Headed to war (Part 3), with the Hexmates

Note from the Author:  This is part three of my experience during the
Vietnam Conflict.  You can pick up Part One and Part Two by clicking on
the links.

Well here it was … March 1970 and I’d received my orders to leave the 520th Transportation Battalion and report to the 539th Transportation Company which was also on the Phu Loi Base Camp and down the road about 1/2 mile from where I was currently at.

The history of the 539th Transportation Company

All companies in the US Military take on a life of their own which means they all have a history.  This companies history going back to 1936 is as follows:

Constituted as Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Quartermaster Regiment on 1 May 1936. Activated 1 August 1940, the unit was temporarily stationed at Camp Custer, Michigan. Company C, was sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin to participate in combat team exercises on 29 April 1941.

Returning to Camp Custer on 6 May 1941, the unit was sent to Camp Forrest, Tennessee for further training until 4 July 1941. The company returned to Camp Custer, Michigan until 6 August 1941, when it was then sent to Arkansas to participate in the “Louisiana Maneuvers.”

The unit arrived back at Camp Custer on 20 October 1941. On 28 December 1941, the company was transferred to Camp Stoneman, California and stayed there until 14 March 1942. Finally, Company C sailed from San Francisco Harbor enroute to a permanent overseas station in the far east. Company C left California aboard the luxury liner “Queen Elizabeth” and arrived in Brisbane, Australia on 7 April 1942.

queen elizabeth
Figure 1:  Luxury Liner Queen Elizabeth – from the internet

On 2 December 1942, Company C, 1st Battalion, 48th Quartermaster Regiment was redesignated the 3523d Quartermaster Truck Company. The 3523d remained in Australia until 10 December 1943. The 3523d was transferred to Goodenough Island, where they remained until 10 August 1944.

On 11 August 1944, the 3523d loaded aboard a navy ship, “LCI 971”, and headed for New Guinea. The 3523d were transferred to the Philippines on 25 October 1945. On 20 November 1945, the 3523d was assigned to occupation duty in Japan.

lci 971
Figure 2:  LCI 971 – from the internet

On 30 June 1947 the 3523d Quartermaster Truck Company was redesignated the 539th Transportation Truck Company. On 30 October 1950, the 539th deployed to Korea and was assigned to the Eighth United States Army. The 539th was awarded four unit citations for outstanding performance against the enemy in Korea. On 1 June 1955, the 539th Transportation Company was inactivated in Korea.

On 21 August 1962, the 539th Transportation Company was activated and assigned to the Second United States Army, at New Cumberland Army Depot, Pennsylvania, as (Army Aircraft Heavy Maintenance & Support). On 25 October 1966, the unit was redesignated the 539th Transportation Company (Aircraft Maintenance) (General Support), with an authorized strength of 5 Commissioned Officers, 8 Warrant Officers, and 241 Enlisted personnel under TO&E 55-458E.

On 13 January 1967, the 539th was alerted for service in Vietnam, and was assigned to the United States Army Pacific. On 11 April 1967, 5 Officers and 211 Enlisted personnel departed California on the “USNS Pope”.  

usns pope
Figure 3:  USNS General John Pope – from the internet

The ship arrived in Vung Tau, Vietnam on 3 May 1967. The company was assigned to the 520th Transportation Battalion (AM&SGS) at Phu-Loi, South Vietnam on 23 March 1967. The “Hexmates” of the 539th Transportation Company (AGS) provided general support and backup direct support for 1,100 aircraft. The 539th Transportation Company (AGS) was inactivated on 30 June 1971 at Phu Loi, Vietnam.

I remember I did not have to walk to this company only a half mile down the road … since plenty of us were going to various areas around Phu Loi … they sent a “deuce and a half” to pick us up and drop us off.  Everything I owned fit in one duffle bag … and of course I also had to transport the Guitar I’d purchased a couple months earlier.

Many of the guys I became familiar with in the 520th Transportation Battalion did not get transferred to the 539th with me … so again I was alone to make some new friends.  The only guy I can remember being transferred with me was Donnie Dees … he and I were not allowed to be in the same room since there was other rooms that had only one bed available. So he was sent to live with others as was I.

