Black Americans constituted about 13 percent of the troops
in Vietnam; 28 percent had combat assignments; only 2 percent were officers.
At a bar in Saigon, Lt. Colonel Carl Brewster arrives. Telling his aide to wait in the jeep, he goes inside where the madam of the establishment eagerly greets him. She tells him how her girls are number one, show his men a good time and that they are clean. Brewster looks down at her, informing her that her girls give his men the clap and brushes past her into the back rooms.
Brewster is presented with several GIs, all standing at attention and wearing little more than a sheet in most cases. He stops in front of one, asking his name and is informed the boys name is Sgt. Wolf. He quietly asks Wolf if hes ever had gonorrhea, to which Wolf tells him only twice since arriving three months ago. Brewster then asks him what he would do if the colonel were to close the bar down. They young man replies honestly, saying hed find another boom-boom bar.
A memorial service is being held for Alex Devlin. There are several civilians in attendance, as well as Goldman and McKay. When the priest finishes, he summons Goldman forward to speak. Myron stands up before the mourners, but finds he is unable to speak as he looks out at everyone. He is clearly still hurting and stunned as he struggles to find words that he is simply unable to speak.
The priest, seeing Goldman so totally lost, nods to Johnny and asks if he would like to say a few words. He softly assures the saddened lieutenant that it is all right as McKay approaches. With a confused glance at Johnny, Myron sits down. It takes Johnny several moments before he finally finds his voice. He then speaks of Alex being his friend and that she died. Although Johnny is speaking to everyone, he is looking at Myron, who finally looks up at the pilot.
The men of Third Squad- Taylor, Ruiz, Johnson and Percell, along with Doc Hock, arrive on a deuce-and-a-half at Camp Barnett. They look around after grabbing their gear. Percell says it looks the same as Tan Son Nhut, and Taylor agrees. Ruiz notes one thing has changed, though, their promotions to Sp/4. Danny replies that it must be a record, promoted and transferred all in the same week.
As they haul their gear, the guys discuss what SOG is. Ruiz notes he heard it stood for "Studies and Observations Group." Taylor says he heard it is a joint intelligence project with the CIA. Johnson adds, "Charging Carl" Brewster as the project commander runs the entire thing. Ruiz, with a touch of hero worship in his voice, says Brewster was a hero from Korea. Taylor agrees, mentioning all the medals the colonel has- a Distinguished Service Cross, a handful of Silver Stars, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts. Danny finally speaks up, saying, no offense, but if Barnett was so elite, what the hell are they doing there?
Anderson is setting up home in his new quarters, setting out a picture of his little girl when Doc Hock knocks and comes in. Zeke informs the medic that Brewster needs a medic for a special assignment. Doc doesnt want the job, saying he heard Brewster is crazy, but Anderson assures him that as long as he keeps his pants on, he should be just fine.
Myron is trying to write a letter home to the parents of one of the kids he recently lost while Johnny paces around the room. He tells Goldman, who is doing his level best to ignore the pilot, that he heard Brewster is a real hard-core SOB West Pointer, kick-butt in Korea, and that he went through Special Forces training at age 40. McKay then tells Goldman he thinks this new assignment could be very exciting. Myron continues to ignore him, trying to concentrate on the letter.
Undeterred, McKay keeps up the monologue, finally asking Goldman if he wants to talk and to just jump in. Annoyed, Myron finally looks up and asks if McKay doesnt have something to do, like alphabetize his record collection. At first Johnny seems to accept it and backs down, then he comes right back at Myron, sitting down and telling his friend that he needs to talk.
Goldman cuts him off, cold and angry, telling McKay that Alex is dead. That he lost two guys last week and that you get used to it. Johnny reminds him that Alex wasnt one of his guys and its not that easy. Goldman wont hear anymore, angrily climbing to his feet. At the door, he tells McKay he has a meeting with Brewster and that McKay had better not be here when he gets back.
