By Stephen "Rags" Ragle

I woke up this morning to rain beating on the skylight. Reminded me of the monsoons hitting the canvas of a tent. It was still dark.

It's after 1 p.m. and still raining. I'm listening to the cold rain tap on the window and to an oldies station on the radio. Bob Seeger's "Like a Rock" is playing. One verse strikes a nerve; it goes something like...

"20 years now,
Where have they gone;
20 years I don't know,
I sit and wonder sometimes..."

It's closer to 30 years for me now, and I sit and wonder.

The rain like this always brings back memories of VN and the monsoons, especially of one night during my illustrious three month career as an MP.

I got pulled for main gate guard duty one rainy night in the fall of '67. The guy who was supposed to have the duty got sick...complained he had the shits (like nobody else ever did). So, I got to go out to the main gate at Dong Ha and stand in the middle of a big mud hole at midnight and check trip tickets from the supply trucks coming in from the river dock. Here I am standing in mud over my ankles with a flashlight and an M-14.

The trucks came and went all night long at random. A truck load of NVA sappers could have driven up and run over my ass or shot me and nobody would have known better 'til next morning.

Well, about 1 a.m., a jeep comes roaring up behind me; and this bird colonel jumps out and wants to know the password. To this day, I believe the sergeant of the guard forgot to tell me the password in his haste to get me out on duty. I tried to explain nicely to the colonel that I had not been told the password; but, from his demeanor, this was unacceptable. It seems this was about the third night in a row that he had checked, and somebody didn't know the pw.

To say the least, he reams me a new asshole. Actually, I needed a new one; the other had been chewed off so many times already. He jumps back in his hot rod and roars off. About ten minutes later, I get relieved of my duty. Just breaks my heart to have to come in out of the rain.

The next morning, I get several new assholes--from the sergeant of the guard to the 1st lt. platoon commander. Then they arrange punishment. I figured burning shit, but I got to fill sandbags by myself and build a new ammo bunker.

Took three or four days to build my masterpiece, and then they didn't even use it.

copyright 1995 by Stephen "Rags" Ragle, all rights reserved