Category Archives: Memoirs

My Fight for Freedom

The facts were these. My brother was the one who wanted to enlist, but we went in to the Marine Corps together. I served in Vietnam, my brother didn’t (through no fault of his own. Rules are rules) But he got his discharge, and I still had two years to serve! Damn that lying bastage of a recruiter! I had served my country, did my duty in a Combat Zone! But this peace time Marine Corps was driving me crazy. The recruiter lied to a 17 year old, and that should cost me another 2 years of service?

Maybe it was different because I was sent to Nam personally. No one else from my unit went. I didn’t know anyone there. So when I came back, no one else was there “like me”. I was a “salty veteran” in a unit of “wanna-bes”. The only haircut I got in Nam was when they put me in the brig. Lots of people in my unit in Nam wore their boots “jungle laced”. Now I was getting nit-picked by snot-nosed Corporals. I used to remind them that I had more time in as a Private than they had in their entire career. It didn’t stop them from busting me because my boots weren’t laced ‘properly’. And if that Corporal didn’t want to hear “Fuck You” he shouldn’t have come through the squad bay banging trash can lids like it was freaking boot camp!

Coming back from overseas I had snagged a sweet posting at a computer center in Kansas City. Only I never made it there. My record made it there first and I received New Orders while on leave. I had been re-assigned to a combat unit in North Carolina. It actually didn’t turn out to be bad posting. I ended up in the Regimental Training Unit. It was out job to do the ‘infantry training” for the new Marines coming out of Boot Camp. But the job also required a certain level of “pomp” I was not willing to perform.

I’ll be the first to admit that a freshly starched uniform looks snappy. But then you would have to admit that wearing them feels like you ware wearing a suit of armor. Starched uniforms looks sharp because they don’t bend. They are uncomfortable to wear. They are NOT required to be starched by regulation. I stood behind that regulation and wore un-starched utilities, a comfortable and legal uniform.

For the second time in my career I was eligible for promotion to Corporal. I actually got the promotion the first time, but by the time the paperwork had found me in Nam, I had already been busted back down to Private. So they just tore up my Corporal promotion. I was finally eligible once again. I asked my Lt for the promotion, for all the hard work I had done for him as a Lance Corporal. He told me that until I showed up for work in starched utilities there would be no promotion. It was the final straw.

I left that night, hopped a flight out of state, and was long gone from there before they even knew I was gone. I wasn’t going to play the game any more. I went to Detroit because I had no ties there and it was across the river from Canada. Whenever I would send a letter I would cross the border and mail it from a Canadian Post Office. I went back and forth using my Military ID.

While I was living in Detroit I obtained a lawyer and we drafted a 6 page Petition for Discharge from the United States Marine Corps. The first 3 pages were reasons I felt I had earned and deserved an Honorable Discharge. The second 3 pages were reasons I felt showed it would be in the Marine Corps’ best interest to let me go. I then went home to see my family before turning myself in. Upon my return to my unit in North Carolina I delivered my Petition to my Commanding Officer. I had been gone 67 days.

Of course I was charged with being AWOL, and with the length of the absence over 60 days, it made me a Deserter. I stood for a Courts Martial. It was a spirited defense, but in the end I was sentenced to 45 days at hard labor, forfeiture of rank, and forfeiture of pay. My JAG lawyer managed to get the hard labor postponed pending the outcome of my Petition. He was rewarded with a transfer to Okinawa immediately after my trial.

The deliberations drug on and on, week after week. When I had lost all hope I tried to kill myself. Fortunately my body doesn’t react well to barbiturates and I threw up. But by then I was hallucinating and got the ride to the Hospital in restraints. For some reason, that seemed to break the deadlock on my Petition. It was granted.

I didn’t get to pack my bags and go home though. I had to WAIT for the Discharge to be processed. During this time I was repeatedly offered an Undesireable Discharge. I could leave immediately. All I had to do was sign that I accepted it. But I had served Honorably! I earned my Honorable discharge! I held out for what was granted in my petition. More weeks went by. At one point I discovered that a Major at Battalion had been carrying my discharge around in his briefcase for some time, so it wouldn’t get any closer to me. Also during this time I was physically attacked by a Sergeant in Battalion Headquarters in front of numerous witnesses. He was personally offended by my Petition. They transferred him to Okinawa in exchange for me not pressing charges on him.

One day it finally came! I had my Honorable Discharge in my hands! True, they did slap a negative SPN number on my Discharge. But I bear my SPN code proudly. A small price to pay for my freedom.

All that being said. I am proud to have been a United States Marine. I am proud to have served in Vietnam. I am proud of my Honorable Discharge.

Dee-Troit Michigan – 1973

I lived in Detroit for a couple months in 1973, while I was ‘vacationing’ from the Marine Corps. I lived in an 11 story tall ‘flop house’ on the North edge of Downtown. My room was on the 7th floor. On one side of the room was a ceramic sink, a chair with a small table and lamp, and a window that looked out on the open center of this huge square building. I could have called it a ‘courtyard’ if it didn’t just bottom out at the 3rd floor roof, which was littered with garbage people had thrown out their windows.

