By David R. Berger
It was just a couple of years ago when I met him. I just pulled up to a discount food store on my way to work on midnight shift. Work starting time was just a couple of hours away.
I saw him get out of his car. He looked a lot like Fidel Castro. He had a beard, dark hair, a rather husky sized build and dressed in Desert Storm camouflage pants. It was those camouflage pants that first attracted my attention.
So many people including women wear camouflage clothing anymore. I have never been able to understand what kind of fashion statement they are trying to make. Most of them have never been in the service nor would serve unless they were absolutely forced to serve. No matter how calm I am, there is always a little ire that rises within me when I see fashion camouflage being worn. Somehow I couldn’t relax from looking at him as I entered the food store. I guess my judging heart had been hardened. I noticed while shoving a food cart, he walked with a cane and was about my age. He wore a cap with a number of hat tacks. As I passed him I noticed a miniature CMB (Combat Medical Badge) on his hat. I kept on walking even though I felt a great urge to stop.
You have to understand a CMB is my most prized medal. Oh, I screwed up a number of times but the desire to be a good medic caused me to rise above the fear at times which I would normally have conquered.
At times my mind and intellect had been taxed to the utmost. I had to do my best. As a combat medic, I probably experienced more dedication for a cause than I ever hoped for. Somehow, a CMB means to me I did my very best and passed.
Halfway down the aisle, some unseen force stopped me and I turned around and walked to camouflage pants and straight forth asked, “Were you a medic in Nam?”.
He was surprised and finally responded with a, “Yea”.
I explained that I had been a medic in Vietnam and noticed the miniature CMB. We shook hands and immediately were friends. We did the usual small talk. We then told what units we served with. When I told him I served with the 11th Armored Cav, he responded with, “You guys were really bad.”
Being somewhat surprised, I said something like, “We were?”. He went on to explain that his unit got ambushed in very heavy brush. A large number of them were wounded. No matter what they did—artillery, gunships or bombs—they couldn’t bust up the ambush. The enemy was right on top of them. Every time they tried something, they would just lose more men. Toward the end of the day they knew they were goners.
It was about that time that they heard a lot of thrashing brush and whining and growling engines and some armor unit known as the Blackhorse was able to make it to them. He told how the enemy didn’t even put up a fight—just fled.
I must admit I was somewhat overwhelmed. After finding out his year (1970), I had to tell him I served a couple of years before. Then jokingly I said it was still nice to know the guys after me were still bad.
We laughed and talked and finally realized time was slipping away. I had to leave. I remember walking down the aisle and called back, “I’ll see you around.” He answered, “I’ll see you brother.”.
That was almost a couple of years ago and I have never seen him since. I have looked forward to seeing him again. I regard him as a friend and always thought I would like to know him better.
I was totally amazed at the respect he had for the Blackhorse Regiment. Being in his place, I might feel the same way. He felt the Cav must have had it together the way the VC fled. The Cong wanted no part of the Cav.
I know I pre-judged the man. He is the type of person that could wear camouflage with a sport coat as far as I’m concerned.
I still have to admit though, I don’t like fashion camouflage.