Limited to 15 last days

AWOL from Ft Hood

As told to me from Ron Rich -- A Co 66/67

I never realized at that time if it was so terrible what I did?  I think I lost that PFC stripe many time, and paid $22.00 for something called an article 15.  BUT, hey it's all good.. (Upon completing my tour in Nam) when I returned to Boston on Dec. 24th, 1967 I had orders to go to Fort Hood, Texas.  I asked around to the guys before leaving Camp Alpha (Bien Hoa), what was there & what did the Army have planned for me.  Answer was, snakes, scorpions and a lot of dust & hot. Just being 19 it didn't sound so good.  BUT, first I had a 30 day leave to enjoy at home and God, was it cold & snowy in Marlboro, Mass. 

 Well at the end of my 30 days I had to come up with something of a plan.  I drove my 1959 Chevy conv, Impala (wish I had kept that car HUH?) to Fort Devens, Mass and pulled up to the gate. It was only about maybe 20 something miles from home. I was greeted by the MP's & I’m looking good, all gussied up in my few medals & infantry unit citations & stuff they give you when you come home from Nam.  They asked if they could help?  I said I didn't know but had to start somewhere. I didn't want to be AWOL, or anything like that, so what should I do?  The MP's said to pull into a small lot with a building marked MP HQtrs & talk to the SGT on duty which I did.

 After entering inside a fenced in area with a small cut out, it must have been for a protection type of thing all the fencing.  Here was a Name tag:  SGT GREGARIO.  I looked at it & said to what I thought was only to me:  "You gotta be shitting me" and a quick reply from the person behind the fence was, & I quote him “What's your problem soldier?”.  I looked up at him & said.  “YOU!!!  You’re my problem at the moment.  A little over 2 years ago, 4 kids walked into your recruiting office in Framingham, Mass. & you promised us everything, especially the 17 year old, You couldn't help him without parents signature. But that kid wanted to be a DOG Handler with the MP's.  So do you remember any of those times?  I sure as hell didn't join for the Infantry”.  He turned a kind a pale white after forgiveness set in & he said “it was the way then to get bodies into the Army”.  However,  I said look “ I have orders to be some place. I don't know where they are,  & I'm not sure if I got any orders??”.

 I don't want to be AWOL or be classified as missing so I came here for help. ON HIS BEHALF!!  I will say he helped.  He called the Base commander & I remember him saying to whoever he was talking to, I have this young kid back from Nam & doesn't have his orders & he's doesn't know where to go. Can someone come on down & pick him up?  That's something good he did.

 A 1LT, showed up by the name of Iverson, maybe in his later 20's.  He came in, looked me over & said OK, soldier, can you type?  I said a little maybe. Good enough follow me. We did have other conversations of where I had been & my unit.  But NOW!!!  I was in G-3 supply typing up orders for equipment.  Cool.  HUH!!  Got to drive home every day left at 3:30, I didn't have to report into base till something like 8:30 AM Monday to Friday, off weekends.  Great & so it was to be, UNTIL late April, (remember, No computers or stuff in those days).

 Well, the shit hit the fan, Orders from Fort Hood had me listed as a full blown DESERTER,  ouch.  So now the Base Commander at Fort Devens says,  No, he's been here with us at the base working in G-3. and has not been a deserter. This is what I was told. So, now 1LT Iverson shows up in supply & says,  “Rich what R U going to do with yourself after the Army?  I said, " go to school sir college GI bill”.  His reply was OK!!  Here's the deal.  You have 72 hours to bring me back a letter of acceptance to go to school/college and do not to come back without one.   So, off I went, I had 3 days to do this in, after all it's now spring, weather is good.  I went to Boston College, U Mass. Framingham State, and finally Worcester State.  They greeted this vet like a hero, God was that different.  Took me into the Deans Office, talked, signed me up and gave me a letter of admittance on the spot.  All the other colleges said to come back in a week & get the letter,  I said No, It had to be now. I only had 72 hrs to get it to my commander.  Worcester state did the job.  I returned with the letter of admittance to 1LT Iverson.  He said "GREAT!  lets go.  I said, what's going on??  Soldier you’re getting an early out to go to school!!!  We got you covered. 

 You see, Fort Hood, Texas wants you back in the worse way as a deserter,  General, I don't remember his name said, no, he's here & is not a deserter.  & no charges are forthcoming (something like that I guess)   At any rate 1LT Iverson tosses me into the Hospital for some period of time and after about a week shows up & says you got your early out, top says go to school, & you’re not going to Fort Hood.  So, I need your address for your final pay voucher.  Sooo, I told him 1289 E. Hancock Dr, Daytona Beach, Florida. We had a little vacation home there, my Mom did, so for travel money I had to take a shot, cool huh.  WELL!  1LT Iverson says,  Nice try Ron,  You get muster pay to Marlboro, Mass. I think it was about $2.56 cents (we had a laugh).  But then I said,  Whoa, early out, what kind of Discharge are you giving me??  You’re getting your Honorable Discharge with all benefits with an early out for educational purposes.  I said look,  I know we went to the 25th INF DIV Medical HQtrs for evaluation. Capt, Newport, said Hey Rich go get 3 of your buddies to go with you back to Cu Chi, they need 4 volunteers,  He was a cool Captain also, that's when I was in Delta Co.  I said Capt. Newport no one wants to volunteer.  OK, Then you can just stay with us in the jungle or go back to the base,  I'm giving you guys a break.  We said OK, & took the chopper out.  When we got to Cu Chi a jeep drove in to the Hospital; area,  It pulled up at, " 25th Medical Mental Hygiene". We all said great we’re going in to get our minds cleaned up.  Why we were there was to see how combat fatigued we were.  At any rate, I got into a disagreement with some Captain that insisted we were all OK.  I insisted I wasn't  OK, & wanted a section 8,  He said sorry Kid, you not Crazy,  I said  Ya, well I got 200 guys in my company that says I'm crazy & different. I don't understand it, but that's what they say. The Captain, then said Welcome to catch 22 PFC.  & that's the only answer I ever got.  You’re crazy if you love combat & you’re crazy to try & get out of it I guess. 

 So with that questioning with 1LT Iverson & upon showing me true my authentic Discharge DD 214 we hugged & he said take care Soldier, Welcome Home!!

 Kind a long huh? It's all I got, a lot of good memories from a not so good war & many brothers.  Cuz, we spent all that time together as 1 unit, almost 2 years & I have forgotten a lot.  Thank God for all those that did care about me & watched over me.  I was good under fire, just not so back at base camp.