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Where to begin, this telling of the tale?
I can not tell you everything, so much is still... best saved for later. There are things we can speak of though, you and I. The mundane, for the most part, the daily ordinary.
The occasional extraordinary may have to wait.
Where to begin? The Bible? The bullet? They are certainly early elements. Too early perhaps, or too late. Or both. I'll tell of conflict here, and speak of violence. In our world those things are old, as can be read in that Bible, as old as the sands that swirled about the desert where Abraham turned his back on the land of his birth and started the whole series of events...
And they spent some time in Egypt then, didn't they? Those patriarchs of three religions. I think I'll start in Egypt then, where the sun heats the sands of time, and a hot wind lifts that sand and dusts the steps of the pyramids, etches them, wears them down over years through the ages.
I've been there, in the flesh. I've felt that sand in my flesh, I've felt that sun in my flesh and seen incredible things with my own sun burned eyes. Can I tell you? Will you join me? After all, we've already started, haven't we?
With regard to crowded streets, "teeming" is the right word. 6.8 million. When the surrounding metropolitan area is included, Cairo has a population of 14.5 million, staking a claim to 9th largest city in the world. Exact numbers are meaningless, of questionable validity but obvious issues. Tear through town as a passenger in a minibus, go from 60 to 0 in one second as someone steps off the curb in front of you without a glance in either direction, narrowly avoiding a population reduction of one. "If Allah wills it they will live to cross the street," the driver explains, "what purpose in looking first?" Learn quickly why non-locals' driving is discouraged. Learn quickly that this place runs on the will of Allah.
Mountains of refuse? Will be gone when Allah wills. Collapsed building? Removed when Allah wills. Shelter then, in the meantime, for someone for whom Allah wills it. A degree of planning and administration appears to be lacking, and rather then demand accountability from city officials, understand that this is what Allah wills. The logic is not arguable. If Allah did not will it, it would not be.
BAGHDAD 2003 AD
Tanks roll. Throngs along the street raise fists in rage and celebration. What will America bring? According to the New York Times ( a paper with recent credibility issues) one answer from a local is "Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy!" The phrase catches on with many. It becomes a slogan on t-shirts, bumper stickers and Blogs across America. Songs are written, recorded, and made available via internet download overnight. Hooray! With only a few deaths we've brought Democracywhiskeysexy to Iraq.
The celebration continues into the streets of downtown Baghdad as toppling statues of Saddam provide photo ops for journalists shocked that "the Big Story" is ending so soon. Absolute, total, and stunning victory leaves them starving for some angle they can use to paint a picture of desperation for their readers "back home." The quagmire of their dreams has failed to materialize, and no one wins Pulitzers for happy news. No one covers this story accurately or well. The pre-written news of dismal failures must now remain in the drawer of their minds forever. Pale attempts otherwise (coverage of riots and museum looting) will later be proved overblown and under researched. Public interest wanes.
Now return to the scene of the falling statue. Ignore the flag on the face thing, no one really cares. It's a distraction. Note instead the "crowd" of hundreds in a city of millions. I've never seen a public square so empty in daylight hours. It's likely that the vast majority were afraid as yet to face the Americans. It's certainly possible that many were not convinced that the next day would mark their departure and the return of Saddam. These people had experiences in their own lifetimes with America withdrawing hope at the last tantalizing minute. Pardon them then their lack of faith in the conquerors' good intentions. Still a thought haunts me: That given recent history, if in some way the U.S. could be invaded and conquered in like manner, the crowd of Democrats toppling statues and looting the Smithsonian would far exceed the numbers of Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad that glorious day...
NEAR CAIRO, the late '80s
The desert is hot in August, but the dry atmosphere actually leads to extremes. Your body adjusts remarkably to the heat of the day, then when temperatures plunge into the 70's at night you shiver with cold. The dry air also provides a spectacular night time view of the Perseid Meteors, arcing through the sky in an uninterrupted display of indescribable and awesome beauty. The vastness of the cosmos is above you, and you are small.
