Isaac Jackson and me got off the USS Geiger troop ship on the same day, April 22, 1967. He was 21, and drafted out of Philadelphia. We were also assigned to the same tent.
With all the drugs over there, Jack went down quickly.
He started doing those drugs immediately, and was always duking it out with somebody. He was constantly on punishment and would have to fill sandbags until the wee hours.
He stopped bathing altogether and sometimes his friends would come into our hooch and drag him to the showers. It was messy and embarrassing.
In six months, Jack was a changed and deranged man. This father of two was a pariah to his own race in the 557th Light Maintenance company.
You could smell him coming. You always knew when he was in the area.
He was constantly up all night getting high and he seemed to be laughing to himself about something.
He usually had a weapon close by and was always threatening to use it.
One day he was supposed to ride with me to Phan Rang. A sixty mile run through a place called Coconut Grove.
Coconut Grove was a stretch of road where the enemy would sometimes lay in wait.
Jack starts telling me he’s gonna stash weed all over my 2/12 ton truck to make his ride more enjoyable.
I did not want to ride with him like that and told him so during lunch in our makeshift mess hall.
When he started talking shit, I told him he was ignorant.
A bad choice of words.
He walked up behind me and broke three glass sugar shakers on the back of my head.
I was so stunned I hardly felt the impact.
I picked his scrawny ass up and heaved him over the mess hall serving line where he landed on his back.
I unassed the building quickly so I wouldn’t have to fill sandbags in the dark. With the enemy watching.
When I threw him over the serving line counter, I forgot all about the knives back there.
Just as I breached the mess hall door, he was on me. He pushed me up against the wall and stuck a huge kitchen knife right in the base of my Adam’s apple.
The smell of him filled my nostrils as I looked dead into his red, crazy eyes.
I was frozen, I had absolutely no idea what to do.
In the commotion, all 200 members of the 557th fell out into the company area.
Some are yelling for him to drop the knife, others are telling me to run.
Jack is loving this. He would love to go out in a blaze of glory. At my expense.
And with all his boys looking, he’s gonna have to do something.
Then he yells, “I’m gonna kill you, you motherfucker.”
I don’t know where this came from but I returned, “Go ahead, I have guard duty tonight.”
The place collapsed. Laughter like I have never heard filled the company area.
Confusion splattered Isaac’s face, and after what seemed like an eternity, he dropped the knife and ran off.
I was left dazed and confused.
For that, we both got an Article 15 for fighting and two weeks of moonlight sandbag filling, together.
Jungle justice, I guess.
During that time we actually became very close.
Isaac ended up in the stockade two weeks later for another offense and I became a comedy legend.
Me, to be honest, think that line I chose was a case of Tourette’s. 🙂