by Lynda Southworth
The Flight from the USA to Germany 2
A short while later, one of the young pilots walked down the aisle to check the passengers. When he returned, he struck up a conversation with me and sat in the empty seat next to me. 5 minutes later he returned to the cockpit. There were three pilots.
A couple hours passed, and people were trying to get comfortable enough to sleep on the long, overnight flight. I was resigned to a sleepless night and being exhausted by morning.
Then the cockpit door opened. One of the pilots came out to speak to me. He informed me that they had a couple bunks, but rarely if ever used both. I was invited to use the one they rarely used, “because a young lady entertaining the troops should be well rested.” I was assured I’d be perfectly safe. How long do you think it took me to say, “Yes”? I very quietly stepped in front of him, so he blocked the view and stepped through the door.
I didn’t wake until morning when I heard through the curtain someone knock on the cockpit door. It was George in a panic because one of his troops was missing. The pilot whispered where I was. George asked how long before we landed and was told in about two hours. I went back to sleep.
Just before we were supposed to land, the pilot came to notify me through the curtain that we would be landing in half an hour. I went quietly back to my seat refreshed and ready for the day. Only George knew that I had slept in a bunk. All the rest were stiff, bleary-eyed, and exhausted. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, so to speak. As I deplaned, all three pilots wished me well on the tour and to “knock them dead.”
My Angel had been with me all the time. If I hadn’t been late, I would have been sitting back with the rest and exhausted. What I thought was a disaster, turned into a wonderful adventure. I’m always amazed at the kindness of strangers.
We landed, were driven to our lodgings, and had time for a nap before supper and our first performance. After every performance, the troop remained on stage to meet and greet the soldiers. I decided my M.O. (Method operandi) that evening. I noticed a young man still sitting in his seat when others came on stage. He seemed hesitant, so I went to him. We talked until it was time for us to depart for our lodgings. He was a shy, homesick young man. He wanted to know the latest songs in America, etc. At times I tried to make him laugh, but mainly, I just listened to him tell me about his hometown, his family, and his girlfriend along with his wish for a juicy American hamburger instead of sausages. He was so grateful that I listened to him. He expressed what he was experiencing and feeling. He couldn’t tell that to his buddies because they all are tough MEN at least on the outside.
That is when I decided I would look for the young and shy and mainly just listen to them along with answering questions about what was happening socially in the USA. Remember, many of these young men were fresh out of high school, this was the first time they had left home, they were dealing with a new culture, and they had to be unemotional, tough MEN ALL the time. Many times, I heard that they just wanted to talk with an American girl.
This tour was so satisfying to me because it was like listening to and comforting one of my brothers when he needed to let it all out.
By Kent Scott
It was just past midnight on early Saturday morning, January 31,1959–twelve days past my twenty-third birthday. I had worked the cycle and was assuming duty for the midnight to 0800 watch again at the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Conditions were even worse than the last time I stood this watch. Where in the hell did all that snow come from? There was more than a foot on the ground.
The walk from the Marine House to Embassy compound was unpleasant. My feet were cold by the time I arrived at Embassy front gate. It wasn’t far, just over a block. All I had on my feet were combat boots and slipover lowcut rubbers…totally inadequate for this weather. What I needed were Mickey Mouse boots like I wore during cold weather training in the Sierra Mountains when I was with the 5th Marines back at Camp Pendleton.
All the Bubbas and man servants were on rooftops shoveling the snow off. If they didn’t, some roofs would cave in. With a thaw those mud-over pole roofings would leak like a sieve. Our feisty old Gate Bubba had three of his nephews shoveling off the Embassy roof tops. They really turned to and made the snow fly. If they didn’t perform, old Kaka (pronounced Koko, means uncle or honored elder) would deal with them. Koko and I had a mutual admiration society going—we’d shared an adventure last Spring.
One of the kerosene powered refrigerators in the Embassy Commissary overheated and caught the sugar in the next bin on fire. You talk about hot…the mixture of cane sugar and kerosene burned a blue flame! I was thankful for the firefighting training I’d received in embassy school back in D.C. I grabbed a bucket of sand and threw it at the base of the flame. I yelled at Koko and waved the empty sand bucket. There were two more sand buckets close by. I grabbed those buckets and threw them on the flames too. When you needed them, Koko’s nephews were always around. It wasn’t long before Koko and two nephews came running with a sand bucket in each hand. We were also lucky the fire was located just inside the front door. I could take a deep breath, step inside, throw the contents of the bucket on the fire, then retreat outside again. I finally finished the fire off with a standard chemically charged fire extinguisher. I don’t know if we could have handled the fire if it had been on the far end of the commissary. The Kabul Fire Department with sirens blaring came roaring through the gate. Too late, me and my fire brigade already had the fire out and things under control.