Small, but connected through those stars to people who looked at them thousands of years ago, people who were writing the Bible, the Torah, the Koran. People building pyramids. People living in large groups in cities for the first time, all long after the light from most of those stars above began to travel to here, to be seen twinkling for eternity.
Are we all then the sons and daughters of those ancient star gazers? Surely we are. And that makes the guards at the gate of this remote little airfield our distant cousins. Surely then they would not have pulled the trigger when we approached the gate and the guard stepped into the path of our vehicle, locked and loaded on the driver as he stopped for an ID check? Of course not. A show of force and military professionalism, I'm sure. No doubt they want to inspire our confidence in their abilities. Demonstrate how capable they are, they are serious! They mean business! They have our attention, but we are not impressed. If they hoped to distract us from the mismatched, ill fitting uniforms, the bare feet, or the slack attitude and lack of discipline they failed to accomplish that. It is glaring and obvious to the small group in the van with our Egyptian driver. We are first in to this installation, eight of us to be the first to spend the night at this base camp for Joint Spec Ops.
Our cousins let us wait while they run our ID's into a nearby shack. After a few minutes a small contingent marches out, escorts and a high ranking individual who must personally approve our presence. There is much discussion. Perhaps as a vanguard we are a little early and were not expected? Perhaps this is a show? Who knows. Eventually the mufti is satisfied, we are cleared and proceed across the desert to our temporary home. Eight American GIs alone in tent city in a remote corner of an airfield holding several thousand Egyptian regulars, as much our ally as they are the Russians', at the tag end of the Cold War...
YOKOTA AIR BASE, JAPAN, AUGUST 1990
The ramps are empty. This base is all about transport. The planes that should be filling this acreage wingtip to wingtip are now involved in one of the most massive efforts in the history of civilization; Desert Shield is full up and operational. Real war may be a reality. The cold war hardly over, the thaw of the collapse of the Soviet Union barely felt, and all hell is now officially set to break loose.
But across a relatively small sea from here is the Korean Peninsula, where the cold war has never ended. Each report heard of Saddam's military comes with a ring of familiarity to those in this theater. The same numbers, the same tanks, the same aircraft, the same guns, are all just north of the 38th parallel. Yokota is temporary, I'm inbound to Seoul this time. Returning from a brief "business trip" to Japan. And all these missing planes mean one thing to an American toeing that little finish line for the free world: there is no quick back up coming. You are on your own.
Egypt, however, is with us in the Gulf. For a mere 7 Billion in debt relief, our cousins will join us in the desert again...
TENT CITY, KOREA, 1990
The rain is unrelenting. Two weeks "in the field" and not a day without constant rain. We are years away from being able to laugh about it with Forrest Gump. The ground has turned soft. "Deuce and a halfs " (big Army trucks, usually canvas covered, toy versions were very popular with the green army men crowd) running in and out bringing food have rutted the "dirt roads" and turned them into something like "chocolate pudding roads." You can't avoid walking in them. It's mud to the ankles and water above that. You wear green rubber overboots and watch the water level carefully.
It's summer, so it's 90 degrees outside. If the rain would stop the humidity surely would drop to 95 percent. The issued rain gear is great at keeping the rain out, but the effect is like wrapping yourself in plastic while fully dressed in long sleeves and pants: you sweat. And since you are working for a living, You drench yourself with sweat. At the end of day one you hang your wet uniform to dry in the tent. It is humid, so it will take a couple days. On day two you don your second of three uniforms and repeat the process. At the end of that day you try to convince yourself the hanging uniform is dryer then the one you're wearing, that progress is being made, that it might quit raining. And you plan day three: If it's still raining, I'll wear the day two uniform again in hopes that the day one uniform will dry to the point it's wearable again. The last dry uniform is hands-off! Might have greater need later. But the temptation! Hopefully someone will go back to base and run some laundry soon.
