Ah, the melodic and quite rhythmic sounds of the UH-1, my beloved Huey, guaranteed to scare the shit out of these germs…that’s what we called the communist guerrillas…that are trying to make of this country another Cuba.
And I was right, not a single shot and the threat was gone. Those cowboys up there at just about 150 metres from the Earth are my heroes for sure. I let out the air I was holding, I guess for about three or four minutes, took a deep, cleansing breath, and looked for Sandra.
“Corporal, you alright?”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
We were both looking up at the chopper, still low in the sky, but flying back eastward, towards the Caribbean coast, back to base, or wherever it was that they came from. Knowing that was above my pay grade I guess because no one ever told me.
“I think we should do the same thing.”
“Head back home.”
“No class today?”
“Maybe, but I think a stop at the student bar, a few cold ones and some quality time with the pinball machine will make me much happier.”
“Then it’s a plan,” she said with a smile that made me think of her as a little girl who has just agreed with her mother that it would be better to go for ice cream than to the dentist.
I went right to my room after a few beers. I was still a little shaken up. It wasn’t the fact that they fired at us, I’ve been in combat before. What scared me was that they didn’t kill us. The shots were either a warning or a way of them telling us that no matter what we did, no matter what we brought with us, this was their territory, their land, they knew it well…we didn’t…and they could do whatever they wanted to us. We were a handful, they were everybody.
This country had come out of a revolution where they ousted the communists that had come into power through their own revolution. They had endured an uncertain time when guerrilla fighters would shoot up stores, buses, trains, anything that they associated with the government or with “the rich”. These hit men would ride through the cities on motorcycles and the guy in back would be the shooter.
Finally a military man took control of the government. He set up a sort of “benign” dictatorship to get the country back on track, to fix the economy, and most importantly to rid the population of the threat of violence at the hands of the marauding communists on motorcycles. It became illegal to ride two on a bike, of any type.
It was January 1977. Scientists had just discovered the bacteria that causes this strange disease that had been troubling the minds of all and that they called Legionnaires’ disease. President Ford had pardoned ‘Tokyo Rose’ on his last day in office as President of the United States and Jimmy Carter had been sworn in as the nation’s thirty ninth president, and the great blizzard had hit upstate New York. The hottest song on the hit parade was “Tonight’s the Night” by the one and only Rod Stewart…
I was twenty two years old and a sergeant…E-5…in the United States Army. As soon as I finished my fourth year in university I’m going into OCS, no doubt. I’m not interested in rising through the ranks but I want to be able to make a few decisions and becoming an officer is the way to start. Although everybody tells me I am wrong, I follow my own drummer.
My phone rang at 0237 hours. Was that the fucking phone, or did I just dream this? No, shit, there it is again, it’s the phone and nothing good can come through that line at this hour so I quickly shook the sleep from my head and replied.
“I’ll be right there sir.”
C.2021, Francisco Bravo Cabrera, 24 NOV 2021, Valencia, Spain