PFC Thomas “Pop” Scarlet
Researched and written by DC
Despite his age, Pop is only a private when he arrives at Camp Barnett. We do not know where he was born and raised, only that he’s a lifer with the Army.
Age: Early forties.
Physical Attributes: Pop looks every inch his age. Solidly built with graying hair, blue eyes and a bit of a limp due to a bad knee.
Vietnam Service: It’s never said what tour this is for him or where he transferred from. It’s safe to assume he’s been on multiple tours, much like Anderson.
- Served in WWII and went missing for 29 days after a battle on Okinawa.
- Served with Colonel Brewster in Korea.
- 1959: Friedberg, West Germany
“Pop” Scarlet, like Zeke Anderson, is a lifer and really hasn’t known much else. He’s been busted several times, preferring to look on it with humor rather than bitterness. He’s led a colorful life and at one point, served under Captain Carl Brewster in Korea. He’s also an avid reader and is once seen reading The Red Badge of Courage. Pop appears in only five episodes of the third season before being severely wounded and evac’d with Lieutenant McKay to Japan.
He wears glasses when he reads.
He has one son, Robbie.
Fought in Korea with Captain Carl Brewster.
He had 29 kills in Korea.
He met Elvis Presley November 5, and drank him under the table in Friedberg, West Germany.
He’s been busted 13 times and lost 44 stripes.
He takes Taylor’s bunk when he arrives.
Pop transfers to Camp Barnett along with Kuslits in the wake of Taylor and Ruiz’s going MIA. With all his experience and time in the Army, he’s easy going and generally calm. Despite being only a private, Anderson and Goldman both know he’s the kind of man that the younger men can rely on. He’s smart and a solid soldier although he’s well past his prime and he knows it.
Danny, Doc and Griner along with the others aren’t exactly happy when both Pop and Kuslits arrive, taking Taylor and Ruiz’s bunks. Pop is unfazed by the hostility, taking one of his books and making himself at home on his chosen rack, and informing them that “wars don’t stop because someone don’t come back.”
But the guys warm up to him quickly enough, if a bit wary.
They are all drinking in the team house on what would be the fifth day of Taylor and Ruiz’s being MIA when he tells them he’d been busted 13 times and lost 44 stripes. They are all laughing, at ease with him. He teases that he might be going for a record. The conversation turns more serious as the guys miss their missing buddies and worry about if they will ever find them.
Pop tells them a story about two soldiers during an operation that was a spearhead on the island of Okinawa. He explains that after all the smoke cleared and things sorted out, they noticed two of their men had gone missing. After a intense search, they were written off as never coming back. He remarks that you get close to your buddies, but not too close. He then adds that one man was never found. And that he crawled out of the jungle after 29 days. He gets up and leaves, the rest at the table stunned.
Pop is a bit of a philosopher and often makes sage remarks. In Acceptable Losses, he tells the guys that the greatest sin is dying a useless death.
Life goes on at Barnett with Taylor and Ruiz still missing. In Vietnam Rag, a reporter shows up along with a lot of newbies. It’s here we find out that Pop has a son when one of the newbies tells Pop that Robbie says hello.
Pop tells Doc that his son enlisted right out of high school.
Back to being a platoon again, they go out into the bush with mostly newbies and Bennett, the reporter in what is now termed a “reconnaissance-in-force” mission. But as the day progresses, they are systematically being picked off, Goldman having to call in constant dust-offs for wounded men.
Bennett tries to talk to Pop late that evening as the platoon digs in for the night. But Pop answers all his questions with a short one word reply of “Politics.” He ends the conversation with asking Bennett if he ever heard of Korea?
During the next day, it’s Pop who hears the incoming mortar, warning everyone before it hits. After the attack, they find a blood trail and it’s Pop, along with Zeke, Danny and Kuslits who follow it until they find a Vietnamese woman and her daughter who leads them back to her village.
It’s there that they figure out the village is sympathetic to the VC as they locate the entrance to the tunnels. And it’s Pop who finds one of the weapons caches. He helps to burn the village down when Goldman orders it.
In War Is A Contact Sport, Kuslits is killed and Colonel Brewster arrives back at Barnett. When Pop sees him for the first time along with Goldman and Anderson, he charges past them and slugs the colonel. It takes Goldman and Anderson to drag him off of Brewster.
These two have a history, it seems, and instead of putting Scarlet in the brig, Carl talks to him in his office. Pop, normally easy-going isn’t when faced with Carl. The rank between them doesn’t seem to matter, these two have known each other too long, close to twenty years. Carl notes that the last time he saw Scarlet, he had a few more stripes. Pop tells him the shirt may change, but the man is still the same.
Pop is bitter about a last mission they served together in Korea, where Carl was taken prisoner. With Kuslits’ death still fresh, he recalls them charging up a frozen Old Baldie because if Captain Brewster said they could do it, well, then they could. But they lost and too many men died. Distantly, he asks Carl if they gave him those orders again, would he still go up that hill? Carl tells him no.