We have a radio teletype machine in the field. By adjusting the frequency we can pick up English language propaganda broadcasts from North Korea. These are being generated purely for our benefit, so we oblige. I no longer have transcripts, but they were in the form of "news releases." A story on the construction of new apartment buildings would include this: "The glorious peoples of North Korea salute their leader Kim Il Sung! The brand of communism practiced by the North Koreans will never fail as it has in the weak European nations! The puppet South Korean lackey government of the Capitalist war mongering United States is every day coming closer to collapse and failure..." and more to that effect. The language is unbelievable flowery. And some in our tent wonder aloud if the people North of the border are actually brainwashed to the point where this stuff sounds reasonable. It's "The Big Lie" - no half measures here. Say it, make it too outrageous to be a lie, and repeat it again and again.
Meanwhile, the American press, blissfully unaware that we have been at continuous war (albeit cease-fire) for over forty years, has discovered Desert Shield. Korea will be the only theater of operations from which troops will not be pulled for the gulf. However, the function of troops in country has always been to slow the advance to the point we could deploy in force from the USA.
One million men with guns, thirty miles north. The rain still falls on day three.
NEAR CAIRO, the late '80s
The Nile Delta is close enough that fog forming there rolls in to our location. We are now officially "socked in", a pre-dawn grey world where visibility is near zero.
Sound travels though. Right now the sound of a large aircraft running up its engines while sitting on the end of the runway nearby drowns out everything else. This mission is weather delayed. Take off should have occurred a few minutes before, but visibility of at least one half mile is required before this plane can launch. The fog is lifting, but too slowly, and we are just approaching one-quarter mile now.
The plane is a C130 Gunship, a classic old bird modified for special ops. This is an exercise, a training mission, but still important, and dependent on several things all happening simultaneously. Delay is unacceptable.
A weather observer is standing near the runway. Everything now waits on his call. He holds a radio and is in constant contact with the aircrew and the ground control. Calls to him are repeated and of increasing urgency.
"Weather one, ground, vis check?"
"Ground, weather one, still holding one quarter..."
Repeated again and again until
"Weather one, ground, now?"
"Lifting a little, but still officially..."
Then a change in the pitch of the engine sound, and the plane is accelerating down the runway. Never seen but heard, roaring off into the Egyptian sky.
No more time to wait for Allah to will the fog away...
CAIRO, a few days later
In a high pitched ululation the Muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, his call echoes through the streets, through the bazaar. The bazaar is like nothing in the West. Small shops sell gold, fine carved wooden objects, chess sets, perfumes, papyrus, all at "reasonable prices". Signs in English are the give-away that this is a tourist area. Prices are probably at least twice what could be found elsewhere with small risk and little effort.
Young children are everywhere, hawking water in bottles, cola, fruit. Beggars for the most part. Now here's your insight into the minds of our hosts for today. Here and there you see men with camels outfitted for riding. They entice you to climb aboard, tell you that you can get on the camel for free. You can't beat free, can you Amer? Here we are all "Amer", pronounced "Ah-mair". We have been told the Egyptian can not lie, it is part of his religion. So get on the camel for free, Ah-mair? No, I'd been warned about this one. Though others eagerly accepted the offer. The camel would actually kneel at the command of his handlers, dropping just low enough to the ground for the rider to mount. At a second command the adventurer soon found himself high up on camelback, an experience not available in too many other locations. Stuck up on the camel's back, in fact, unless they are willing to pay the ten dollar fee requested to get the camel to lower himself to a position where he can safely dismount. There was no lie told, getting on the camel was free.
Back on the bus, a crowd of thirty odd Amer, close cropped hair a dead give away that these are military men, though dressed in civilian clothes. A short ride to the pyramids, where we are to be treated to the sound and light show. The sun is setting, the temperature falling. The view is spectacular, the three pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx in panorama before us. We are in the back of a large tourist group. The obvious thing setting us apart from them is we have armed guards; machine gun totting Egyptian plainclothes police or secret service or whatever. They hold semiautomatic weapons and appear both capable and vigilant. These men know what they are doing, in contrast to the "uniformed soldiers" from the airbase. Knowing that Saddat was protected by such men, I position myself strategically and watch them as much as I do the show.
