Mid-November, 1969

Frederick fixing the flag
Because we were warriors in a green jungle. Everything we owned was Olive Drab. Our track was green. Our food came in green cans. My uniform was green. Even my underwear was green. As a mechanized infantry soldier it almost seemed a contradiction to camouflage everything so the enemy couldn’t see us and then have to start up the diesel engines every hour or so to keep the batteries charged. I guess that is why we felt safe an arrogant enough to fly a banner that was red, white and blue with a yellow fringe from the radio antenna of the track.

As I got up one morning I quoted the short timers motto "I’m getting to short for this Sh**".

S/Sgt. Poole ask me "Why do you say that every morning?".

I was confused by the question. First of all everyone understood that if you were going to get wounded or killed in Vietnam it was best to get it out of the way early in your tour. It only added insult to injury to spend a near year in Vietnam and then get hurt or killed at the end of your tour. Second, I wasn’t aware of anyone that had served over 300 days in Vietnam that didn’t quote the short timers motto.

I only had to survive for a handful of days and I would be able to return to the world. The world was home and completely opposite to everything I knew in Vietnam. In the world there are :

  • cold water fountains - No more purified water from a canteen.
  • hot showers - Not just water from a can setting in the sun.
  • silverware - Not just a plastic fork.
  • new cars - No more dusty roads on top of a track.
  • families - People that prayed for me and loved me.
  • homes - A place to stay dry when it rains.
  • white sheets - No more sleeping on the ground.
  • freedom - To work, play, and sleep as I please.
  • safety - No more carrying a rifle every place I go.
I didn’t know how to answer Sgt. Poole. Why wouldn’t anyone in his right mind not want the Vietnam experience behind them. S/Sgt. Poole explained that for a black man there wasn’t that much difference in this World and the World back home.

A few days later one of our new replacements ask me why we flew the flag. I told him, of the heritage of the AK3 (A** Kicking 3rd) platoon. I shared with him the battles of LZ Bass, Highway 14, Plei Mrong and the type of men he was replacing like Denton, Shorty, Frederick and Doc that had shed their blood under the AK3 flag. I assured him other black men had served in the squad and platoon with nothing to fear from his fellow soldiers or the flag, because we had a common enemy in the jungle.

My mind went back to the pamphlets I had found in the enemy bunker. I recalled how the enemies strategy was to drive a wedge between the black and white soldier. As I thought about it more. I talked to the other men in the platoon. We retired the flag and wrote down the name of every soldier that had served under the flag. As we wrote down Sgt. Poole’s name on the flag, I wondered why he never questioned the confederate flag we flew so proudly.

Gallion and Franklin "Ridgerunner" retiring the flag.

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©1997 C. Warren Gallion
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