……… I was just sitting there behind the guard desk located in the entrance to the chancery, going over Sergeant Charlie Brown’s log to see what had happened the previous eight hours. Nothing unusual other than the snow reported in the log book. An entry noting that Koko’s nephews had come on the premises and were shoveling snow. I checked the embassy car dispatch log to see if any cars were scheduled on my shift. One was scheduled to pick up a visiting diplomat staying at the First Secretary’s house. The driver was to pick him up at 0600 and take him to the airport for an early flight out. I was sure the airport would be closed but that would have to be verified.
The inclement nasty weather wasn’t my biggest concern right now. It was Gehr, my female German Shepherd . I was worried, and I mean really worried. I normally brought her to the Embassy with me, but I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. Her nose was hot and dry. When she walked, she staggered like she had lost her sense of balance. You could tell her feelings were hurt when I made her stay home. I put her in my room on my bed and covered her with a extra blanket. I knew she was in a family way. I had her bred to Major, the commissary manger’s beautiful registered German Shepherd . He was very large and almost white. I was expecting some handsome pups out from him. I’d lost all track of time. How long had it been since they bred…and, how long was the gestation period? If I ever knew, I’d forgotten.
Gehr had been given to me by an Afghan acquaintance who thought he could no longer take care of her properly. She and I took to each other right away. When the Embassy was closed, I always had her with me on watch. After she got used to my routine, she proved to be a good guard dog. If something or someone was out of place, she would growl and let me know. She even growled when the Gunny made one of his surprise inspections trying to catch me sleeping on duty. He wouldn’t even get through the front gate before she let me know. My most secret inner satisfaction was that Gehr didn’t like the Gunny, our Noncommissioned Officer In Charge. I was really amused. When his brain was mushy from drinking too much beer, he said to me, “Scott, when I catch you sleeping on duty or screwing up, I’ll see that you are sent back to the states and court marshaled.” I replied, “Gunny, you won’t catch me because I don’t sleep or screw up on duty.”
The truth was, with Gehr at my side I could’ve done a lot of sleeping on duty and never got caught. I didn’t ever do it because this old Missouri Ozark Hillbilly had been raised to have a sense of duty and honor—even before the Marine Corps training, indoctrination, and discipline. It was a strange thing. When we were at the Marine House, the Gunny would try to get Gehr to come to him or obey some of his commands. She would completely ignore him. The Gunny was the kind, if he gave a command to a fence post, he thought the fence post should respond. It really hacked him off, because Gehr would only interact with me, Sergeants Brown, Fisher, Schrank, and Corporal Walton. Don’t know what conclusions could be drawn. We were the only Marines in the detachment who were from states west of the Mississippi River. The rest of the Marines were from the northeast…Massachusetts and New York as I remember. My only other explanation —Gehr was an excellent judge of character.
……… Time to make my rounds of the outside compound and offices that bordered the east side of the compound. It paralleled the street the Marine House compound was on. This was the time I was going to miss Gehr the most. Making rounds on the graveyard shift when it was really cold was a whistle while you walk through the graveyard experience. All kinds of noises occurred when temperatures went from warmer to colder, or, visa versa. The buildings contracted and expanded with the temperature changes and made their own special noises. When that cold mountain wind came blowing in and hit the eves on the buildings just right, or the of shutters on windows, you thought you were hearing some unskilled person playing with a pipe organ. Down in front of the commissary there were cases of empty coke and pop bottles setting out. A puff of wind blew across the top of them and I thought I heard a short flute and piccolo concerto. Back in the northeast corner of the embassy compound, behind the commissary office and warehouse was the bone pile of the wooden crates that had contained all the commissary and embassy goods shipped in. Some of the crating boards were green and filled with moisture. A sudden freeze turned the moisture in those boards to ice which expanded. The results were loud pops and cracks… sounding like small caliber pistol shots. Some sounds were sudden and surprising, like a horse clomping behind me!
I turned and yelled, “Oh no, don’t you jump up on me!” It was Kuchi Pooch (literal translation meaning Dog Pooch). My yell didn’t do me any good. The big affectionate hound reared up and put his snow wet front paws on my shoulders. He almost knocked me to the ground. I was off balance and couldn’t protect myself. I got canoodled with a wet tongue lollop across the mouth. Yuck! You talk about halitosis! He had a very satisfied I got’ya look on his face. I was six feet tall. When Kuchi Pooch put his front paws on my shoulders, we looked at each other eye to eye. With a small keg of brandy around his neck he could have passed for a St. Bernard. He looked like one with short hair or some kind of Mastif. Very large, I bet he weighed at least 120 pounds. Kuchi Pooch was one of many dogs in Kabul that were known as Juis Dogs (Pronounced Jewie, meaning Ditch Dogs). No one owned these Juis dogs. They were hale and hearty dogs that lived by their wits. Their immune systems were second to none. They ate stuff I wouldn’t want my dog to touch. Kuchi Pooch was a legend at the Embassy.