Myron and Zeke sit outside Brewsters office, Myron smoking and lost in his own world. Zeke tries to talk to his distant friend, saying he is thinking of using the three weeks of leave he has saved up. Myron seems to ignore him and Zeke prompts him. Without looking at the sergeant, Myron tells him flatly to use it or lose it. Zeke seems to hesitate now, he can see how distant Goldman is, and this is not the young man he has come to know. He tells Myron it's complicated, but he hasnt seen his daughter in a long time and shes six now. Myron finally looks at him and says if Zeke is looking for his approval, hes got it. Go home to his little girl. But there is no emotion in Myrons voice. Zeke continues to hesitate, noting maybe now isnt the best time for him to go. Myron tells him not to worry about the men, that he's made some decisions and will stick around. He will look after the men. In a moment that reaches beyond the sergeant/ lieutenant relationship, Zeke tells Myron he is more worried about who is going to look out for him.
Myron doesnt really pay attention to Zeke, now overhearing General Elliot discussing the growing gonorrhea problem with Brewster before Brewster completely closes his office door.
General Elliot wants Brewster to close the bars down on Pasteur Street, but Brewster steadfastly refuses. Elliot is less than thrilled with Brewsters attitude when Carl tells him he wants his men to keep their minds on their job and not on getting their ashes hauled. Elliot tells him that his men need better discipline from their project commander. He reminds Brewster they are all in the Army and the uniform means they follow orders, and that he is ordering Carl to put the bars on Pasteur Street off limits.
Elliot then blows out of Brewsters office, Myron and Zeke jumping to their feet. Brewster sees them and quietly invites them into his office. As the two men stand before him, Brewster tells them that hes been over their 201 files and that as far as the Army is concerned, he knows all there is to know about them. But that doesnt impress him. Brewster wants to know what Myron knows about MACV SOG and Myron tells him that it stands for Studies and Observations Group, which is only a cover.
Brewster informs them that they have about 2000 American Special Forces personnel and about 8000 indigenous. Zeke notes its good company. Brewster then informs them he cant get any more qualified Special Forces personnel. Myron notes they are there because of their availability and Brewster tells him his unit has a lot to prove. Myron counters, saying his unit has already proven itself. Zeke then speaks up, telling Brewster hes never served with finer men, special training or no special training.
Ruiz, Percell, Taylor and Johnson are on their way to the mess hall when they are almost run down by a jeep. When they get done yelling, they all stop to think and realize they might know who the driver is. Smiling at each other, they go on over to the motor pool. Once there, they start making cracks about having to fraternize with guys from California. The driver turns around, revealing he is Baker, and they all come together in an enthusiastic reunion.
Baker tells them how he enjoys driving for the general, who happens to have graduated from his high school. Scott is clearly happy with where he is. He wants to know what his old buddies are doing there in Camp Barnett and Johnson tells him the unit has been transferred to MACV SOG. Baker congratulates them. He then asks how L-T and Sarge are, and they tell him to find out for himself at a birthday party that Percell is throwing for himself the next night.
The next day Brewster is back at the same boom-boom bar, but with Doc Hock and some nurses. While the madam complains bitterly about the Army, Brewster informs her that the nurses are there to give the girls examinations, the medic to give penicillin shots. Brewster then sends the first girl over to Doc, who is seated at the bar and getting ready. The girl asks if hes a doctor and Hockenbury patiently tells her, no, hes a medic. He then asks her to turn around and lift her skirt but she doesnt understand. When he tries to show her, the other girls start to giggle. Brewster finally comes over and tells her what to do in Vietnamese, and Doc is finally able to give her the shot. As Doc continues to give the shots, hes clearly enjoying the view. Brewster asks if he can handle it and Doc smiles saying its a dirty job, but hes glad someone has to do it.
At the Team House, the guys, including Lt. McKay but not Hockenbury, celebrate Dannys birthday with a c-rat pound cake and beer. Danny blows out the candle, everyone cheering and asking him what he wished for. Baker comes in carrying a large package wrapped in newspaper and shouting Cowabunga, to everyones delight. As he comes in, he sees Anderson and is shocked and excited, shaking hands with him.
