I was sorry to hear of my old Army friend Charles V. Waldron’s passing, but glad he was in hospice, as was my departed wife Mrs. Charm. I’m sure they took good care of him.
I knew Charles in basic, ait and OCS, plus as new platoon leaders in the Sixth Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Meade, Maryland, which included guarding President Nixon’s 1969 inauguration. In Vietnam we shared advisory assignments but at opposite ends of the country.
We met again at the Fort Benning reunion in 2003 where we shared a room and I learned of his COPD problem. I’ll remember him as being smarter about volunteering than me, when he missed out on shoveling coal into barracks boilers at Benning waiting for OCS to start. He tried to talk me into going Airborne but to no avail and we missed that one together. Grief is hard, even after years of it, but it does get easier, I told his widow. So take good care, I suggested, and you’ll see him again in your dreams.
And, as a well-wisher at his memorial page put it: He sees every tear and walks with you every step of the way. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
He was one of our tactical officers in Infantry OCS at Fort Benning—a black lieutenant, a rare thing in 1968. Several remember him fondly as someone who taught more than he harassed.
He later did two tours in Viet Nam, as a MACV adviser and later an infantry company commander in the 25th Infantry Division. He died in 1990 at age 51, and is buried at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
I don’t have any use for Spike Lee’s politics, but I have liked some of his movies. She’s Gotta Have It, for instance, his first one, which was a comedy.
Da 5 Bloods, however, a drama of a return to Vietnam by four black combat veterans now in their sixties, pretty much left me cold. Not just because of the politics (the one Trump supporter is PTSD crazy and gets it in the end, presumably for his sin of voting the wrong way) but by the way the veterans on their return to the country decades after the conflict ended keep attracting angry Vietnamese who lost kin in the American war. Including at My Lai. What are the odds? Pretty high if you’ve got to bash America to keep your bona fides with your leftist Hollywood pals.
Strange anomalies abound: an infantry officer’s uniform supposedly standing in for their dead squad leader’s, who would have been an E-5 at best. Probably Lee didn’t care to get it right. Any old uniform would do for the immoral war. And the sound track. Ride of the Valkyries? It crescendos when there is gunfire, both in the past and the present. Cheap, I guess, being public domain.
None of the four actors are Denzel Washington handsome so it’s a little disconcerting when one meets his old Vietnamese lover (who hasn’t aged much) and discovers THEIR beautiful daughter.
Of course they went back to find the squad leader’s remains, which they do almost too easily—and millions of dollars in buried gold bars, which it seems every Vietnamese wants a piece of. Hence the gun battles to satisfy the Hollywood soul. They may be against guns for the rest of us but they never miss a chance to use one or more in their movies.
And Lee has to politic it up, race-wise, mainly by claiming blacks were disproportionately in combat as opposed to whites. You can take that claim however you like it. You certainly can Google some statistics to back it up, whether they’re true or not. But Lee doesn’t really seem interested in truth, in Da 5 Bloods.
After all the riots and looting led by anti-Jewish Black Lives Matter over felon armed robber George Floyd, Lee’ll probably win an Oscar. And laugh all the way to the bank.
Don’t know why I never read this Vietnam war novel until now. It came out in 1977 and is awfully good. M-113 personnel carriers used as assault vehicles, just what I would have blundered into had I dropped my OCS application when they closed Armor OCS and the Infantry at Benning was all that was left.
A dozen or so did drop and all but one (who was sent to Germany) of us drafted Armored Cavalry Scouts got sent to Nam with the 5th Mech or the 11th ACR. And probably wound up being drivers or TC’s like veteran author Larry Heinemann’s Flip Dosier, who became lean and mean like the story itself.
But despite a few incongruities (Armor guys didn’t qualify for CIBs, Larry) and way too much weed (satisfying the protesters who were sure we all did it all the time like they did) the plain-spoken story rings true. Read it, if you haven’t already.
Here’s a mystery that could use solving.
My OCS friend Russ Wheat was wounded in both legs in Viet Nam and sent to Japan for treatment. Where OCS classmate Rick Wilson, who was posted with an Armor unit in South Korea, ran into him on a leave:
“We met in a bar in Japan where he was holding court with about 20 mesmerized by his continual line of jokes. It was a great time with him. As an aside he had to sit on a pile of pillows due to the wounds he had which he referred to as his magic carpet.”
Russ should have ridden his magic carpet home. Most wounded sent to Japan were. Two from my advisory team went home that way. Indeed, Rick was surprised when Russ got sent back to Vietnam to complete his tour as a platoon leader in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. “I was surprised he returned to VN. I too thought he had his ticket home.”
When I asked Russ why he was sent back he raised his eyebrows and shoulder in a half shrug as if to say “Why, indeed?”
Could the major general who felt insulted by Russ at the briefing have been so vindictive as to send him back for more infantry despite his leg wounds?
My friend Russ Wheat always said he was the handsomest man in the army. This goes a long way to proving it, mighty cleft chin and all.
My old friend, Russell Huntley Wheat, was 81 and living with diabetes when he passed away shortly before Xmas. Can’t be more precise as his Methodist pastor found his body on a wellness visit the week of the 15th. Apparently there was a memorial service on the 20th but there’s no evidence of it on the Web.
Russ, who lived in Canyon Lake just down the road from the mini-rancho, was the funnyman in Infantry OCS, always telling a joke before class with the permission of the tactical officers who enjoyed them as much as the rest of us. We who strained to hear him in a class of a hundred candidates. Never dirty, just funny.
He was perversely proud of his Purple Heart, for which he had a license plate on his truck, from leg wounds suffered in his days with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Viet Nam. He always sent a Hanukkah card and until recently a funky gift (army teeshirt, etc.) for Mr. Boy whom he had met when Mr. B was still eating in a high chair.
No more separating the Wheat from the chaff was my joke which I promised to tell at the end of our lives. And so it is.