Saturday, June 09, 2007

The View From The Cheap Seats by Jerry Hafferkamp

The View From The Cheap Seats

By Jerry Haferkamp

It was typical of the Army. We trained as a company sized unit …in Massachusetts …in the winter …to deploy to Vietnam.

When our training was completed and all slots were filled, the company moved out by ship from Boston Navy Yard. That is, all except five of us who were to stay temporarily. We were to be sure our company areas passed inspection and were turned back to the base property officer. We were the advanced party to Vietnam. Our job was to fly to Vietnam and secure an area as a base camp and make everything ready for the rest arriving by ship. We got on a plane in 60-degree weather and got off in 105 degree, 150% humidity weather. When the plane’s door opened, it felt like someone kicked me in the chest. I couldn’t breathe.

There were five of us. One Lieutenant named Autrey; two Staff Sergeants, Castleberry and Wojokowski; and two Spec 4s, Peters and me. You can guess who did all the work. We flew from Boston to San Francisco where we were to go to Travis AFB for our flight to Vietnam.

As we walked out of the San Fran airport in our jungle fatigues with our M-16s slung over our shoulders, we were easy targets for the anti-war protesters and they converged on us. We were spit on, called some of the foulest names imaginable and branded “Baby Killers”. Lt. Autrey had given us strict orders to not do anything and keep our mouths shut. It was hard to do, but we did.

I expected that from the west coast whackos. A young Cindy Sheehan might have been one of them. I think I recognize some of them now as Democratic Representatives from California.

It is good that the veterans of this also unpopular war are better treated. I missed the parade at St. Peters on Veterans Day. I wanted to be there, but business kept me away. I’m glad my fellow Vietnam vets were honored. We came home, returned to our jobs and our families and asked for nothing, but it feels good to know someone cares about our service.

If we could only stop the politicians in Washington from undermining our troops and micro managing the war, this conflict could end differently from Vietnam. Our soldiers won in Vietnam, but our politicians raised the white flag of surrender. Our present troops deserve better.

They won’t get it from this Congress.
That’s the view from the cheap seats.