Category Archives: Aging

Second of the third

My friend Russell Wheat crossing a rice paddy on patrol west of Saigon sometime in 1968-69. A brave man doing his duty.

The leader of 3rd platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade was wounded in both legs and sent to Japan where he recovered and was sent back to the field to complete his tour. He was the lucky one.

How this 2nd Lieutenant of Military Intelligence got to be leading an infantry platoon is a story worthy of our famous funnyman. He told it to me and a few others at breakfast at our Infantry OCS class reunion in San Antonio in 2005. I took notes.

It seems that in late 1968, after graduating from OCS and completing MI Basic, he got a cushy job in G2, division intelligence, 1st Logistical Command, Long Binh, north of Saigon. Sometimes he was a briefer to generals and other visiting dignitaries. He was, of course, known for his humor.

Sometimes it edged towards the smart-ass. The culminating instance was a briefing for a major general and his orbiting entourage of colonels, majors and captains. 2Lt Wheat closed out the strategic and tactical briefing by enumerating some weapons recently captured. One was an AK-54, the machine gun version of the AK-47. But the general didn’t know what it was and he interrupted Wheat to ask about it.

Wheat was in a mood. Obviously. “Sir,” Wheat recalled saying, “the AK-54 is an AK-47 with seven years of service.”

Silence. The humorless general visibly ground his teeth. His face got redder when someone in the back laughed.

And thus our Wheat reported for duty to Bravo Company, 2nd of the 3rd of the 199th, which operated west of Saigon to the Cambodian border. He was assigned to 3rd platoon. I asked him once how many of his men were killed. He stiffened. “Not an inordinate number,” he replied.

Two years after the reunion, I ran across a Google link to a pdf of the Methodist Children’s Home, a Waco orphanage. There I found that Wheat was a frequent donor and in 2007 had donated several thousand dollars “in memory of thirty-seven men of 3rd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, killed in action in Viet Nam 1968-1969.”

In 2011, when I visited Israel for the first time, Wheat, a church-going Methodist whose father was a Methodist minister, asked me to place a prayer paper “memorializing” the 3rd Platoon in a crevice of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a Jewish tradition for two thousand years. I had an Israeli friend take a picture of me doing it and sent the picture to Wheat.

Maybe the thirty-seven are the reason Wheat, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas, made a post-war career at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Marlin, south of Waco. He had failed at medical school before he was drafted. He retired directing a lab at the hospital.

He was found deceased shortly before Christmas by a Methodist pastor making a wellness visit to his home in Canyon Lake. He was 81.

Seniors on weed

Many seniors, it seems, prefer weed to opiods. But that’s mainly in states where it’s legal. It’s still illegal to buy or use in Texas and many other places.

If the House ever gets around to legalizing it country-wide, as many reps have said they want, and the Senate concurs (a bigger if), it may become as common as alcohol. Wouldn’t that be a kick?

Giants they were

Watching a Bob Hope-James Cagney dance routine (yes, Hope could dance) I was reminded of this recent essay by historian Victor Davis Hanson:

“Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.”

Via PJMedia

Hospice II

Hospice volunteer training ends tomorrow with a six-hour marathon of listening to older volunteers relating their experiences with dying patients. The evening training got better than my previous report and ended last night.

Most exciting thing was when my car battery died late Tuesday after class and I had to call Triple A. After tomorrow begins our criminal background checks and if that goes well, in a month or two, issuance of ID badges and joining the roster.

UPDATE: Wrongo, the checks are underway, some done, some not, and I got the badge and joined the roster. Assignments to come. A bit daunting but I think I can do it.

Hospice

Hospice volunteer training is pretty redundant, excessively bureaucratic, and unnecessarily long. Six hours so far on two nights. Six hours on Saturday tomorrow alone. Rinse. Repeat next week.

Includes a TB test and a Hep B vaccine. Then a long hiatus while they do our criminal background checks, to see if we have any criminals in our backgrounds. Or are one. A month or two.

Bottom line could be easily found if not for all the cooks spoiling the broth. How’s that for mixing metaphors? I’ve taken away two things: We don’t have to say much of anything to the patient or family.

Just showing up, being present, helping out, is enough. And listening. You can’t say much of anything when you’re listening.

The angry postal worker

I had to do this morning what I try to avoid: go to the post office. Long lines, irritable employees. But I had to pick up a new mezuzah Mr. Goon was kind enough to send to replace our stolen one. His was small enough that it could have fit in my mailbox but the postman held it back for pickup anyway at the P.O. which is miles away from the mini-rancho.

Not that I’m paranoid or anything but ISRAEL in big bold letters on the front of the mailer makes some people peevish these days. The clerk at the P.O. certainly was. Short-tempered when I had a momentary lapse in thinking (common to we seventy-five-year-olds) while trying to decipher their credit card machine to buy some stamps. While I was there, you know. Figures a fed machine would be different from all commercial ones I have seen.

But the postal fellow? He was black, middle-aged and irritable, especially after he retrieved the package (from ISRAEL) for me. Looked downright angry. Some people forget, if they ever knew, how hard the Jews worked to get African Americans their civil rights. Some even died for it.

Got another one in you?

So at age 75 I was approved for a 20-year mortgage on a condo. And the guy said “Is this your last one? Do you have another one in you?”

Me: “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.” It is my fifth mortgage with this company in 32 years.