Each room in the barracks allowed 4 people to sleep in them.  The beds were “single” size and could be stacked into bunk beds or be allowed to set on the floor.  Most did not want to be in a top bunk so about 80% of the barracks rooms had the four beds on the floor … one along each wall.  This provided very little move around room in the center of the floor since most of the rooms were not larger than about 15X20 feet – or about 300 square feet.

Take a look at a picture (or two) of our company area … then I will attempt to explain them.

539th-company-area (1)
Figure 4:  From David Layne
phu loi base camp
Figure 5:  From the internet

The yellow arrow in both of these photo’s points to the location of my quarters in the maintenance platoon barracks.  The first picture was taken from another person’s blog post (to be explained in a moment) and the black and white was lifted off the internet some months ago as I was looking back on my life and things that have occurred in it.

In doing my research for this article, I ran across the following blog site: A Trooper Reports | A soldier’s Story

I immediately contacted David Layne, the owner of this blog who happened to be stationed in the 539th as well,  to ask if I could use some of his information and pictures from his blog with mine.  I also promised I’d refer my readers to his blog.  He, being a brother in arms, agreed that I most definitely could – So I most definitely will.  If you go to his site you will find it interesting that at the time (I don’t know about now) David was not an American Citizen.  He was from England.  Here’s the first part of his blog that I have copied here:

Over the years a question I have frequently been asked is, “How did you, an Englishman end up in the U.S. Army?”  Let me explain.

I was born, raised and educated in the small market town of Grantham, Lincolnshire in England.  I came to the United States in August of 1966 at the age of 22.  Throughout the United Kingdom in 1966 the economy was depressed.  It had been planned that I would go into a family business but that did not transpire and with no immediate prospects, I made the decision to emigrate.  I was also somewhat of a  “wild child” that needed to air his wings so off I went to America.

I entered the United States as a “Green Card” holding “Registered Alien.”   Being a “Green Card”  holder I was afforded the same rights privileges as a U.S. citizen and was required to register with the draft.   Consequently about 14 months after I had arrived in Dayton Ohio I got my “Greetings” letter from the President Of The United States.

I could have returned to England at that point in time however to my way of thinking the situation there remained the same.  My American friends were mostly veterans and they gave me great encouragement and I didn’t want to be seen as “running home” in their eyes. Also, I must admit, the thought of joining the military held great appeal to me.  And besides, I wanted to “see the elephant.”

A  bus ticket was provided along with orders to report to the Induction Center of the United States Armed Forces in Cincinnati on December 7th, 1967.  My induction into the Army took place on that same day (I used to joke that I was the second disaster to hit the U.S. Military on December 7th.)

Here are a few of the memories I have of an enlisted man serving in the United States Army. There are no tales of death and derring-do, just stories from that time.  I will add to this as time and memory allow.

First, for those of you who may not know … and we do have some reading this post … what was meant by his statement “I used to joke that I was the second disaster to hit the U.S. Military on December 7th,” was that the first disaster was the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 which basically got America into WWII.

I find it interesting that David, a non-American who could have simply went back home, decided to stay and fight in our war to “see the elephant.”  Whereas one of our former presidents, Bill Clinton, chose to relocate to London for a few years to avoid the draft and you can read this timeline here.  David – if you are reading this I give you a lot of “atta boys!”  From his email to me I presume he is now living with the “Elephant” as he started the email … Greetings from Alabama.  Yep, I guess being in the area of the Crimson Tide (Roll Tide) he is living with the elephant … just a different one.

Now back to my story …

You will notice in Figure 4 above a small building between the Hanger Arrow and the Sheet Metal Shop Arrow.  This was the Aircraft Maintenance Office (the Sheet metal shop arrow goes right through it) and this is where I spent my first month at work as a “Maintenance Clerk.”  Don’t ask how I got that job.  My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 67N20 (or in layman’s terms Helicopter Crew Chief for the UH-1 Helicopter).  The Helicopter I was supposed to fly on in the air and repair on the ground can be seen pictured below.