Zeke laughs, saying no wonder they havent won the war- Baker is still there. Scott is simply so excited, he tells Anderson how hes into transcendental meditation and that when his tour is up, he is going to India to study with the Beatles Maharishi. Zeke really doesnt know what to say and Percell calls Scott over to them, apologizing to Anderson at the same time.
Baker puts his present on the bar and wishes Danny a happy birthday. Danny picks up the package, saying it is too big to be a ticket back to the world and then opens it up at Baker's prompting. Its a huge bottle of body building pills, and as Danny reads the label out loud, McKay is reading it over his shoulder. Zeke almost spits out his beer as everybody laughs. Myron finally arrives, wearing a stiff smile and wishes Danny a happy birthday. Baker turns around to see Goldman, thrilled to see the L-T. Myron acts as if he hardly noticed Baker had been gone, Scott reminding him hed been gone for six months. Then Myron smiles quietly, making it a joke and saying it's good to see him, extending his hand. Baker is just so excited he yanks the L-T into his arms and hugs him before releasing him. The look on Myrons face as he turns and walks back to Zeke could have frozen water in that moment.
Danny is still laughing and asks if he can buy the L-T a drink. Myron turns with a distracted look, a solemn Anderson beside him, and says no thanks. He then apologizes for his announcement, but they have an orientation briefing in the morning, and Johnson will be standing in for Anderson. With a final glance to his stunned men, Myron then leaves, with Anderson left on the spot.
Danny asks whats going on and Zeke tells them hes going home- that he has some leave time saved up. They ask if hes coming back and extending his tour. Zeke tells them he cant make any promises. He has some thinking to do and he wants to see his little girl.
Johnson puts his beer down and shoves past Anderson to one of the slot machines. Zeke tells the rest of them this is a party, they are all going to have a good time, and that is an order. He then walks over to Johnson, who is upset with the L-Ts announcement. Zeke apologizes to Marvin for the L-T to spring the news the way he did and Johnson tells him it would have been a hell of a lot easier coming from Anderson. Zeke agrees but notes whats done is done, and that Johnson will be fine. Marvin tells him nothing in Mississippi prepared him for this. Zeke tells him to trust his instincts and the same things that made him a good soldier would make him a good sergeant. And to follow the three golden rules: watch your butt, watch your butt, and watch your butt. He then softly reassures the younger man, telling him it will be all right.
A few days later, Brewster briefs Myron and his men. They are now in tiger stripes and carrying an assortment of "sanitized" weapons- Goldman now with an AK-47. Brewster explains they are going for a snatch operation at check point Echo. They are to bring back a VC tax collector alive, as his information is vital. After Brewster leaves, Taylor looks less than impressed. Johnson explains how the tax collectors terrorize the local villagers as they climb aboard McKays slick. Taylor tells Johnson if he wants to see terrorist tactics to take a look at his paycheck and see how much Uncle Sam took. McKay takes off, Goldman seated with his men but wrapped up in his own world. Johnny glances back at his friend, concerned, and Myron looks over his shoulder at him- the two exchanging brief looks.
In Fayetteville, NC, Zeke, dressed in a Class A uniform, steps out of a taxicab with a handful of prettily wrapped presents. He finds himself in a beautiful neighborhood in front of a very nice home. He is greeted by Carol at the door- she looks pretty and stylish in a pink dress. The two make a bit of small talk before Zeke finally asks where his little girl is. Carol steps all the way outside, concerned. She reminds Zeke that its been two years since hed seen her. He replies, yes, August 19th, 1966. Carol warns him Katie is just a little girl and to take his time. She doesnt understand about war. Zeke smiles sadly and tells Carol, "Neither do I."
Inside a comfortable living room, Zeke is looking at the family pictures on the mantel when Carol finally brings Katie down. Katie is a beautiful little dark haired girl with her hair in a ribbon and wearing a pretty dress as she stands shyly beside her mother.