The main crowd is French. Perhaps the descendents of the very soldiers who shot the nose off the Sphinx. They try to be unaware of the strange Amer and their gun-toting guards. It's now dark and the show begins. The great edifices are lit by massive beams of colored light, an incredible show to rival any rock concert. The recorded narration begins, a booming voice backed with dramatic music; all in French. Can't get too involved, have to watch the watchers. The show ends, we file out. Paranoia was not required. All is well. As we depart the French men do a great job of ignoring us. The women do not. But we are all soon on the bus and on our way back to camp. To sandy sleeping bags on canvas cots. To more of the Perseids.
The singsong chant of the Muezzin emanates from the bus radio on the trip back. Or is this Egyptian top forty? It is all we hear in Cairo's street. The plaintive wail. Hardly recognizable as language. In contrast to the driving guitar-based hard Rock I grew up with, this is weak. There are songs I play in my head when I want to get the blood flowing. One of them is Hair of the Dog by the group Nazareth. I can not suppress this strange thought: Say what you will of the music, but in a clash between people from a culture that produced that song and people from a culture that wails through the nose on the radio for entertainment while waiting for the will of Allah to accomplish anything, bet on the rockers.
ITAEWON, SEOUL, KOREA 1991
Sweet child in time, you'll see the line
The line drawn between the good and bad
See the blind man, he's shooting at the world
Bullets flying; taking their toll
If you been bad - Oh Lord I bet you have
And you've not been hit, oh by flying lead
You'd better close your eyes; you better bow your head,
And wait for the ricochet
Deep Purple, Sweet Child in Time Words & music by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice
Seoul, Korea has a population of over ten million, and a population density of over 46,000 people per square mile. It has everything. The Itaewon district is a shopping district by day and an "entertainment" district by night. As long as your entertainment includes drinking. Heavily. This part of town is international, neon lit, and loud. Wherever you go you are likely to end up shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the world. Talking. Laughter. Fighting. Music. Each little bar a specialty shop. This one is all jazz, that one rocks, that one's country. All have bar girls to serve you, and if you're a nice guy you'll buy them a drink too, yes?
Me love you too muchy, GI. They'd been perfecting the art of separating American servicemen from their cash for forty years at the time I was there. They were very good at it.
Itaewon is where the American export of Democracy Whiskey Sexy was first adopted and then perfected by a totally foreign culture. Itaewon was what that guy in Iraq might have had in mind while he watched the tanks roll by.
And Itaewon separates the Yongsan army installation from Hannam Village, the walled compound housing those few troops fortunate enough (and willing to serve two years instead of one) to have their families with them. Life in Hannam Village is typical American with a few adaptations to the local culture. In the daycare center for instance, in addition to fire drills, the children are taught how to respond to a shift in the wind that might waft the tear gas into the facility. Always bring a hankie to hold over your nose and mouth, get low to the ground, crawl to safety! It's not every four year old that knows this useful skill. Still, if it weren't for the tear gas the demonstrators just on the other side of the wall would likely get completely out of hand.
So if you live in Hannam you work at Yongsan and must travel through Itaewon to get there. And if your car doesn't start and it's 4 AM you will walk. Down a few dark alleys at first until you reach the edge of the neon glow; the party goes all night and at four there is no sign of slow down. The Ville (rhymes with bill) is the GI appellation for the "entertainment district" that springs up near the gate of every military facility in Asia. However big or small the town, the Ville is the Ville. The real name is of less import; Songtan, Tongduchon, Itaewon; the Ville is universal. There are some differences; a curfew is enforced at Songtan and it closes at 2 AM. Itaewon does not close. Itaewon is the ultimate Ville.
Even so there are few people on the dark fringes of the Ville this pre-dawn as the man in BDUs moves swiftly through. Once into the more crowded area a cab can be found.
A group of four or five college-age Korean men step out of a bar and notice the GI approaching. Their conversation stops but their stares follow his approach.
Down the street a little from where they stand hundreds of Korean girls cast neon shadows in the streets as they seek that which the French girls in Cairo could only dream of...bedtime with an American GI. Like women everywhere else in the world, some seek a night of entertainment, some a lifetime of security, others are interested only professionally.
It takes little "political motivation" for these countrymen of those ladies to want Americans gone from their streets.