Figure 3:  UH-1 Helicopter “Huey”

While we in the military referred to this bird as a Huey … the manufacturer (Bell Helicopter) called it the Iroquois.

Apparently there were too many crew chiefs and not enough indians (Iroquois) for this one to get a job doing what he was supposed to do so I was made maintenance clerk.  A major part of my job was to order, or requisition as the Army called it, parts for the various helicopters we supported and repaired.

I remember on my first day … some jerk Sargeant walked into my office and ordered a bucket of “rotor wash.”  I’d heard that one in my training school at Fort Rucker, Alabama (rotor wash is the wind made by those big rotor blades turning, not some chemical to wash the rotor blades) – I did pay attention in school.  I smiled as said … “Would you want a “hundred yards of flightline” to go along with that rotor wash sargeant?”

The Jesus Nut

The next day he came in and ordered a “Jesus Nut” for a Huey and he provided me the tail number of the aircraft (which was required to track any part ordered).  I thought it was another joke so I said, “Sure, I will get right on it.”

A couple of days later he came back looking for his “Jesus Nut.”  I told him I thought it was a joke … he was furious and told me I should really learn what I am doing and if I don’t know what I am doing to ask someone.  I did … and this is what I found out …

The Jesus Nut, as it was called by the guys in Vietnam, was a slang term for the Main Rotor Retaining Nut which holds the rotor to the main mast of some Helicopters, such as the UH-1 Iroquois Helicopter.  This is a single point of failure on a helicopter that can be met with catastrophic consequences.

If this “Jesus Nut” were to fail in flight, the helicopter would detach from the rotor and the only thing left for the crew to do would be to “Pray to Jesus” for redemption before meeting their maker … especially if they were a few thousand feet in the air.  Real examples of this “Jesus Nut” failing are few and far between … but they still must be checked before every flight and once removed the policy is to replace them with a new nut.

Here is what they look like:

jesus nut 2
Figure 6:  Jesus Nut for UH-1 Helicopter (Huey)
jesus nut 1
Figure 7:  Jesus Nut for Chinook Helicopter (Two Large Rotors)

I should have been happy as Maintenance Clerk.  After all I was one of the few that had an airconditioned office, but I was not happy.  I had to type and did not know how to type.  I refused to take typing in high school, though I had the chance too, because I thought it was for girls.  Everything in the Army has to be typed and “liquid paper” for errors was not allowed a the time so you had to learn to use an ink eraser for type written stuff (which would be okay if there were not carbon copies on everything) … or take your time and type very carefully.  Back then there was no backspace key to remove the misspelled word.

However, my job as Maintenance Clerk did not last too long.  My Grandfather on my mom’s side (we called him Paw) died in March about the same time I was moving into the company area.  I was not allowed to go to his funeral since he was not considered “immediate family,” but his death did cause me to have to go home eventually.

Emergency Leave

One month later, however, while Mom was travelling back to Chicago from Alabama after burying her dad (my Paw) and closing his estate (which may have amounted to simply changing the name on a car title and getting rid of a few guns) … she had what she thought was a heart attack.  My sister Sandi was with her and scared to death since mom was actually driving when it happened.  Mom was able to get the car moved over to the side of the road and I guess my sister flagged down someone to get assistance since there were no cell phones back in those days.  Mom was rushed to a hospital someplace in Indiana and they eventually transferred her to a hospital in the Chicago area.  It seems she had a gallbladder attack which caused her heart to skip a beat or two.

Anyhow, she was going to have to have surgery to have her gallbladder removed.  Today they do that with laparoscopic surgery … but in 1970 it was still “Let us slice you open from your throat to your belly button and see if you can survive … kind of surgery.”

I found out this was happening through a telegram sent to me by the Red Cross.  My company commander at the time was pretty irate that the message did not tell us a whole lot.  He responded for me … “Does the soldier need to come home?”

The response he got was, “The doctor says that’s up to you.”

Now the Commander was really angry.  He sent the following message back.  “We want to hear from the doctor and we want the doctor to tell us in no uncertain terms if the soldier should be home with his mother and family or not.”  Keep in mind I am paraphrasing all of this since I can’t remember the exact words and have long lost the telegrams.

