|Posted on September 7, 2010 at 11:18 PM|
There wasn’t one Swinging Richard in the platoon that didn’t see it coming. It wasn’t the drugs or the booze; he wasn’t abusing any more than the rest of us. Manly Man (Corp. Francis Marion Manley) was on his way out, and it was a short bet that his ass was nabbed before he started processing out of country, or worse yet, bought the farm.
It started with the swagger. Not that jive ass, smoke a Cool Menthol waltz the soul brothers were selling. No, I’m talking the ‘Shoot my dumb, white ass cause I’m too much a short-timing dick in this shit hole to care swagger’. It got thick towards the end; real gooey thick. The son-of-a-bitch was on parade. Honestly, I was about to pop a cap up his ass myself.
It’s all about progression. I can see it all now, looking back on the Howdy Doody‘s (patrols), the trips to the vill, the whole fucking twelve innings: a tour of la-la land. Imagine smoking so much pot that you wake up with one hand on your weapon and the other on your Rodney. Imagine getting so liquored prone you wake up next to a shit barrel; one that’s being burnt.
Not Manly Man. Oh no. He was up an hour before hooch bang packing his kit. I’d wake up half dipped and there he’d be, cleaning his weapon, smoking a Marlboro, stuffing pineapples (frag grenades) in his satchel pack. Clean shaved, spic and span, ready to hunt down some dingdangs, some slopes, Victor Charlies, any fucking thing moving beyond the wire. Look out, coneheads, The Man’s a coming, hot to trot, locked and loaded, an All American Killing Machine.
Your thinking he was some kind of freak, a monster like some serial killer back in the Real World, but he wasn’t. I knew him from the start. He’d only been in country three weeks before I was deposited there. He was as green as the next FNG, maybe greener.
Manley and I learned the ropes together. Like all newbies, we started off kind of quiet, small baby steps, taking it all in, quickly processing what was needed, what was bullshit, prank, or practical joke. We stored the good shit, the stuff that would drag our sorry asses through thick and thicker. The tidbits that boing! to the front, those light bulbs that don’t fizzle pop when the shit hit’s the fan, and the fan’s on high, and pointed directly at you.
I suppose the easiest way for you to see the change in Manly Man would be to here an exchange between Top (Platoon Sergeant) and The Man, first as a newbie, and then ten months later. Every patrol starts with a platoon inspection; Top goes down the rank and file, seeing if the regulars(assets) are coherent, and then a closer look at the newbies(liabilities) to see if they’re suited up for a tango in the mango, or just another anchor to trudge through the muck.
The first few with Manley would’ve gone like this:
“How many Howdys is this for you?”
“You smell like a whore. You think Dinky Dan can’t smell that aftershave, Private? You think that shine on your boots won’t give our position away? You think these two frags clipped together might clink like Superman’s nuts in the pucker brush?”
“Look, Son, stay behind Corporal Link three paces. Don’t cough, sneeze, or fart unless he says it’s okay. Can you do that, Private Manley?”
“Yes, Sir, I mean yes, Sarge.”
Now, ten months later it would go like this.
“What’s that M12(shotgun) on your back for, Man?”
“Things might get personal, Top.”
“Corporal, you’re the best shot in this platoon. That M16 of your’s has kept the Dung Phoos off our sod time and again. You’ve never let it get personal. I‘d kind of like to keep it that way.”
“We might have to clear a vil…..”
“Lose it, and the claymore(anti-personnel mine).”
“Just covering the bases…”
“Shit, Sarge. Maybe I should carry fish heads and rice?”
“You’re paired with Dickson today. I want him on you like aftershave.”
“I ain’t babysitting that shit-for-brains, Top. No fucking way.”
“One more, Corporal, and you’re sitting this one out. Square it, people, this boogey starts in fifteen.”
As Top walked away, Manly Man turned to Pvt. Dickson and whispered, “You get within twenty yards of me, Pudson, and they’ll be calling you Pudless. You copy?”
Dickson just nodded, then turned to me to see my reaction: he knew I’d heard The Man also. I shook out a Marlboro for him and myself, and torched our smokes.
“Just give him air. I’ll be right behind you. He’s got the short-timers fever is all. Five weeks and he’s on the bird.”
Short-timers fever my ass. We knew the progression, and Manly Man was about to boil over. Ironically, it didn’t happen on patrol. It started with me.
That evening The Man went into his regular moan and groan; “Fucking waste of time doing patrols, plenty of slants working the ridge trail. They need to drop us (platoon) into the saddle of that ridge. Give that line of ants a real picnic. Shit howdy, we could pile up some. Give the brass something to count besides their own ring-muscle.”
“What’s it to us, Man? A few more weeks and we’re chasing skirt back in the real world.”
“You going soft on me, Morgan?” he asked, “You want to hang around this luxury suite and order room service while we color in our short-time calendars, and just climb aboard that last flight with a big shit-eating grin, like we was only here for an eight-by-ten glossy?”
The Man shoved past me in a huff, then barked over his shoulder, “I thought you were okay, Morg, but I got my fucking doubts.”
Next thing I know, I hear shouting over in the Mess bunker. Lieutenant Stevens is in a heated exchange with The Man, and when I arrive Sergeant Mullins is pulling Manley off the top of the Luey. I help Top with Man while the LT gets up wiping blood from his lip.
It wouldn’t of went any further right there. I know the LT. He would of given The Man a day or two of shit detail and let the whole thing slide. He knew Manley was short. But, in the Army, sometimes you get the unexpected.
Captain Hardin walked into the Mess bunker just as The Man made one final lunge at the Luey.
“You fucking butter bar (2nd Lt.) Remf (rear echelon mother fucker),” shouted Manley, “you’re no better than the rest of the brass pussies in this shit for….”
“Attention!” someone snapped.
That evening, several of us stood near the LZ and watched The Man drag ass onto the Huey. He never looked back. No wave, nothing. Nobody said anything for a while, just stood there and listened to the wop-wop-wop fading over the ridge.
“I reckon he got his fill,” Top finally said.
“Best shot I ever seen,” I said, “Remember that one he popped zig-zagging through the rubber trees?”
“Yep, he had a knack for throwing ‘em long.”
“How about a warm Grain-belt, Top?”
“Hell, I reckon I’m up for a few rounds, Morg.”
Corporal Manley was brought up on charges of disorderly conduct, insubordination, and assaulting an officer. 1st Lt. Steven’s gave a statement to the effect that Corp. Manley’s state of mind during the episode was due to severe fatigue, and he believed that Manley was simply concerned for the men of his platoon, and upset with the fact that he was about to rotate out of country, leaving his fellow soldiers behind.
The Review Board of Officers determined the charges should be dropped, because of Manley’s otherwise untarnished record of service, and a deposition received from his Platoon Sgt. They concluded Corp. Manley should undergo an examination for Section 8 (Mental Discharge). No exam was ever scheduled.
Corporal (E4) Francis Marion Manley received an Honorable Discharge at Fort Lewis, Washington in October, 1969. His DD214 noted he was a recipient of a Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Combat Infantry Badge, and an Expert Rifleman Badge.
He committed suicide July 4th 1974.