“From A Warrior Clan I”


(May 27, 2019)

from a warrior clan

came I loud and very proud

tied little girl’s shoes!*

*(The very young Vietnamese girl with a left shoe untied stood right beside a big cold bin of those small ice-cream thingees – the kind with wooden spoons – and looked at me with the eloquence of the very young. What could – would? – I do. I reached into the bin; rescued two ice creams – with spoons attached – picked the young girl up carefully under her arms; walked her over to a row of chairs and set her down crosswise on my right knee; handed her one ice cream with cover off the cup and spoon stuck inartufully inside and put the other cup-and-spoon affair on a next-door empty chair As I swung her into a curious sitting position just up from my right knee position: and for good reason. I placed her left foot on my left knee and began to tie her small white shoe. Snug but not tight. She needed no encouragement from me how best to attack the cold treat. By the time I was satisfied with the shoe, the little girl – who had yet to utter a word – presented me with an empty cup and already-licked-clean spoon and let me fall into her questing brown ocean-wide eyes. Of course, she accepted the second cup and spoon – cover off – as mere homage due. The resultant story I submitted to my U. S. Marine Corps censors and editors about that Early Christmas Party hosted by the Red Cross ‘Donut Dollies’ (some of whom were longtime in-country friends, a couple of which I had escorted out “into the bush” on impromptu visits to the field) was held at Freedom Hill Post Exchange, right outside of DaNang, Republic of South Vietnam, just around the bend from Hill 327 Division Rear of the First Marine Division, (Reinforced +/-) where I was skipping school at the time did not come out in military newspaper and magazine print for months. When I read the story I was having my left ear canal be scraped by carefully intrusive scalpel wielded by Joe Ruggerio, Capt., USN/MC, Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat surgeon at Jacksonville (Florida) Naval Hospital. Years later when I trudged to the Veterans’ Administration clinic in downtown Orlando to have my infected ear looked at this crusty dinosaur disengaged from the offending appendage and turned his head directly towards my face: “Did a Navy Doctor do your surgery, son?” h e asked. “Sure,” I replied. Joe Ruggerio, Captain, USN, Medical corps.” The old guy grinned: “thought so.” Before I could even ask how did he know, the retired surgeon said: “I taught him at Johns Hopkins. That’s his work. What happened? Had to fish out the packing manually?” I laughed. “Power went out just as he was getting ready to suction out the gauze, and we spent an hour at a time two, three days a week for three weeks scraping little bits of gauze. I surprised him, he said. Went into the surgery wasted. Sitting upright on the gurney, using my sheet for a ‘rat tail’ popping this pretty nurse…phenophen, demerol, nembutol and the night before a buncha beer, wine and otherstuff. He said the gauze might cause me to faint when he pulled it out and then the power failed and when we had backup generator power, the suction only came on halfway so he had to do it manually.” The old guy nodded his head as if seeing how his student had coped. “Did ya’ faint?” Shook my head. “Never felt a bit of discomfort, or even after we went to the scrapping sessions.” Guess it was The Ice Cream that saved me.”

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