The Doctor (or hospital) sent the next telegram that was about 6 pages long telling all the complications they could expect in surgery.  Bottom Line:  Mom was not expected to survive the surgery due to her weakened heart and I should probably come home if the Army would allow it.

The commander looked at his company clerk and said, “Cut Emergency Leave Orders – 45 days – for Mr. Nix effective immediately.”  Then he looked at me and pointed to a helicopter on the flight line that was being rolled out of the big hanger.

“Son,” he said, “The bird is leaving in thirty minutes for Tan Son Nhat Airport and I expect you to be on it if you want to see your momma.”

I thanked him and took off for my quarters to pack.  There was a problem … I was broke and had no clean ironed clothes.  The Hooch Maids had already left for the day.  I barely knew the guys in my room.  I’d only been in this company area for a couple of weeks.  When I got to my room … six pairs of eyes were looking at me.

“What’s up?” asked one of them.  I believe it was Dennis Starren who’d asked the question.  Dennis was from Roseau Minnesota, which is closer to Winnipeg Canada than it is Minneapolis or Saint Paul Minnesota, and he had that funny norwegian accent that I cannot replicate in writing.  I my roomates my momma was dying and I had to go home but I did not have any ironed clothes or money.  I was scared and embarrassed.  I’d just been paid the day before, but the foolishness in me came out.  I got into a poker game the night before and lost it all in about 10 minutes.  I had just enough left to get drunk and drunk I did get.  So, not only was I fighting emotions of embarrassment and fear … I was still fighting a huge hangover.

“Don’t worry,” another one said.  Go grab a shower, we will pack your bag and get you out of here in 20 minutes.

When I came back from the shower, a duffle bag was packed, a pressed set of Jungle Fatigues was laying on the bed, the mud had been removed from my boots and replaced with a coat of polish – and there was an envelope with $50 in it.  These guys barely knew me … but surely had my back.  I was feeling blessed to say the least but still ashamed to say the most.

I thanked the guys in my room (almost teary-eyed) and headed for the chopper waiting for me.  One of the roommates helped be take my duffle bag out to the chopper.

The chopper set down at Tan Son Nhat International Airport right next to the “Freedom Bird” that was already loaded up and waiting on the tarmac for one more passenger … me!  I remember walking up the steps on the plane.  I was greeted by a stewardess.  She turned to the passengers in the first row of the plane (there were three officers sitting there) and said something like, “Gentlemen, he has to go home on an emergency leave so I need to ask one of you to give up your seat and wait for the next flight.” A Colonel stood up and said he can have mine.  A couple of captains were there and also offered their seats, but the colonel told them he did not mind waiting.

That is just how the military was back in those days … rank did not matter in a war zone … we were all brothers helping brothers.

The Freedom Bird (commercial airliner) landed in, I believe, the Trenton-Mercer Airport in Trenton NJ (right down the road 20 miles or so from Fort Dix).  I was met at the gate by a red-cross person.  She took me to the red cross office at the airport.  Here I was given a plane ticket from Philadelphia International Airport to Chicago O’hare Airport; a taxi cab voucher to give the the cabby that took me from New Jersey to Philadelphia; and an envelope with $300 of cash for expenses until my next paycheck arrived.  I was told that everything was a gift that did not have to be paid back thanks to the folks who contribute annually to the Red Cross.  As I write this I wonder why I have not contributed more to them.  That is something I will have to start taking care of this year.

I made my way to Philadelphia and ultimately Chicago O’hare Airport.  My sister met me at the airport and drove me directly to the hospital (I believe it was West Suburban where eventually two of my four kids would be born).  I remember the first words out of her mouth as I exited the plane and entered the airport, “We’ve got to get your bag and go … they are holding moms surgery up waiting for you to get there.”

“Does this mean I won’t have time to change clothes,” I asked.  I was in nasty jungle fatigues wearing combat boots.

“Mom’s interested in seeing you, not your clothes,” she said sternly.

I remember walking down the halls of the hospital headed for mom’s room wondering why everyone was looking at me liked I’d come from a distant planet or something.

