I know some veterans
It's quite a list Crutch, Dog, Ham n Eggs, Big Hide, Zen Budda, Doc, Korn, Underdog, Boo-Boo, Big Mac, Little Mac and McMac, Chuck, Lunchmeat, Kettle King and a few guys with regular names.
Next Monday is Veterans Day. I'm a veteran U.S. Army, 1983 to 1988, Fort Sill, Fort Knox, Korea and back to Fort Knox. Had I stayed in, I'd be retired now. But I don't regret a bit coming home and the life I have now.
I also don't regret my time in the service. Over the years, those "army days" have come to mean a lot to me.
I remember the grand adventure it all was to an 18-year-old boy who had never really been way from home. I remember the smell of new uniforms in the humid early hours of Fort Sill, Okla.
I remember the loneliest Thanksgiving I ever experienced sitting alone in the mess hall in November 1983, half way through radio school and without enough money to call home.
I remember Christmas Day, 1985, again unable to call home because the line at the overseas telephone was too long. Instead, me and the four other men who lived in Hut 9 disposed of a rat we caught near the front door. The disposal was in a fashion I won't go into here.
I remember standing in an empty parking lot in Radcliff, Ky., outside of Fort Knox. I was fresh off the bus that brought me there. It was the middle of the night and it was raining and I didn't know anyone within 500 miles.
I remember the look on the face of the North Korean soldier as he stared at me during a visit to the DMZ. It was a completely cold look and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
I remember struggling to finish the 12-mile march with full gear at the end of basic training, the blood from broken and torn blisters filling my boots.
I remember numerous times when I was alone and homesick, wondering how I ended up where I was.
There are a lot of memories of depressing times.
But there are far more memories of good times and even more memories of good friends who came and went as assignments changed.
Crutch and Dog were two friends from Fort Knox.
Crutch was my roommate and snored horribly. So horribly, I recorded it one night and played it back for him the next day. The following day, he played a recording of me snoring even louder than he did.
Dog's real name was Kenny Nelson and he was from Kansas. He was the only person I've ever met who actually lived in Kansas.
Chuck, which was his last name, was from somewhere in the Caribbean. He arrived in Korea in the late summer. He had never been in cold weather before and by the end of October, he was wearing every article of cold weather gear he had. When the temperature dropped far below zero in January of 1986, poor Chuck took to wrapping his bunk blanket around himself under his coat.
I met Andy Galindo in Korea, too. He was from the warm and sunny L.A. area. He stood up to the Korean winter better than Chuck, but he didn't understand why I walked around in December in my shirt sleeves.
Lunchmeat was a very large man who supervised the company motor pool. He was a staff sergeant, but he ran the show. The man could fix anything from a Jeep to an M60A1 main battle tank and he didn't have any time for whiners.
"You brought that s*** on yourself," he used to say when we'd complain about a broken down vehicle.
Big Hide was an even larger man I met in Korea. He was a "wire dog." Big Hide drank a lot of Korean liquor. He was nearly seven feet tall and did pretty much as he pleased, which wasn't all that much because he lived in fear that if he ever got into trouble, his aunt, who raised him, might find out.
Big Hide was around 25 years old and a mountain of a man. His aunt was in her 70s.
Big Hide was the guy who showed me how to get around in Korea and how to order food that didn't turn out to be dog meat. He left Korea and the army and went to work in a print shop in Cincinnati.
Rosellini was from Chicago and had never cooked a hotdog over a campfire until he joined me and several friends in a national forest in Indiana north of Fort Knox for a weekend of camping. I was amazed he had never cooked a hotdog over a fire. He was amazed we didn't get eaten by bears.
Underdog's real name was Mitch Underwood. Underdog drove the "Five-ton" fuel truck which towed another fuel pod on a trailer. One night during an exercise, the captain led the convoy down a long, narrow and winding street in a village in the middle of nowhere and right up to a dead end.
"Back the convoy up," the captain's order came over the radio.
"'Back up the convoy up?'" said Sgt. Korn, the commo shop boss, who was in the truck I was driving. "Is he nuts?"
There was no backing that convoy up. Too many vehicles, too narrow of a street, too many inexperienced drivers.
But we tried. And tried. And tried. Then from out of nowhere, coming at us, was Underdog's fuel truck. Where and how he turned that truck and trailer remains a mystery. Mitch Underwood could drive that fuel truck and trailer across a high wire and do a three-point turn halfway across.
Hammond was a very nervous-type kid who came to Korea in the fall of 85. They would call his last name at roll call and some joker would yell "eggs" before he could answer.
I never got tired of doing that.
Hammond decided to go AWOL one night. In Korea. Korea, surrounded by seas on three sides and North Korea on the other. I don't know where he thought he was going to go.
Big Mac, Little Mac and McMac all served in the infantry unit down the road from our air defense artillery unit at Camp Hovey, Korea.
The second half of their Mc names are lost to my memory now, but they were friends of mine and of each other. They were the stereotypical infantrymen. When they couldn't find somebody from some other unit to fight, they fought each other.
There are so many others. I wish I could see them and talk to them all again, but they're scattered out all over the country now.
We're called "Cold War" veterans and I remember those fellows almost every day.
Some of them are no longer around. Others I haven't been able to track down. Some are now friends on Facebook.
They all were some of the finest men I've ever known.
The author is the editor of the Clarion News.