"Yankee go home!" To this day I can hear the voice that said it, clipped, accented, emphasis on the "go" making it sound wrong. A cliche, come to life in my life.
"Go home!" Their hands are clenched. They are drunk, not falling down, but unsteady. Sober they would have been silent; they've had just enough to drink to make them brave and slightly wobbly. Still, there are five of them and some Tae-kwon-do ability is to be assumed here. I know what I will do if I have to. (Remember, Hair of the Dog? It's pounding in my head.)
"I am home." I say nodding as I walk past smiling at each in turn. They are silent until I am a little further down the alley.
"Go home!" One shouts again, but he lacks all conviction. No ricochet today. I approach the neon brightness, white noise, and fish market smells of the center of the Ville, find a cab and shorten my trip.
Get to work, prepare for the day, take a break, step outside and watch the sunrise.
More done before 9 o'clock then most people do all day? You bet.
Half a world away Desert Shield is near complete; we are in place and Desert Storm is looming, rumors are that a deadline will be issued.
What of our position in Korea? Do we have a back up? There are rumors that the North has massed a million men at the border. That the DMZ is set to erupt. All hell will break loose. Those are the rumors.
It's best not to believe rumors. They fly especially quickly through military ranks - often believable, more often not, usually with zero basis in truth.
On the way to Cairo, for instance, we were told by an aircrew member that the temperature soars above 120 every day. I know this is a lie, I've done my homework and the every day afternoon temperature is 108. Still, once the night falls and the temperature drops to the 70's you sit and shiver in the cold. But the 120-130 degrees is a lie and a rumor.
Prior to going to Cairo we were supposed to go to Somalia. From there we would operate a couple days then pack quickly and jump into Egypt to set up rapidly and resume ops. Somalia is cancelled at the last minute. There's a rumor that there's been some kind of coup or civil war there. I don't much care; at that time in the summer of '87 I had to look Somalia up on a map.
The sun is rising over Seoul in early 1991. Rumor has it that as a result of the alleged million-man-mass at the DMZ we have put the North on notice that our response to any hostile advance they may care to make will be swift and devastating. Grave consequences are the rumor of the day.
But still the sun is rising. It won't get anywhere near 100 degrees. On some days though when you step outside your throat tickles slightly and your eyes water, often so little that you barely realize it. Because when the wind is just right you get a hint of pepper gas even here, far from the walls that surround this installation.
I will finish work early, go home and fix the car. Tomorrow is my day off, so perhaps tonight I'll join the celebrations in the Ville.
The sun will rise tomorrow, too.
There's always something to celebrate.
NEAR CAIRO, the late '80s
Nightfall, the temperature plummets into the mid 70's and we sit and shiver again under the shooting stars. We've turned the area between two tents into a makeshift meeting place; after much labor filling sandbags and stacking them into benches we've created a passable place to pass the time. It's early in the exercise and the command element has not yet joined us. When they do they will take one look at this area, declare that one of the tents is the headquarters and politely ask the inhabitants to move elsewhere. The party will continue and our leaders won't have to travel far to join it.
So strike democracy from the list for now. Democracy is no way to run a military.
Thanks to Stella though, we had whiskeysexy.
Not Brando's gal; Stella is the beer brewed in Egypt for the consumption by the infidel. This, I suppose, is one way of distinguishing the progressive Muslim society from the repressive regimes elsewhere. Stella Lager, for the discriminating infidel. There are no women mud wrestlers pitching this stuff on Egyptian TV, but based on the crowded streets of Cairo it would appear that the Egyptians are familiar with sex too.
There are several hundred men and six women at our base camp. Each gets a ration of two bottles of Stella a day. There's nothing to do but sit and drink and talk and watch the Perseids streak across the sky. The galaxies are on display on these crystal clear desert nights. Somewhere in all that, the locals would tell you, Allah looks down upon us all.
I wonder when Allah will do something about the burned out shell of a plane that sits a couple hundred yards away from our makeshift bar? A Russian Bear, I'm told, though there's not enough left for me to make positive identification. Could be a Badger for all I knew. Rumor says it was destroyed in the six-day war, or one of those wars where every one of Israel's neighbors attacked at once, but still ended up with a war named for the number of days required for their complete annihilation.