Mom’s in the Hospital

We got to mom’s room (a semi-private room) and there was Dad, Ed and Debbie (his girlfriend at the time that later became his wife), and mom’s minister.  I hugged mom and tried to assure her she would be fine.  She handed me a letter that she had written the day or two before I got home.  Apparently, everyone else already had their “farewell” letters.

She told me, “These are some things I wanted you to know in case I don’t make it.”  Now my mom has had many, many surgeries in her life up to this point and sense.  I had never known her to fear any of them.  But this one, apparently, had her fearful.

I smiled and said, “Mom, I did not come home to watch you die … and I am not going to stick around to see it happen.  I have some people to see and some parties to attend.  So please get in their and get this over with so I can go have some fun. They only gave me 45 days.”  I think everyone in the room wanted to through me out the window, especially the preacher who never did really appreciate my sarcasm when I was forced to attend his church.

They rolled mom into surgery.  We hung around the hospital for several hours … then they rolled her into recovery.  When I saw her pass  me she was “white as snow.”  My heart dropped.  I immediately asked the doctor if she was alive.

He said, “If she wasn’t we would not be bringing her down this hallway … and her face would be covered with the sheet.  Your mom did just fine and her recovery should be rather quick.”

Time to party

I thought to myself, “Damned … I got a 45 day leave … this is only day 1 … looks like I am going to have a blast.” And I did.  I will not cover all 45 days here … but it was fun and an adventure.

A visit with an ole Marine Corps Buddy …

I remember one time in particular.  This was about a week after mom got out of the hospital and was at home recuperating.  I wanted to go see a friend of mine, Jerry Adkins, who was also a Vietnam Vet.  He’d gone over about a year before I joined the military.  He was a Marine that was caught up in the Tet Offensive of 1968 way up around Khe Sanh South Vietnam.

The New York Times called this the turning point of the war.  During a little more that a three week period from January 31, 1968 to February 25, 1968.  By mid-February, or two weeks into the offensive, Washington was estimating that enemy casualties had risen to almost 39,000, including 33,249 killed. Allied casualties were placed at 3,470 dead, one-third of them Americans, and 12,062 wounded, almost half of them Americans.  Jerry Adkins was one of those wounded.

He had taken a round in the center of his back.  He was known as a tunnel rat. The tunnel rats were American, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War.  Due to the bullet in the back, Jerry was unable to use the lower portion of his body (hips and legs) and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  I think he may have been in vietnam for about 2 to 3 months before all this happened.

During this time (I believe it was April 1970) Mom and Dad lived in the town of Argo, Illinois.  Jerry lived about 10- 12 miles away.  I did not have any transportation so I asked my dad if I could borrow his car to go see my friend, Jerry.  Back then, even though I was known as Jerry to the military world, my family and friends at home still called me by my middle name, Dwight.

I remember dad saying, “Dwight, you can borrow the car by I want you home at 11:00,” and handed me his keys.  I thanked him and walked down the three flights of stairs to the car that was parked on the street since we did not have a garage.   As I was driving over to Jerry’s I got to thinking.  I’d been in a combat zone for 3 months plus.  I’d been in the military for almost a year.  Dad was still barking orders about curfew and what time I should be home.  I loved him … but it did not seem fair that I was old enough to die for this country but not man enough to know what time I should be home.  I dreamed up an idea and stopped at a payphone to call mom.

“Mom, it’s me.  I did not want you to worry.  Dad told me to be home by 11:00 … and I will be … but it will be 11:00 tomorrow morning.  I am old enough to be on my own and he does not have to work tomorrow so he should not need the car.  Are you okay with this?”

She whispered, “Why are you doing this.  You know it is just going to make him mad.”

I said, “I know … but it will also teach him that I am now a man and don’t need him setting a curfew for me to be home.  I know if I lived there I would have to follow his rules … but I am only visiting now, not living there.”

She agreed with me and I assured her that I would not be driving and drinking and would be responsible enough to spend the night with Jerry or in some cheap hotel.