Zeke speaks gently to her, asking if she remembers him. She is silent, watching him and Zeke gets down on his knees. He still speaks softly to her, telling her hes her dad. Carol watches the both of them as Zeke tries another tactic, reminding Katie of a game they used to play. He tells her theyll play it again, she just needs to close her eyes and hell go hide. Katie cries "No, Daddy!" and races to Zeke, throwing herself into his arms and begging him not to go away again. Zeke hugs her in close, smiling and rocking her gently.
Back in Vietnam, Myrons unit, now called Team Viking, makes their way through the jungle to check point Echo. But Myron isnt paying attention to much of anything and when he stops to mop the sweat from his face, he is completely oblivious of the deadly snake only inches from him. Ruiz sees the snake and softly tries to warn Goldman, who is not listening. Finally, Ruiz grabs him, yanking him from harm and points. Goldman, stunned, watches Johnson kill the snake. A bit embarrassed, Myron then turns on Ruiz and snaps at him about noise discipline.
Taylor spots several NVA in that moment and quickly warns all of them. They all duck for cover, Johnson and Goldman joining Taylor while Ruiz, Doc and Danny hide further back. The NVA look cautiously around, just a few yards away from Taylor, Johnson and Goldman who simply hold their breath and press closer to the ground. Eventually the four NVA just settle down for a smoke and a break, leaving Myron and his men pinned since they cannot risk being discovered.
Back at Barnett, General Elliot is again on Brewsters back for his style of leadership and attitude. He tells Brewster that if he doesnt want to advance his career, he is to be commended. Brewster is angry and tells Elliot he is not going to sacrifice the lives and morale of his men for a star. He then informs Elliot hes not there to get his star and to win a popularity contest, that he is there to win a war. Elliot warns him he cant protect him any more and leaves the office.
Brewster calls his sergeant major in and wants to know the status of finding some T-bone steaks for Team Zeus. The sergeant major tells him there are none to be had. He adds that General Abrams has the only T-bone steaks in the entire Asian operation. Brewster is looking over the requisition forms and notes "stakes" is on the list. The sergeant major points out the difference but Brewster shakes his head and tells the man to have the "stakes" sent to Abrams and the other "steaks" sent here for Team Zeus.
The NVA still unwittingly have Goldman and his men pinned down. A scorpion crawls up to Taylor, Johnson and Goldman watching in fascinated horror. It climbs over Taylors arm and down underneath him. In that moment the NVA finish their cigarette break and start to move out. For his part, Taylor remains silent and motionless, Goldman continuing to watch him.
When they are sure the NVA have cleared the area, Taylor leaps up to his knees and immediately crushes the scorpion with his rifle butt. Johnson calls Doc up to him. When Taylor assures Doc hes okay, Doc tells him that if he drops dead within the next half-hour, to be sure and tell him. Myron is hunkered down nearby, scanning the jungle but is distant and really not a part of everything. Johnson kneels down next to him and tells him they lost about an hour and Goldman agrees distractedly. Johnson then asks what the L-T wants to do, either make up the time or abort?
This prompts Myron back a bit and a coolness settles on him as he asks Johnson what he thinks they should do. Marvin considers a moment, then makes a suggestion on how to make up the time. Surprisingly, Myron agrees and they set out.
Back in Fayetteville, Zeke and Katie are in the back yard talking. Katie is eating ice cream. Zeke asks her what she likes and she tells him about school and Captain Kangaroo and Laugh-In. Shes sweet and Zeke is completely charmed by her. Carol comes to the window to watch. Katie tells Zeke she likes fishing too, to his complete delight. He asks how she likes it and if it is her mom who takes her. Katie tells him how much fun it is and how Harry helps her with baiting her hook with worms. She feels bad suddenly for mentioning Harry, but Zeke assures her it is okay. He asks if she likes Harry and she smiles and says she loves him. Katie then blurts out that the reason Zeke left is because she didnt listen to him and Mommy. Zeke quickly tells her that it is simply not true and that she is the best little girl anyone could hope for. He tries to explain to her he is a soldier and it was his country that sent him away, not her or her mother. Katie wants to know if hell ever come home. He tells her, not to North Carolina, but hell always be nearby. She hugs him, telling him she loves him and Zeke pulls her close, Carol watching.