Tired of being humiliated? Stop being stupid. Apparently that won't happen soon. The tactic has changed over the past thirty years with the suicide bomber being the preferred method of the new millennia, but in the late 80's terrorist strikes on Aircraft or Cruise ships are the expected assault. But Marine barracks have been hit too. And in the late cold war world where alliance and influence shift like desert sand it is at least strange and disconcerting to set up camp and drink Stella Lager near a relic of a known enemy's power on what may some day be another's unfriendly territory. The Russians could be using the same site the week after for all we knew. Only in hindsight does the desert-preserved shell of the Russian war machine serve as metaphor and tombstone for their empire.
But for the most part the aircraft is ignored, or seen as a good sign. Enemy aircraft look good as burned out hulks on the ground. We can't see it in the darkness but we know it's there.
Then someone brings out the NVG's.
Night Vision Goggles are relatively new technology, and this is the first time I've seen them. Ambient starlight magnified to near the point of daylight. Surely everyone is familiar with the green world of NVG's now, but in those days they were a novelty. There was the Russian Bomber, there the buildings of the Egyptian military. There the sand dune that the Rangers practiced overrunning all day every day. And there in the distance are the guy and the girl who thought they had cover of darkness. We can't tell who they are but we can tell what they are doing. Their discovery was unintentional but will be legend through the camp within 24 hours.
Democracy no. Whiskey limited. Sexy? Apparently as unstoppable as the meteors that streak across the cold desert sky.
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, Sep 11, 2001.
The President of the US addresses a shocked world. On the runway, wingtip to wingtip, the B52 fleet sits, fueled and loaded. Think about it. The first thing he saw when he got there and the last when he left, firepower the likes of which few can imagine, and his finger on the "trigger". The images of the fallen towers, a smoking hole in the Pentagon, and a crater in Pennsylvania fresh in everyone's mind. Shock and quiet rage prevail nationwide. Restraint? You better believe it, and thank God (and I mean it, thank God) the right man was in charge. Rush to war? Not then, not now, not ever. Let's roll.
The United States has suffered over 300 casualties as a direct result of armed conflict with the North Korean Peoples Army since President Eisenhower declared an end to major hostilities in Korea. This background information may be useful to the reader.
PANMUNJOM, KOREA, 1990
Picture the Korean DMZ in your minds eye. Do you see a bombed out wasteland crisscrossed with barbed wire? Empty trenches? Hear echoes of small arms fire? See flickering lightning from ever present clouds - flashes of artillery fire and the smoke of bursting shells?
That may have been the case mid way through the 20th century, but 40 years later it's far from reality. The land where the 38th parallel bisects the Korean peninsula is some of the most beautiful countryside you could ever hope to see. A couple generations of near total absence of humanity can do that. When compared to Seoul, a city under a perpetual grey cloud of charcoal smoke and exhaust fumes, this is rare beauty indeed.
A sometimes deadly beauty. If you read the links above you know that this is the most dangerous wilderness area in the world. Buried landmines are not the only things waiting to explode along freedom's frontier. Toe this line and it's strangely hard to imagine the far off zing of the ricochet coming ever closer, but the blind man is near. Best not to travel down that pathway of the mind. Stay alert and focus on the task at hand; enjoy the countryside if time permits.
Time, of course, will not permit any such thing. Not for me, not this trip. I'm up from Seoul for 24 hours. Special assignment. My mission? Whenever a high Government VIP visits Korea, the photo op at the DMZ is a "must do." A Very Senior Official will be up smiling for the cameras tomorrow. I'm an "advance party of one." I'm not doing PR work, I'm not a cameraman, I have other concerns.
Strangely, perhaps, I feel less immediate threat from the North Korean guards in Panmunjom then from the drunks in Itaewon. True, the threat is more likely lethal, but less likely to occur. Even more likely they know who's coming tomorrow and wonder who the hell I am. I am nobody, and I'm doing mundane tasks. Don't point, and hey, smile when we take your picture, would ya?