If I understood Gate Bubba Koko correctly, this old pooch had been mooching food and treats off Marines since 1950. He allegedly had protected a Marine Sergeant from wolves that came down from the higher altitudes of Hindu Kush mountains one cold winter night, while the Sergeant was walking to Embassy to assume his mid-watch duty. The fighting wolves story was hard to believe. I wondered if it wasn’t one of the many stories created while beers were being consumed over that old cigarette scorched bar in the Marine House. If that old bar was a play-back tape recorder I bet you would hear lots of creative and embellished stories told there through the years. I might have left one or two there myself.
Kuchi Pooch had a great disposition and was not aggressive in any way. He didn’t even attack cats like Gehr did. Several months back before Gehr became my partner, I was making my 4:00 AM tour of the compound when a cat leaped off the corner the commissary warehouse building onto my shoulder on his way to the ground. While I hyperventilated and gasped for breath, Kuchi Pooch and the blackish yellow cat played tag. They ran in circles chasing each other. The Gate Bubba would have had to bury another cat if Gehr had been with me. This was a long anxious unpleasant duty night for me. In addition to worrying about Gehr, I tromped through kneedeep snow sporting the latest security device only a civilian State Department security officer could dream up. I now carried a night watchman’s punch clock on my shoulder. We had punch stations in the outlying offices that we must open up with keys and physically enter. It was going to take a lot more time to do our jobs now. Previously we would shake down every office at least once to see if any safes were left open or classified documents left out. We wrote up security violations if we found any.
I always worked in concert with Sergeant Charlie Brown. Each of us made detail security inspections in the most sensitive areas of the Embassy. On the preceding shift, Charlie only inspected half of less sensitive areas. I got the other half on my following shift. After we finished our chosen inspections, we did door shakes and flashlight beams through the windows. The tours went pretty fast and we had much more time for correspondence study or reading a good book.
Charlie was studying Criminal Justice. I was studying Accounting. We both were required to study an Advanced Infantry course at least six hours a week. It was demeaning being reduced to Night Watchman status. The new security procedure took away from our self improvement time. Charlie and I were unhappy. Later on we planned a going away party for the embassy security officer and sent him an invitation. The event took place three days after his date of departure. My watch finally ended and I trudged home in knee deep snow. I hurried to my room so I could check on Gehr. I pulled back the blanket I’d covered her with. Whoa! Gehr growled and snapped at me. I saw why. Five pups—three less than remarkable German Shepherds that looked and were built like their mother—and— two, make no mistake about it, two handsome little Kuchi Pooches. As a 84 year old man trying to recall and share the events of his life, I regret my thinking when I first glimpsed Gehr and her whelps. I thought, Gehr, you shameless hussy. You’ve had pups by two different sires! We know all life events don’t end on a happy note.
I felt deep remorse when Gehr died from birthing complications five days later. The Turkish Veterinarian that lived next door tried hard to save her but it wasn’t to be. I was proud of my Marine Corps brothers when they turned to and helped me feed our infant K-9 Corps ever four hours for eight days. We poked holes in the fingers of rubber gloves and fed them fortified powdered milk. The Marines coming off duty every eight hours fed them. The off duty Marines picked up the two midday feedings. Fazi, our cook, and Mama Jahn, our head servant were very helpful having the substance available. After eight days I put them on baby pablum until they were ready for puppy chow. The pups were just about four months old when I was transferred to the Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. My legacy to the Embassy Guard Detachment in Kabul was three jovial, playful, and happy future German Shepherd guard dogs. If not that, good companions as good dogs can be. Two families with young children got the joy sharing their lives with a couple of Kuchi Pooches. You are a lucky man if you’ve owned one good dog in your lifetime. Gehr was a good dog. That old reprobate Kuchi Pooch was a good hound too.
by Debby Stinemetz Caulfield
When I was fourteen, I moved into the Marine Barracks and fell in love with many handsome Marines. My father was the commanding officer of the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Our quarters were literally one end of the barracks. On the other side of my bedroom wall was “the head” where I could hear the Marines showering at reveille. Our front yard was the parade ground and our backyard was the servicing area for the mess and laundry. There was also a brig. There was no better place for a coming-of-age young woman to be where opportunities for flirting abounded, if kept out of the Colonel’s watchful eye. My younger brother and sister developed friendships with the off duty Marines too, riding skateboards together down the back service road.
Sometimes our Marine friends moved away and we never heard of them again. But some came back in the form of bad news as our father would tell us at the dinner table that our friend Lurch or Tom or Bob had been killed in action in Vietnam. It wasn’t just the Marines at our barracks home who were dying. My father, being the senior Marine in Maine, was tasked with officially notifying the families of Marines killed in Vietnam. I’d wait for my father to come home and see the emotion on his face, as he’d tell of fathers fainting in his arms or mothers screaming inconsolably.
We moved out of the Marine Barracks and my father moved to Vietnam. We continued to get more stories of Marines dying as my father shared his experiences as the commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Danang.
Before I was 18 years old and started developing any political sense and ideology about wars, I had become keenly aware that war and service to country is about death. This is what I think about on Memorial Day.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13