Myron and the rest of his men finally get to check point Echo and find an old graveyard. He starts setting everyone up in the graveyard, but Ruiz balks and wont go in. Roo tells Goldman hes not superstitious, it has to do with respect. Myron concedes and makes Ruiz his spotter while everyone else gets set in position.
Ruiz sees the tax collector and escorts leave the village and slips back to Goldman, telling him what he saw. Myron orders Johnson and Taylor to take out the two escorts, and for Danny to snatch the tax collector. Everyone moves into position, leaving Doc behind with Myron.
As the VC approach, Myron starts to come to the edge. Silently, Doc watches as Goldmans fury starts to unfold, the other man pulling the rag from his head and wiping the sweat from his face, his eyes never leaving the approaching VC. Starting to shake just a bit with his increasing fury, Myron cautiously sets his rifle aside and, with Doc still watching, shocked and mesmerized, climbs to his feet. Leaping out from his hiding place and now fully enraged, the entire team watching in shock, Myron draws his pistol, cocks it and shoots the escorts in the space of a few moments. He then backhands the tax collector with his pistol, driving him to the ground.
Goldman now trains the gun on the frightened VC who is begging for his life. Myron stands, shaking with his anger. Johnson approaches cautiously, realizing the L-T is on the edge. Anderson isnt there to talk him back and it is now up to Johnson to bring Myron back to reason. He carefully reminds Goldman they need the VC alive. And that killing one more VC wont bring Alex back. Myron still hangs in the balance, still holds the pistol on the VC. Johnson reaches out with the only thing he has left and tells Goldman he may not care about his own life, but that he knows he cares about his men. It seems to touch Myron, who finally hesitates and then quietly comes back to himself.
Carol is clearing the table when Zeke comes down from putting Katie down for the night. He says it is easier getting a whole platoon full of soldiers to bed than one six year old little girl. He asks if Harry is back yet and Carol tells him no. But she assures Zeke that Harry does want to meet him. Zeke tells her he wants to meet Harry too, but that he is beat and wants to get back to the hotel. He then tells Carol he is happy for her, that she and Katie have the life they deserve. He tells Carol shes done good and that he cares very much about her and Katie. That should they need anything, hed be there.
Team Viking enters their hootch after returning from the mission, Ruiz noting it looks as if Dannys mom sent him cookies. Doc is startled, but Taylor and Ruiz tell him that Dannys mother has won more blue ribbons than Brewster has medals. Danny eagerly opens the tin, only to find it empty. When Taylor and Ruiz plead innocent, after all, they were with him, Danny throws the tin away and storms from the hootch.
Danny demands to know from the mail clerk who got his package to begin with, and when the clerk refuses to tell him, Danny rips into the screen separating them and hauls the guy across to him, demanding a name. The clerk, wide eyed, tells him it's Monks, in the motor pool.
Danny storms over to the motor pool, demanding to know who Monks is. When Monks asks who wants to know, Danny tells him Sp/4 Daniel Percell. Cocky, Monks stands up and grins at Danny, telling him his mothers a pretty good baker, but how about next time some oatmeal raisin. Danny is beyond furious at this point and grabs Monks, shoving his head in a vat of motor oil, when Ruiz and Taylor arrive. After several long moments with Ruiz and Taylor telling Danny to let the man go, they finally haul Danny back before he can kill Monks.
At the hotel, Zeke makes airline reservations from Fayetteville to San Antonio.