Jerry and I had a great time that evening.  We went out in his brand new GTO and chased women up and down the drag.  Then Jerry said, “Hey Man watch this.”  We’d pulled up to a car at a stop light that was driven by a guy and apparently had his girlfriend beside him.  Jerry whistled and when the girl looked at him he began to lick his lips.  The guy in the car grew furious.

Next thing I knew he was pulling Jerry out of the car and hitting him in the face.  Knocked him to the ground, I mean.  Jerry, in a small shy voice looked up at the guy and pulled up his pants legs so the guy could seen his shriveled up legs and braces and said in a pleading voice, “Mister you knocked an old cripple veteran down … could you please help me stand back up?”

The guy apologizing helped Jerry get back into the car.  We drove away and Jerry looked at me and smiled and said, “The Proud, The Few, The Marines.”  He was plain crazy – but I liked being around him.  We had been friends since the 4th Grade – even though we did not go to the same school since the 6th grade.

I spent the night with Jerry just drinking coffee and listening to his war stories and sharing a few of mine.  The next day I got home and walked into the house at 11:00 sharp.

Dad glared at me and said, “Boy where you been.”

I said, “Dad I told you I was going to see Jerry Adkins.”

“Yea,” he said, “And I told you to be home by 11:00.”

“Dad, it is 11:00!” I replied.

“Yea, 11:00 Saturday morning.  I meant 11:00 last night,” Dad argued.

“Well darn it dad,” I said,  “I’ve been on military time for almost a year now.  If you meant 11:00 last night you should have said 23:00 hours,” with a big grin on my face.

He started to smile … he finally got it … I was not his little boy any more.

The next time I asked to borrow his car his response was, “What time to you plan to have it back to me?”

The Police Raid

Another time that comes to mind during this 45 day leave period was the time the police raided a party I was attending with younger high school kids.  At least to me (age 19 by now) they were younger “kids” since I felt like an old man compared to them.

It was mainly kids from my brothers group of friends.  My brother wanted me to go as his designated driver because he was intent on getting drunk.  You see, Ed, who was always smarter than me when it came to school work, graduated high school one day and left home the next when he was about 17 to live on his own, because he simply did not want to follow Mom and Dad’s house rules.  He had a tiny little apartment above a bar.  And I imagine he had a contact in the bar that was over 21 and would feed him all the drinks he wanted because he sure seemed to be drunk a lot.

We were not at the party but about 30 minutes and it was already being raided by the Justice, Illinois Police Department – whom me and my brother had run-ins with before.

As soon as the front door was kicked opened I took off out the back door and jumped into my brothers car and took off.  The idea was if I could get a few of them to chase me (I had done nothing wrong, up to that point) then that would give some of the kids a better chance to get away since there would be less cops to chase them.

Chase me they did.  Two squad cars with a total of 4 cops.  They caught me too.  Then they proceeded to tear the car apart looking for booze or drugs.  After taking the seats out and finding nothing … they had me put them back in.  Then they took me to the police station.  They could not prove that I was at the party … since my car was parked a couple of houses down and I ran through backyards to get to it, they really could not hold me … I was U.S. Government property.  All they could prove was they saw me jumping fences in backyards of houses next door to the party.

So, they called the Military Police Station in downtown Chicago and tried to convince them that I was “probably AWOL” from Vietnam.  The MPs asked to speak to me.  I got on the phone and told them my name, rank and serial number and explained that I was home on an emergency leave due to surgery my mom was not expected to live through.  The MP put me on hold so that he could check out my story.  A few minutes later he asked to talk to the cop that had called him.

The cop was now furious with me and himself.  He hung up the phone after getting into verbal combat with the MP about my not being forthright with him and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me why you were home?”

I responded, “I answered your question.  You asked me where my duty station was and I told you Phu Loi South Vietnam, 539th Transportation Company.  You never asked me why I was here.  You assumed after I told you where I was stationed that I must be AWOL, which by the way, would make me a pretty smart fella to pull that one off … to be AWOL 13,000 miles away from my duty station!”

“Get the hell out of here,” he said, “and don’t let me catch you at anymore parties in this town.  In fact, stay the Hell out of Justice – you and your brother do nothing but cause problems here.”

