All of this was of another world and seemed no relative bearing on my present situation. Just then his relief came in the door. He had his M-16 slung over his shoulder in the VietNam ready position. There was a seriousness about his pallor. The both of them exchanged the information that they needed and passed a few jokes to each other. Just then another guy with his M-16 came into the room. He was the guy that was on duty with me in the tower that night. He walked over to the guy at the desk and got a cup of coffee. He had a casual attitude about him. There was a feeling that he didn't give a shit about anything and anyone. The other operations man that I was talking to got up and started for the door. He looked at me and wished me a good nights sleep.
Our time had arrived to enter the tower. The other guy and myself went through a plank door off to the side. There was a dark narrow flight of stairs that seemed to go nowhere. The steps were of a steep incline and were part of the design of the greenhouse. The house itself was early French and must have been beautiful when it was built. Then another door was approached. This led into an area where the officers had their quarters. Inside was an area that was set up into a lounge and bar in the corner. It seemed funny to see a home style bar in the middle of Viet Nam. Yet, this was starting to become a strange war. It seemed that the impossible was done and the possible not done. At a table in one corner were a group of officers relaxing with a drink or beer.
We continued our journey through another door which led up to the roof. It was more like a ladder that had been placed up against a wall. Climbing up the ladder the scene in the lounge stilled remained within my mind. The sight had seemed like one of those out of a war movie. It seemed commercial and full of sorrow glitter. At the top of the ladder there was a trap door that led up onto the roof of the greenhouse. To the front of me was the tower that ran the airport. It seemed old and well battered. Inside the whine of a radio could be heard in the still air. There was a fantasy quality about the whole ritual and entire existence.
The tower itself was a make shift construction. It had served the purpose that it was built for at the time. Around it were plexiglass windows, that surrounded the four sides. At some point one could see the dirt and nick marks of mortar blasts. The places where shrapmetal had embedded at one time. This then was the beginning of a more astute understanding of the reality of war.
The elements of time and ware had placed its marks upon the tower. It seemed to tell of an earlier story that was gone and past the time of this existence and reality.
Yes, the AN KHE tower was the focal point of the airstrip. That point from which all came in the running of the traffic. Just then the ladder that led up to the roof began to creak. There was that eerie sensation of a new adventure. Through the trap door the head of a man appeared. The helmet was the first implement that became visible. It seemed like a picture scene out of a Hollywood war movie. Then another reality became a shattering blow to the recesses of my mind. The figure appeared upon the roof with rifle slung and the stooped stature of a soldier. The faint lights that were present gave it a dark blank image appearance. The imaged outline of a person of a dark reality.
The wind indicator was at a calm still. The whine of the radios added to the affect of the night imagery. There was a magical but strange mystery unfolding before my life and eyes and mind. The perpetual movement of a war was unfolding before my now adolescent mind. Upon walking to the tower-forty three and a wake-up- could be heard coming from the dark image. This meant to me that he had that much time left in country. He was getting short next to the three hundred and odd days before me.
Both of us crouched and entered the tower through a low opening. The other guys in the tower left and could be heard climbing down the creaky ladder. The perpetual movements continued in a play like symmetry. Inside the tower information was passed as to hot fire zones that existed in the area. This was artillery that passed over the airport in its trajectory toward its target outside the serpent green-line. It all seemed and was part of the inner workings of war. We also received any information on local enemy ground activity. The manifest of any incoming plane was also relayed in the change of shift.
The first five minutes seemed the most strange part of the introduction to the tower and the dark person image now another guy. There was that closeness of brotherhood that seemed to arise out of the moment circumstance. It was an air or feeling I had neverencountered before in my life. It seemed strong and beyond even the sibling toward a parent. Soon we began to talk about the usual army jargon, home and E.T.S. time. Small bullshit talk that fills hours of army life. It sort of became a ritual, after you had been in the army or any branch of the military. It seemed like he wanted to do most of the rapping to me. There was that friendly openness about him. He seemed to take a big brother attitude toward me, which was in reality reality. He knew that I was a F.N.G. and had to go through most of what he had already gone through.
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