckiest and stupidest to be carrying the biggest weapon. In my case it was me carrying the .30 cal. Browning machine gun.
“I lit it up and even mowed down small trees, and if I told you how quickly the barrel got so hot you couldn’t touch it you wouldn’t believe me, so I won’t. And I’ll say that there’s not a stopwatch invented that could’ve timed how long it took for me to load a new belt of ammo in: I reloaded before I ran out, I was that fast.
“My ammo guy just dropped the ammo boxes and was nowhere to be found, and that’s when I knew that all those smiles and pats on the back were for real but not meant for me. I aged a lifetime: I walked into the clearing a teenager and I walked out with a Seaman’s philosophy born of a real-life experience that would put any Admiral to shame in a debate about war, and killing, and surviving by any means necessary.
“So years later, as I was in a philosophy class in college, the question presented was, ‘Do the means justify the end?’ and the consensus of the class was that they wouldn’t violate their moral code for anything. And then I spoke up. I said you’ll do anything under the sun to survive and when you’re in a fire fight, the only rule is to kill them before they kill you; that nothing else mattered; that the only consideration was to survive at any cost and if you’re not with me, and if you’re in my way, for whatever reason or even for no reason, then, I’m really sorry, but I’ll have to kill you. The professor dismissed the class at that point.”
“Wow, that’s quite a story. What about the pilot — did you save him?”
“That we did. He was pretty banged-up and we had to carry him out, but we made it back to the safety of the ship and hightailed it out of there, taking on small-arms fire the whole way.”
“Yes, now I see why you used the word ‘blindsided.’ Thanks for sharing that story, Ted, and I hope you listeners enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’ll do it so I’ll just be saying goodnight: Goodnight.
“Good show. Burger time: my treat.”
“Ku U I Po” (2:14)