October 12, 1969
SHAM DUTY AT LAST

Although the LRRPís had disbanded, Capt. Street tried to honor the commitment to take us out of the field once we ran our missions. I was assigned to fire base Heartbreak, which was almost completely ARVNís (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam ) soldiers. There where several American officers attached to the unit. I was the highest ranking American enlisted man in the camp, but there were only two of us. My job was to look out for the welfare of the American troops at the fire base. I only had a few jobs to do such as :

  • Make sure everyone gets their malaria pill.
  • Take the trash to the dump.
  • Make sure we had water.
  • and burn the Sh**.
At more permanent military sites in Vietnam, an outhouse would be built. Rather than dig a hole under the out house as tradition would dictate, a 55 gallon drum would be cut in half and placed under the seat. Every few days the drum is pulled out and diesel fuel is poured into the drum, mixed well and set on fire.

I had learned as a child to never to put charcoal lighter on a fire once it was already started. I also knew how explosive gasoline could be. However, it wasnít until I was in Vietnam doing this job that I learned if you were careful, diesel fuel could be poured directly onto a fire.

As I stirred up the fire, I reminded myself this was sham duty. As disgusting as the job may sound, I reminded myself that no one had ever died burning sh**. I picked up the 5 gallon can and poured the remaining diesel fuel on to the fire. I turned the can completely upside down and tried to shake out the last few drops of fuel from the can. With no warning the can exploded in my hand. The bottom of the can went straight into the air and the rest of the can fell into the fire. I was shaken but not harmed.

Iím not sure if an injury would have qualified me for a purple heart, and I try not to think about how an obituary might have read.


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