That evening, after Doc and Danny get into a fight in front of one of the bars in Saigon and Doc is left face down in the dirt, Pop tells Anderson he’ll take care of him. He brings Doc to one of the local boom-boom bars, what he calls Suzi’s Supermarket of Love. They wake up well after curfew, and the VC are now there. Pop tries to give Doc a pistol but Doc refuses. Pop kills one VC and then tells Doc he’s on his own. But it’s Doc who ends up saving him as they leave and both of them make a run for it through the streets of Saigon.
The next day, as part of Team Viking, Pop goes out on a mission that has them divided into three teams. He is placed on McKay’s team. They find a small ville that is not on any maps and after carefully going in, find themselves under assault by a large tank. It’s complete chaos as they are faced with the impossible task of trying to contain the tank while trying to stay out of its deadly range.
At one point, several men are hurt and pinned down, crying out for a medic. Pop is tucked down beside a hooch, hearing the pleas. With a muttered “Why me?” he runs out from safety to help the wounded who are now in the direct path of the oncoming tank. He gets them out of the way just as the tank grinds to a halt.
In Three Cheers for the Orange, White and Blue, Zeke and Scarlet are drinking and relaxing. Pop tells Zeke he wants a rear echelon job which Zeke finds amusing. A young soldier comes up, giving Pop all kinds of garbage about his age and rank, completely disrespectful. Zeke keeps warning him off as Pop politely ignores him. When it appears to reach a head, Zeke ready to put the young soldier in his place, Pop tells him to drop and do push ups. He then introduces him as Specialist Robbie Scarlet, his son.
Later they play basketball with Team Viking. Zeke comes to tell them they have a mission and the “ranch hands” would be out spraying the defoliant Agent Orange. Pop mutters he hates that and that it smells like rotten petroleum. Zeke tells him to wear his poncho and that it’s safe enough.
Drinking with the team and his son, he tells them that he not only met Elvis, but drank him under the table, November 15th, 1959. And he got his autograph. His son confirms the story.
During a SOG mission the next day Pop finds out his son isn’t who he thought he was as he realizes Robbie collects “trophies,” cutting off a dead VC’s ear. It bothers Pop that this is who his son has become. He talks to Carl Brewster about it, concerned.
Later, goaded by the rest of the team who take bets, Robbie and Pop race. There is no way Pop is going to win against his much younger and fitter son, so he cheats and fakes a heart attack. This gives him the advantage and he wins, but it infuriates and frustrates his son who accuses Pop of never letting him win. Pop replies that sometimes you have to cheat to win. Charlie will every chance he gets.
They part on a bad note, Robbie still angry and embarrassed by his father. Pop tries to make it right but Robbie won’t have it. Pop watches him leave on a chopper, things not right between them.
It’s Zeke who comes to tell him at the Team House that his son has been killed. Pop comes to the chopper where his son’s body is, and won’t let anyone else take him. Instead, he carries him one last time as the rest of the team watches in sorrow.
Pop accompanies his son’s body home to be buried. He returns, getting off the bus in a pouring rain as a bunch of newbies get off as well. He goes to Zeke’s quarters as he wants to see him first before going back to the rest of the guys. He accepts a glass of whisky from Zeke, saying that twenty years has taught him that he can’t hold his liquor or his stripes.
He returns to the guys, surprised that Ruiz and Percell are still there, the two only a few weeks short of returning home.
He volunteers along with the rest of Team Viking and several others for a highly classified, extremely dangerous mission to rescue thirty-eight American POWs. This is strictly volunteer but Pop signs up. The training is hard and miserable and Pop is not a kid and far from fit. He can’t keep up with the younger men or Brewster, but he won’t back down. He goes back to his bunk at night, exhausted, battered and icing his knees. Ruiz asks why he’s doing it, no one expects it of him. Pop reminds Ruiz he’s short, he might not make it home. But they are doing it for the same reasons, to be proud of something out of this miserable war and bringing home those POWs would be that important.
Late at night, they arrive in two Hueys, well over the enemy lines and invade a compound where the POWs are reportedly kept. But the mission goes horribly wrong right from the beginning when they find no POWs. Pop and another man cover the escape but Pop gets shot. Brewster finds him and hauls him up, getting him to the waiting Huey as they try to evacuate. But as he gets Pop in, Brewster gets shot as well. As they take off, McKay gets shot in the knee through the floor of the slick.
In the hospital, Goldman talks to Brewster who has survived but is in rough shape. He tells him that Scarlet and McKay are being evac’ed to Japan and that Pop is very bad.
As Pop is being brought out to the Huey on a stretcher, Zeke goes with him. They understand each other and both know that Pop’s time with the Army is done. Neither will admit that it’s still dicey if Pop will even survive. Zeke tells him he’s going to work on getting him his stripes. Pop says that will impress the ladies in the old soldiers’ home.
It’s never mentioned if Pop survives the trip to Japan and what happens to him.