That night, Baker arranges for his buddies to party with expensive food, wine and champagne at General Elliots. They are all having a good time, Johnson trying on Elliots helmet when the guys encourage him. Percell holds up a bowl and asks Baker what it is. Scott tells him its caviar and it's $20 an ounce. Percell is shocked, going off that he gets a stupid little c-rat pound cake and this guy gets caviar at $20 an ounce. He puts some on a cracker and tries it out, saying it tastes salty. Taylor tells him its fish eggs and Danny promptly spits it out all over the table, his buddies laughing at him and Scott dismayed.
Percell is now just plain disgusted with the entire thing. Ruiz points out that things arent any different in the world. That you have your "haves" and "have-nots". Johnson says its not the same in the Army, noting he has the same chance as everyone else to make something of himself. Danny tells him its all garbage. They live in the bush like animals while Elliot enjoys the high life. Hes on a tear now, and says what about the kids back home? Why are they enjoying the high life but not his buddies. He then says its because they dont mean squat. "Lets face it, boys, were the hicks, the spicks and the niggers and thats why we are here."
Myron silently packs up some of Alexs things that had been left behind, a bottle of whiskey and a glass on his desk. He opens up a journal, pulling out a newspaper clipping and sits down, reading. McKay knocks and comes in, uneasy as he strips his hat off and runs a hand through his hair, asking Myron how he is.
Myron tells him the truth, that he came as close to the edge as he cared to get. He then offers Johnny a drink, the pilot accepting and pulling a chair over to the desk. Johnny raises his glass, offering a toast to Alex and Myron joins him. The two sit for a few long moments in awkward silence when Johnny sees the box. He pulls out the journal and then the newspaper clipping, smiling softly. He tells Myron he remembers when she wrote the piece and he couldnt understand what she saw in guys humping the boonies through the war. He then starts to read the article out loud, Myron listening to the words as McKay reads.
"After spending three months with Lt. Goldmans unit, I have come to the slow realization that in war, there is no time for tears. Slow, because I witnessed among these men a greater capacity for compassion, sincerity and love than I have ever before encountered. D. H. Lawrence said, 'War only holds pain,' yet Lt. Goldmans men go on. Without their buddies, without their innocence, without their tears. You ask why, the answer is simple-"
And Myron finishes for Johnny, "Like all good soldiers, they
save their grief for after the war."
|Worth another look:
1) With Doc Hock watching from behind, Myron starts to slip over the edge. Stripping the rag from his head, he wipes the sweat from his face, his eyes never leaving the approaching tax collector and his escorts. Starting to shake with his growing fury and grief over Alexs death, Myron quietly sets his rifle aside and then climbs to his feet. Shocking his entire team, Myron comes out from his hiding place, drawing his pistol. In the blink of an eye he cocks it and immediately kills the two escorts, then backhands the tax collector to the ground. The man gets to his knees, begging for his life. Myron just stares at him, holding the pistol on him with a shaking hand as Johnson quickly approaches, trying to bring Myron back from the edge. He tells Goldman that the man is no good to them dead and that killing one more VC is not going to bring Alex back. When that doesnt work, Johnson then tells him he has a responsibility to his men, even if he doesnt care about himself anymore. It reaches the grieving lieutenant who finally comes back to himself and backs away.
2) Johnny cautiously comes in to see how Myron is doing. Goldman
invites him in, and tells Johnny that today he came as close to the edge as he ever wanted
to. He pours a drink for the pilot and the two toast Alex. Johnny notices a box and Myron
tells him its some things that Alex had left behind. McKay pulls out one of the
newspaper clippings, smiling as he tells Goldman he remembers when she wrote the article.
After a moment, he starts to read it out loud, and Myron listens to the words. "After
spending three months with Lt. Goldmans unit, I have come to the slow realization
that in war, there is no time for tears. Slow, because I witnessed among these men a
greater capacity for compassion, sincerity and love than I have ever before encountered.
D. H. Lawrence said, 'War only holds pain,' yet Lt. Goldmans men go on. Without
their buddies, without their innocence, without their tears. You ask why, the answer is
simple-" And Myron finishes for Johnny, "Like all good soldiers, they save their
grief for after the war."
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