Court-martial or Reassignment ?

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With my daughter, Kelly in Sedona, Arizona. October 6, 2016.

My daughter recently posted this comment below on her Facebook page with a photograph of us taken in Sedona, Arizona by Aaron, my Son-in-Law:

Thank You for your service just doesn’t seem enough. Can’t imagine what you went through in the war but grateful you made it home. Maybe someday you will write a book about it. Many veterans never share their full story, and I can understand how painful it would be to relive it. However, the younger generation aka your granddaughters would greatly benefit from reading about that time in your life. Many veterans pass never sharing their amazing stories. I hope someday you share yours ❤️ Love you Dad

This story is for my daughter, Kelly, and my grandchildren Courtney, Brittney, and Sydney. I will share more Vietnam stories in future posts on this blog and publish them later in a book as part of my general autobiography, primarily for my daughter and grandchildren.

While serving my U.S. Army tour of duty in Vietnam, I published an ‘underground’ newspaper in addition to my regular medical responsibilities, for several issues while I held the rank equivalent of E-4. The staff box listed me as Editor-in-Chief along with other staff members and a disclaimer that stated it was an authorized publication and that the views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army. The content included interviews of military personnel, Commander’s Corner, Short Timers, Tips for R&R, illustrations, and satire. I later learned of my promotion to the rank of E-5 equivalent to a Sergeant.

After I believe three issues, the Commanding Officer (CO) a Colonel, called me into his office and immediately shouted.

“The satire you wrote will end in a court-martial with hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, or be sent to a location in-country where life expectancy is 12 days or less.”

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Meeting with the Russian Defector

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Representing the Russian Defector 2017 © Stephen Bruno

Many years ago while in my late 20’s, I held a Special Projects Specialist position at a community services non-profit agency in Phoenix, Arizona. The Director was a former Jesuit Priest. One day he came to my office, sat down and said that he had something he wanted to share with me. The Director said, given my background, that there was an interesting man he knew that I would like to meet and that it was non-work related.

I was given the time off from work to meet with the person. Curious, as always, I agreed. The only stipulation by the person, he added, was that the meeting must take place that day at Church’s Chicken in Phoenix, Arizona.

I wondered who this was and why he insisted on meeting at Church’s Chicken fast food restaurant which I had never visited. When we met,  the man introduced himself to me as Aleksei (not his real name), and it was clear by his name and thick accent that he was Russian. After a hardy handshake with both hands, Aleksei immediately said that he was defecting to the United States as he watched to see my reaction.

It was clear that this was going to be an interesting meeting.

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Praying Mantis vs Mosquito

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2015 © Stephen Bruno

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2015 © Stephen Bruno

 

While serving 14 months in the U.S. Army in Vietnam my fellow soldiers and I experienced frequent rocket attacks around 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM while sleeping in our hooch. Of course, it was unnerving. All we could do was wait until the rockets stopped hitting our compound. Each of us knew that if even if a single rocket landed nearby, most of us would die.

Initially, I crawled under the small army cot just like everyone else, banging my shins and head and waiting for the end of the rocket attack. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I might just as well lie down on the cot and count the rockets, as there usually were the same number each morning, rather than banging my body trying to get under the cot that provided no protection anyway.

During the day and early evening mosquitoes, carrying a variety of diseases including malaria besieged us. I decided on a creative method to stop the mosquito attacks that kept me awake. I explored the insects indigenous to the area and found that the Praying Mantises in Vietnam were rather large and voracious.

After catching a large Praying Mantis, I tried sewing thread around its thorax and then on objects in the hooch where I lived. There was enough thread for the Praying Mantis to have a great deal of mobility. Initially, I provided water and other insects for it to eat. Eventually, it lived quite well eating the mosquitoes that swarmed around the hooch.

I found a large beaker from the medevac hospital nearby and began raising Praying Mantises. I learned a lot about how they mated, what they ate and how they bushwhacked and ate insects. I learned the best way to feed and provide water for them while they grew.

It was a fascinating experience and stimulated my interest as a naturalist in my off-duty time. The greatest benefit was that I no longer had to worry about mosquitoes buzzing around trying to bite me.

I apologize for the quality of the photographs that somehow survived after all these years. You can click on each image to view it larger. The top image is of a Praying Mantis in its home in my hooch. The bottom image is of two Praying Mantises in the beaker. The images do not do justice to how large and beautiful these Praying Mantises were.