Before yesterday I had never met my Girlfriend Anna’s neighbor Ted in person. I see Ted every day, sitting out on his front porch smoking a cigar. We both wave to him, sometimes he waves back and sometimes he just laughs or says nothing. I’ve heard scattered stories about Ted, Anna’s know him pretty much her whole life. Ted’s daughter Kylie and Anna are good friends.
Once when the pair wanted a ride into town, Ted made Anna push a walnut across the floor with her nose, she told me that was the only time her nose ever bled. That was the first thing I ever heard about Ted. He’s missing three fingers on his right hand; he lost them in a wood chipper not the war.
When I realized that Ted was the only option I had for this paper I was nervous, Ted was an abstract figure until yesterday, a cluster of memories but no real idea who or what he was about. I learned a lot about the war from Ted, he spoke with a kind of honesty that you just can’t get in a class room.
Ted Dean Phair was drafted in 1968 when he was twenty one. At the time he was going to college, but it just wasn’t for him. He dropped out and right away they switched his status to 1-A. He wakes up a few days after dropping out and finds a brown envelope in this mail box that said “You Have Been Selected.”
When I asked him about the draft he didn’t seem that upset. He said that if a draft was needed, really needed then he had no problem with it. They had a draft in the civil war, in World War I, and they had one in Vietnam. He said that it was needed in Vietnam because at the time the military was volunteer only. The only criticism he had was that once someone finishes their duty with the draft they should just be let out, instead of being forced to stay on.
Then he told me about Jane Fonda and the chicken shit protester that “stopped the war.” What he told me next I really enjoyed. He said that when Nixon ended the draft the protest stopped, but the war continued. He told me about Jane Fonda making propaganda video’s with the gooks, blowing kissing in their faces and then coming back home and making money off it. He said that she should be lined up and shot for treason, I agree.
He went through basic and AIT at Fort Lewis, he specialized in light weapons. When he first stepped off the chopper he was in Camron Bay Vietnam. He was with the hundred and first and stationed at Camp Eagle. In the field he was the point man so he didn’t have to carry the extra 200 rounds of ammo belts. He said all he had to carry was his m-16 and a machete to cut through the bush. The only man he remembers by name is Tony Schweitzer from Chicago, his slack man.
I asked him what was worst about the jungle. He told me about cat-holes, because a fresh turd is a dead give away to the gooks. So they dug holes, and he said that as soon his pants were down it was dinner time for the bugs. He said they were always crawling on him, that there was no point trying to get them off, you just had to accept it or you’d never get any sleep.
He told me that they didn’t have to dig in, that you’d just find a fat trunked jungle tree and sleep behind that. After six months he got a million dollar wound, he didn’t get a purple heart for two reasons. One it was friendly fire, and two when he was lying in the mud, shrapnel in his gut, his commanding officer said “You’ll get a purple heart out of this son.” He told them to stick their purple heart up their there ass and just send him home, he said they gave those things out like candy. That you could go to a pawn shop and buy a purple heart.
I really enjoyed talking with Ted, and I think he enjoyed it too. His Boys that have been in Australia for years, are visiting and I think it made him feel good that someone is still interested in the war. That he got to talk about what he did over there. I asked him if he was proud of what he did over there; he said he was proud that he served his country.
He’s sixty now, he said that sometimes he feels like it and sometimes not. He said that he doesn’t have nightmares anyone, and that the cliché of a whacked out Vietnam vet is all Hollywood. Most guys had no problem getting back to normal life. But parts of the war will always be with him.
At first I thought I was against the draft, but I know if I got the call I would have shipped out, and after talking to Ted I’m fine with it. If he’s okay with it then why shouldn’t I be? There’s no way I would ever want to be lumped in with the hippies and draft dodgers. Running away is not an option, not when good men like Ted have to endure the jungle. He said that all those protesters and draft dodgers have blood on their hands and I agree.
America is based on freedom, and as an able bodied man it’s my duty to defend our country. Running away can never be an option. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, if you want to enjoy your freedom you have to fight for it. I love my country, and I would never sign up for the military. But if there was ever a call, if men were needed to defend America, I’d be there.