I was the lead company radioman for Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. I carried a PRC-25 radio that weighed just shy of 30 pounds, and had a 4-ft. antenna that might as well have had a red bull's eye on it... Take out the radio: take out communications.
Radiomen used that radio to communicate to someone we did not know, sometimes for reasons we did not understand. Ah, yes; 'communicate' maybe is the wrong word... Communication meant calling in air strikes, arty missions, sit reps, and resupply (if the weather permitted). Resupply meant two things: it meant food, water, and mail; or it meant ammo.
Ammo was good and bad; the good was we needed it to keep alive. The bad meant we had to use it and someone usually got hurt when we did use it.
I had one other duty, and I saved it for last because it is the reason for the flash back:
As company radioman, I kept a small notebook with me at all times. This book had the entire Company's medevac listing: This was your medevac number... See after you got hit, you were just a number. Your three initials, your last four service numbers and home town. To get this medevac number, I usually spoke to everyone briefly so that, in effect I knew the entire company -- and they knew me. They had to trust me because I was their way out.
Between the Doc (or Corpsman, God bless all of them) who patched you up and me, who called for the medevac chopper, we were the most important friends a Grunt had when they were hit and laying on the ground. Afterwards I had to call Company HQ, a call I never liked....
God I hated that call... It meant that letters sometimes had to be written.......
Anyway, I've voiced my opinion on whatever normalization is, and I flashed back one night... I have not had these dreams in a long, long time...
This one always starts out:
"X-RAY. XRAY. THIS IS XRAY GOLF MEDEVAC. XRAY, THIS IS XRAY GOLF. MEDEVAC IS AN EMERGENCY--"
Everything is going along okay but I do not have my medevac book.
I CAN NOT FIND MY GOD DAMN BOOK. WITHOUT THE BOOK I CANNOT RUN THE FUCKING MEDEVAC!--
I wake up run down stairs and tear up a box in my basement. I take this 25- year-old book upstairs and I sit down with it and read it, page by page, stopping only for names and medevac numbers that I remember as clear as today: Guys who I visited, 1992, I think it was...
Well, any way I wondered that night what they thought about normalization, but I cannot use their medevac numbers; these guys are more than numbers to me:
This group of my friends were from Hotel Company; almost all of the
company was hit -- radios down -- Golf went to help --
They got added to my book:
I get a shot of brandy and toast the book and my friends. Why do I only remember the guys on The Wall; I do not understand; I flew out lots of guys that are not on the wall...
I think telling this might help me, but I will keep my book handy.
0311, Grunt, USMC, Golf Company, 2/1, 1968-1969.
(Gene Csuti is a member of Vietnam Veterans of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines Association, Inc.)