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The Other Casualty of War - Chapter Seven


Paul Bylin

There were many survival methods, map reading, tracking, medical information, and mostly, fighting methods. We were at an instructional portion of the training one day, and the sergeant was talking about what kind of vegetation we could eat as well as what kind of animals were good to eat. All the while, he was roasting a big chunk of meat over an open fire. He started talking about monkeys. He said they were very good to eat and that we were all fortunate to be able to sample one.

One at a time he had everyone try it, as he cut a piece off the huge chunk. I honestly thought it tasted very strange. A couple of guys ran behind some trees and vomited. After the last person had his taste, the sergeant told us that indeed it was not monkey that we tasted. Rather, it was just a piece of roast beef, but the taste would be very similar. There was a lot of laughter at the guys who got sick. This was a very good lesson as to the games your mind can play.

Our instructors showed us some of the different booby traps and trip wires to watch out for. A lot of this training was very quick and confusing to me. I wasn’t able to understand a lot of what they were saying and it seemed there was no time for questions, because we were sent out as squads into the woods of Fort Jackson, and were trying to get to a pre-designated area.

We were not out there very long when I hit a trip wire. I was dead. From out of no where, a Sgt appeared and said it was okay and I had another chance. I hit one more wire, and later was shot. After being killed three times during this training, my instructor told me not to worry, that I’d get the hang of things. This happened to a lot of the guys. I felt they were trying to give us as much information as they could in a real short time.

I couldn’t understand why they were rushing us the way they did. Okay, for starters, where the hell was Vietnam? I had heard some of the news that there was fighting going on there, but I honestly didn’t know to what extent other than what the Drill Instructors had told us. They trained us how to fight and survive as well as what to do if we got separated from our company. They never told us why we had to do all this. After all, I was only 17 and could have cared less about anything that didn’t have to do with girls, cars and money.

I received a 30-day leave before I had to go to Vietnam. On my way home I wondered, “What were they training me for anyway?” When my M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) was in Engineer Spare Parts. I was really beginning to question this type of training and the reasons behind it. I was proud of the fact that I completed all my A.I.T. training, even though I barely passed. I was still proud of it.

During my time at home, I partied with my friends. Nothing really spectacular happened, but I really enjoyed myself, despite the fact that my leave time seemed more like 30 minutes than 30 days. Well, my time had finally come. I had to leave the next day so that I could report to Fort Lewis Washington on time.

This is when things began to get a bit more serious. Friends were asking how I felt about going to Vietnam. We had heard about the war on the news while I was home almost every night. Real people were killing people and were being killed. The news people were always talking about a body count: I felt as if they were keeping score! I told my friends I didn't know how I felt about it.

Chapter 8

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