Military Traditions

January 3, 2019 By R.A. Jones

A USO Show Comes to Town

The U.S. divisional headquarters advisory detachment south of the Mekong had set up shop in the departed Bank of Indochina. Faded though it was, there remained a certain elegance about the place. Overhead fans cooled its high-ceilinged rooms and approved ice was available for a gin and tonic. For me it served as a base camp, and I kept a standby springs and mattress bed there in a room I shared with the operations chief.

His name was Morris. He was a good guy. His forte was smoothing over rough edges. He could deliver unwelcome orders and leave the victim with a rueful smile. Before sunrise one morning, he came back into our room with his first brew of coffee. I was half asleep and fumbling with my boots, but I could see that something was afoot, and I’d be the goat.

“OK, now what?” I asked.

“Well, R. A., the old man wants you to go to Dam Doi right now,” he announced.

I wasn’t scheduled out to our most distant post for two more days.

“Right now? This very cotton-picking instant? What changed his mind?” I wondered.

“For two big reasons,” he said. “First, he was tremendously impressed by the case you made for getting out there ASAP. And second, there’s an unscheduled bird coming through this morning and they’ll make a special drop off for you.”

“Peachy. Does the USO show due in here tonight have anything to do with this?” I asked.

“Well, since you’ll be gone anyway,” he said, “we’ve assigned your bed to one of the girls.”

“How convenient. And you’ll be in the other sack as usual?”

“No, no,” he protested. “It’s not like that at all.”

“If you’d assign all the staff crowd to the sticks there’d be plenty of beds,” I said.

“Yeah. Well, there’s not a dry eye in the place, R. A.,” he said. “Have your stuff out to the flagpole in two hours. Take an interpreter.”

I had to scramble to pack my ruck in two hours. But I did, and we were gone.

A week later I got back in, hosed off the mud, and pulled up a stool at the paddy rat bar, which had slumped back to business as usual.

“So how went the show?” I asked.

“Oh wow! It was another world. Like a homecoming bash. And the dish who got your bed was the campus queen.”

“Did she still have to sit in my chair at the peon end of the mess table?”

“No, no. She sat right up there at the head end with the Colonel. She was an okay chick though. When somebody let it slip how your bed became available she said to tell you thanks for the fluffy pillow.”


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