Wrecking my Brother’s Car

Time sure flies when you are having fun … and I was having a blast on this emergency leave.  It was far better than being in the burning sun of Vietnam.  I was down to one more day before getting on the airplane to fly me back to Nam and decided I’d like to go see some old friends one more time in Justice Illinois.

My brother had to work but told me to feel free to use his car.  Ed had a 1963 or 1964 Chevy that looked similar to the one pictured below:

1963 chevy impala
Figure 8: 1963 Chevy Impala

I was headed to Justice Illinois (where I was kicked out of once already) from my parents apartment in Argo Illinois.  This was only a drive of about 8 miles or so.  I remember walking it a couple of times as a kid.  I knew it would not take that long … but I never made it.

I will never forget what happened next and I don’t have an explanation for it.

63rd and archer road
Figure 9:  63rd St and Archer Road, Argo, IL

I was headed west on 63rd Street to turn Left (South) on Archer Road.  A turn that I’d made over a thousand times in my short driving career.  To this day I do not know what happened other than I took out a light pole (Black dot with red outline) with the right front fender (Blue Rectangle) of my brothers beautiful Chevy.  I wasn’t going above the speed limit.  In fact, I’d just taken off from a dead stop at a red light.  It seems like no matter how hard I turned the wheel to the left … the car just kept pulling right.  I was sure I was going to make it though, so I did not apply the break. What a dumb move!

Next thing I know the light pole was falling to the ground and I was surrounded for the second time on leave by police.  This time it happened to be Argo, IL police.  However, I was lucky.  Remember Jerry Adkins … my Marine Corps Buddy?  His big brother, Louis Adkins was the policeman in charge of the investigation.

The short-story is, because of my friendship with Jerry and Louis’ friendship with my older sister – and the fact that he too had spent some time in Vietnam in 1965 … I was dealt with, with a lot of leniency.  You see, they had me for destruction of city property (the light pole) and could have required my appearance in court as well as the cost to reconstruct the pole since I was driving without insurance (which was not required back then) … but because I was headed back to Vietnam the next day, I couldn’t very well make a court date so the police and the City DA cut me a break and let me go.

The next thing I had to do is get the car towed to Maywood Auto Body (a place I’d worked at in high school) so that they could repair it for my brother – at my expense (discounted to cost only).  They cut me a break as well.

My brother did not forgive me for years over this … and when I talked to him on the phone today … he does not even remember it.  Makes me smile!

Back to the war …

That next morning, in early May 1971, I got back on the airplane and headed back to Fort Dix New Jersey where I would once again await orders for Vietnam.  Would I be going back to the same place – Phu Loi – in the same unit – the 539th Transportation Company … I was pretty sure I would … but there was never any guarantees with the U.S. Military and some of the knuckleheads (I was thinking) that they put in charge.

village homes
Figure 10:  Village Homes in Phu Loi South Vietnam

That’s all for this edition … stay tuned for Part 4 of my Vietnam War Adventure.

With Admiration who went before, with and after me,

Jerry Nix, FreeWaveMaker, LLC

6 thoughts on “Headed to war (Part 3), with the Hexmates

  1. Edith Nix

    Thanks for the information, but I have one correction, When I was having the problem with my heart and riding at the same time, I was not driving. I will have to tell you about this again some time. I am amazed that you have such good memory of your life. I am very proud of you. Have a good day! Mom

    1. Well you may not have been driving but the red Cross telegram indicated you were and that is all I had to go by. In any case if I recall … You were traveling so perhaps it was sis that was driving that could have made it even worse … 🤩

  2. Paula Courtney

    So very interesting, Thanks for putting it down on paper and for sharing it! I didn’t realize you were such a stinker as a young man.

    1. Paula, Thanks for reading. I hope you are reading them all. And yes, I was quite the troubled lad as a young man. But, I think we all have some “skeletons” in our closets if the truth be known. All we can do now – at this age – is look back on them and laugh. By the way, this was part three of a multi part story. I am presently working on part 4. Have a great 2019! Jerry Nix

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