August 25,- September 2, 1969
I turned my team over to SP4 Mawhinny my able assistant team leader. I walked through the
preparation with the team and even received permission to fly in the chase helicopter
so I could film the insertion from above with my movie camera. I felt strange going
through the motions with the full knowledge that I would be excluded from this mission,
but I was ready for another great adventure.
Hawaii was the most popular destination for R&R (Rest and Recuperation) but was generally reserved for married soldiers that could meet with their families. For the rest of us, their were exotic places like Bangkok and Singapore . My first choice was to spend a week in Sydney, Australia. I knew very little about Australia except it was in the Southern Hemisphere, they spoke English, and they had strange animals.
Just as I was ready to leave I was told my team had made contact. I was assured they were OK, but the trip started with my body leaving while my mind returned to the jungle with my team. After flying several hours the plane landed in Darwin, Australia. We were told we would have a layover for several hours due to a noise ordinance on night landings in Sydney. The plane was fumigated with us on board, I was never sure if they were trying to protect Australia, or they just thought we needed it.
I met up with Sgt. White a fellow LRRP who was also taking R&R in Sydney, Australia. We had a great time taking in the sights and sounds of Sydney. We toured the city. We were puzzled by the construction work of a building that we know today to be the Sydney Opera House. We went to movies, restaurants and even took in a production of "Hair".
For the last four months I had either walked or flown everywhere I went. Prior to that I was used to riding on an armored track. It was not unusual to hear taxi ride experiences from guys returning from R&R, but there were a few things I had forgotten like:
Then throw in a couple regional differences like:
As I often felt in Vietnam, the situation was out of my control and I just had to trust that everything would work out OK. There was a loud screech and then the crunching sound of metal hitting metal. Sgt. White and I both were thrown out of our seats. We ricocheted of the back of the front seat and landed on the floorboard between the seats. The taxi had not finished spinning from the wreck when I realized the rest of my Vietnam tour could be served out in Australia recovering from a taxi cab accident.
Apparently I hadn't got the word out to everyone that I wouldn't be needing their prayers while on R&R. Sgt. White and I both were picked up by another taxi and we made it to the fishing boat with time to spare.
While in Australia, we visited the zoo. Along with the elephants, giraffes and other normal zoo animals was the koala bears, kangaroos, ant eaters and fish that could walk on land. But the vision I can not shake from my mind was an albino Tiger. I stood by his cage as he laid on his side with his head held up. We sized each other up. For the first time in my life I saw a tiger as more than just a giant kitty cat. The tiger looked at me and without even blinking he acknowledged what we both knew to be true. He was capable of silently killing a man. R&R was over and my mind returned to Vietnam. The following day as the plane flew me back to Vietnam, I calculated only two or three more missions and I could start thinking about leaving Vietnam for real.
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