The lucky young Americans on the DMZ have some cool toys to play with, and they love to show them off. Everything that moves along this line can be tracked one way or another. Lost patrols can be talked back into camp, their locations known fairly precisely to those who are tracking them remotely. How comforting to know that we will "see" the approaching million man horde.
I'm not that sort of an invasion force, and the guys on the line make a fairly good welcome for the rare stranger up on business. None of the dog and pony show for me; the big shot will get that tomorrow. I get to see the grit. A solo tour of the Ville with the white stripe painted down the middle. Really, it's there. Cross it and die. See the room with the table with the stripe right down the center. It's a plain wooden building and empty most of the time.
And when the day is done I get the invite to the Happy Mountain Club.
If you're familiar with the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy then you know the Restaurant at the end of the Universe. The Happy Mountain Club is the Bar at the end of the Free World. Beyond this point there is no DemocracyWhiskeySexy, okay? There may be some pale attempt, some unreasonable facsimile, but not like we know it. The world across that bridge is bleak and grey and cold and a lie and I have seen Hell on Earth it and know it for what it is.
And I have laughed and drunk at the Happy Mountain Club in the shadow of Mordor, with those who know they will be the first to shed enemy blood should the day come when the chains come off and the dogs of war run snarling once again.
And when you hit your pillow tonight, think that somewhere in the silent beauty of the DMZ an alert sentry is ready to lock and load and rock and roll.
He was there while Nam was in flames.
He was there for all the days there were hostages in Iran.
He was there when the Berlin Wall came down and communism was declared a thing of the past.
And when the American press rediscovered the American soldier as he pitched his tent for Desert Shield.
Through too cold winter and too hot summer.
And in one of the small rooms of the barracks was the Happy Mountain Club, perhaps the most exclusive club in the world. Members only. Would you like to knock back a few there? I consider it one of the great privileges of my life.
Panmunjom is simultaneously ridiculous and serious, perhaps the most ridiculous and most serious place on earth. And beautiful and deadly. And there is something close to DemocracyWhiskeySexy on the south side of the line.
And tonight Van Halen on the stereo.
I've been to the edge, I stood and looked down.
you know I lost a lot of friends there baby
I got no time to mess around
So if you want it, I gotta cut you free baby
I gotta cut you free baby
Ain't talking bout love...
The Happy Mountain, by the way, is slang for a Korean Burial Mound.
Great Post. Time very well spent. Can't wait for the "more".....Posted by Tammi at January 13, 2004 02:28 AM
This is great stuff, Hawk. I know it's guilding the lily, after what you've done for me - but you're linked.
LexPosted by lexl at January 14, 2004 04:41 AM
Thanks for a swim through memory lane. I was in Korea (lovely Camp Stanton) from Aug 90 to Aug 91.
You gave me some major flashbacks. Vivid images of my Christmas in ITAEWON.
Remember those big orange trucks? We called them Terminators because they barrelled down those tiny roads at unbelievably unsafe speed and did not care if you got in the way. They would terminate (run you over) you.
That was amazing. You, sir, are a god among men.Posted by Curtis the Former Marine at January 17, 2004 11:27 PM
I was at Camp Stanton for all of 1990
5/5 ADA Commo
Does anyone know of a place to register / contact old friends?
I'm 40 years old live in Cairo in fact very close to the bazar area and I think you are lucky to see Camels in that area because I never saw a single camel for the 40 years I lived near the bazar , so your free camel ride story is hard to believe unless you were in egypt 100 years ago,
That's funny, kareem, according to your IP address you're in Amsterdam. Enjoying a vacation I'm sure...
Search results for: 184.108.40.206
OrgName: RIPE Network Coordination Centre
Address: Singel 258
Address: 1016 AB
Hope your return trip to Cairo is a safe one.Posted by Greyhawk at March 15, 2004 01:10 AM
Thank you for all of those "rough rides" on my behalf. My son has been "riding" for 2 and a half years now (Guten Baumholder!). I feel better knowing there are still men like you among him... finish raising the 12 Bravo right - I did my part. He has sent the package to the boys of Ft. Carson...as "Allah wills"... :-)