Grooving in Vietnam
by Sgt. Barry E. Prowell USA Ret.

22 Squad Company A, 2/8 4th Infantry
Vietnam 68-69

The platoon was guarding a bridge one night midway between Pleiku and Kontum. Day had just turned to night and I was sitting behind the .50 drinking a martini from a tin can. Cotton, my machine gunner, climbed up beside me and lit up a joint. Cotton was a California Hippie who seemed very out of place in a war zone. Even with his great love of drugs, I still had a lot of respect for him. He could handle a M-60 machine gun better than anyone I ever met.

After a couple hours Cotton was feeling pretty high and said "Prowell, you wanna groove on some tracers". What this ment was Cotton would load one of his hand assembled M-60 belts into his machine gun. The belt would be made of all tracer rounds. He would then fire about 100 rounds and watch the glow of the bullets as they streaked away from the barrel. I liked my alcohol and never did any drugs so I never found significance in this action but if it made him happy it was fine with me.

Cotton climbed off the APC and went over to the bunker. I heard him changing the belt in the M-60. He then shouts "I'm gonna put em right in front of you so you get the full effect." I responded with "Groovy!".

I fixed my eyes on the outline of the trees about 100 meters in front of us. I picked up my martini and had it half way to my mouth when Cotton pulled the trigger. I froze. When Cotton said he was putting them in front of me, I had assumed way out in front of me. That was a bad assumption. About 100 tracers streaked directly in front of me some coming within a meter of my head.

Cotton stopped firing and jumped back up on the APC. He started jabbering about how groovy the tracers looked. Not wanting to spoil his good mood, I agreed whole heatedly with him. Finally Cotton left. I yelled to the squad that I would sit guard for another hour before we started rotation. I figured since I had lost bladder control when the tracers were flying by my head that it would take at least that long for my pants to dry.

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Web Page Created 8 Dec 1999
1999 Barry Prowell