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.

Replacing a stove

Our new Whirlpool range works fine, except for the babying its black, glass cooktop requires. Ridiculous. We’re ordered a replacement from Lowe’s, one with ordinary burners. The glass cooktops are ubiquitous, we’re told, in new and refurbished apartments. They’ll become famous for the messes left behind by irresponsible people who can’t be bothered with the laborious task required to keep them clean. Adios.

Handsomest man in the Army

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.

Adios, Amigo

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.

Trump tilts at windmills

“You want to see a bird graveyard?” he asked. “You just go take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday,” he said. “You’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life.”

Not to mention that the technology darling of the Green New Deal, heavily subsidized by the government in conception, manufacture and operation, will do what the little panel in the right sidebar labeled “windmills suck” shows without constant, expensive maintenance.

Alternative energy is just that, James Delingpole says, an alternative to energy.

Via Breitbart

Image

Happy Hanukkah

From Neely’s Canyon and our clay friends the aging Maccabees, which Mr. Boy dubs “a classic,” a gift from the mother of a girl who broke up with me.

Pumpkinflowers

A good book, whether novel or memoir, or a bit of both, by Matti Friedman, an Israeli soldier turned journalist writing about their forgotten war. The pumpkin being an outpost in Lebanon and flowers being IDF radio speak for casualties.

Friedman was an RTO, in our army’s parlance for radio-telephone operator, who sometimes carried the radio on his back. His unit were combat engineers but they often operated as infantry.

Via Amazon