Danger At Logan
The talk was long and the beer was slow. An hour passed. Wilson nursed a beer also.
“So what’s next bro?” Phil said. “We got to do something for you. Sounds like ya got the money for a good shrink, but I don’t think that’s gonna help.”
“I’m going to take Mathias back to Hecla and head to Montana,” Wilson said. “That’s where the lawyer lives who defended me.”
“I let ya down, bro,” Phil said.
“What do you mean?” Wilson said.
“When we was in basic you were lost,” Phil said, “didn’t have a friend and wasn’t about to make any. Ya got picked on a bit. I made it a point to get to know you. We became friends.”
“Did I ever say anything about my past?” Wilson said.
“You were private and so was I,” Phil said. “We talked about now and what we were going to do when we got out. We talked about women, cars, and motorcycles. We talked about going fast; with cars, motorcycles, and women.”
“Sounds pretty typical to me,” Wilson said.
“Yeah,” Phil said, “nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Did I ever say anything out of place?” Wilson said.
“No,” Phil said. “You never talked about anything that bothered you or feelings. You had no opinions. It was like you had nothing behind you.”
“Tell me something you told me,” Wilson said, “something you shared with me.”
“Ya know I saw a lot of things in Nam,” Phil said. “Right after Nam I got an assignment in Ethiopia.”
“Ethiopia?” Wilson said.
“I had a specialty they needed their,” Phil said. “My grandparents were Egyptian. Strange, huh. We always spoke Arabic around their house.”
“I called you three days after I got back to the States,” Phil said. “I remember telling you something, it’s something I never told anyone else.”
“Tell me,” Wilson said.
“We were getting off a plane at Logan in Boston. There were 17 of us returning from, of all places Ethiopia. For me and some it was our second oversees gig. We actually had sympathetic leanings toward the anti-war movement. When it comes right down to it we’re all anti-war. In Ethiopia when we weren’t listening to Russian, Egyptian, Israeli, and other Arab communications we taught English, did maintenance work at schools, and taught kids basketball and baseball at an Italian ran orphanage. A few attractive Italian teachers and nurses added to our interest also.”
Phil brought a bottle of beer to his lips and sipped slowly. “Back to Boston July 1970, a bunch of students greeted our homecoming. How they heard of our return on that flight I don’t know. We had layovers in Rome and London, someone probably called ahead. They were exercising their rights. That’s where the baby killer tirade came from. The called us baby killers, spit at us, and called us names I’ve never hear of before. We thought they had us mixed up with somebody else. We was in shock. What was strange is that some of our group were never in Nam and to my recollection we never fired a shot in Ethiopia let alone kill babies. I wasn’t even issued a P38 (can opener). They followed us through the airport like peasants with pitchforks and to our bus.
We, 17 soldiers, got on the bus for an hour or so bus ride to Ft. Devans. I remember us all saying they are us, you know the same age, except we weren’t smart enough, didn’t have the money, had less ambition to go on to college, or not a severe enough psychological or physical defect.. One of us removed part of her, you heard that right, her, uniform long enough to “shoot the moon.” We were soldiers; we said nothing, we touched no one, we held our ranks. And except for that one episode held on to our dignity. Any of this sound familiar, like you’ve hear it before?”
“No,” Wilson said. “It’s a good story, well kind of; you know what I mean.”
“Let me go on,” Phil said. “That night some of us confiscated a ten gallon pot from the mess hall and enough frozen OJ concentrate for about five gallons. We bought about three bottles of Vodka and added it to the OJ, one heap of screwdrivers. We drank from ladles we requisitioned from said mess hall. We got good and hammered. That night we screwed up a couple barracks, wrecked a jeep, and relieved ourselves out the windows. Of course we had to appear before the Major the next day. I have to say he was somewhat amused and a little sympathetic. Boys will be boys – girl too. And for some it had been a year without any revelry. “‘If I could send you to Nam I would,’” the major said.”
Phil sipped again. “‘Just not through Logan, Sir,’ I said.”
“That was the worst part of the war,” Phil concluded.