The other side of the room was the thin mattress rolled out over a metal frame bed. The old school kind, with the mesh of metal wire ‘loops’ that held the mattress up. I used to do my laundry in that sink and then lay my clothes out flat between the mattress and the mesh. By morning they would be dry and ‘pressed’. Just cause you live in a flop house doesn’t mean you can’t look your best.

THE Bathroom was down the hall, around the corner, and down the hall some more. There was one community bathroom for each floor. Yeah, I took my sponge baths from my sink as well. I tried to save my business til I got to work, where the bathrooms were clean.

There was no TV, no Radio, no Air Conditioning. It was a hot summer and I would often find myself sitting in my window listening to other people sitting in their windows. It was like a huge party line, only no one was using a phone. People would talk from window to window. Every now and again a conversation would get loud and someone would tell people to shut up, which would start a round of people yelling at each other. Sometimes stuff would get thrown, adding to the mess below.

But then again, it only cost me $17 – a WEEK! I got a job working at the Roy Rogers Roast Beef Restaurant on the North side of downtown. Walking from the ‘Hotel’ to my job reminded me of Olongapo, Phillipines. Lots of the people were armed and dangerous. You had to be on your guard all the time. Kids would come by and slap your pants pockets to see if you had change. If they heard change, they would beg for it. I did my grocery shopping at the corner liquor store. I never had any real problems and only a couple times where it could have gone differently.

There was that one time when the girl I was seeing called me up one morning . She said she was relieved to hear my voice. When I pressed her she said she had seen the morning news. I guy matching my description was found in an empty house with his hands tied behind his back and shot once in the back of the head. She said she was afraid her Uncle had found out about us. It turns out her Uncle was a criminal Kingpin. He was killed later that summer, gunned down as he stepped out of his Lincoln Continental.

Then there was the “Super Fly Incident”. For those of you who don’t have a clue, “Super Fly” was a very popular figure of the time. So Black, So Cool, He’s Super Fly! I don’t really recall the specifics of Super Fly’s ‘outfit’, but I recall he had huge bell bottoms, super wide lapels, and an oversized color matching hat. All in bright neon colors. Never saw the movie, just passing on what I know.

One day a SuperFly look-a-like came into the restaurant. The manager pulled me aside to point him out. She said, “He gets whatever he wants. He doesn’t pay. Don’t open the register when he is there.” I took over the cash register. When he got to the register I said, “That will be $5.42” or whatever the total would have been. He smirked at me and said, “I don’t pay”. I said something about whether that made him a mooch or a thief, and then it got heated. We were about to throw down when the manager came running up from the back and separated us. She ordered me back in the kitchen and asked him to just go.

He went outside, but hung out in front of the place. The manager tried to cool me down telling me he was a dangerous person. Well, I was a combat Marine and I wasn’t ready to cut him any slack. One of our girls was outside talking to him now and she was getting the bad end of it. I went outside and told her to go back inside. Then I told him he needed to move on, that I didn’t want him in front of MY restaurant. He backed down and left.

A day or two later I left Detroit. While I had been there I had gotten a lawyer and drafted my 6 page Petition for Discharge from the Marine Corps, and it was time to go back. I packed up my gear and stuck out my thumb.

A few weeks later I got a letter from the manager of the restaurant. She said that the day after I left 2 men came looking for me, by name. She said they were both wearing business suits and that they scared the hell out of her. She said she felt very happy that she had no idea where I was. I never did find out who those guys were, but “no one” knew I was in Detroit. I don’t know whether her Uncle DID find out about us, or whether Super Fly farmed out his heavy work. I guess we’ll never know.

Tobacco Sack

Again, not certain of the Grandpa’s name. Probably the husband of the “Train Stopping Grandma”. He was known as “Tobacco Sack” to the Indians,Continue Reading

Train Stopping Grandma

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Grandma Jennie – Wichita, KS

Grandma Jennie was a typical “prairie woman”. Thin, with leathered skin, grey hair, and could cook food like no one else. I swear I can still smell her kitchen. She was a dear sweet loving person that I never heard use a cross word.

This incident happened long after I grew up and moved away. Grandma was well into her 70’s and living in a new house since Grandpa died a few years earlier. My father stopped by her house one day and found her chopping a stump out of the back yard with an axe!

Being a gentleman he told her that was no work for her to be doing and took over chopping. While he was chopping she went into the kitchen and came out with a couple glasses of cold water. Dad stopped to catch his breath and get a drink, and re-evaluate his decision to help. lol Grandma Jennie picked up the axe and picked up where he left off! Dad tried, but he couldn’t keep up with her. He finally had to leave her to her chopping.

One of THOSE Dads

You know, it’s not like I ever DID anything to one of them, but boys just preferred to meet my daughter somewhere,Continue Reading

Mystery Woman

I was being forced to attend my baby daughter’s first baby shower. I had raised her from kindergarten to this.Continue Reading

Movers and Shakers – John Walker

From time to time I have managed to bump into some “Movers and Shakers”, people who make their make on the world around them. Continue Reading

Tiger Attack! Oregon – 83

While we were living in Northern California we took a short vacation up into Oregon.Continue Reading

Buggy Top – Teen Group

A few years later I was encouraged to help lead a group of teenagers to Buggy Top. They wanted someone who knew the cave, and the trail.Continue Reading