Don't Mean Nuthin*
Tribute to Unsung Heroes: the Veterans of Vietnam War
Thanks for your service.
(* Coined by G.I.’s in Vietnam. A reverse coping expression indicating that it means everything and I’m about to lose it. Usually used to dismiss witnessing or experiencing something so horrific that it can’t be comprehended by the psyche. Alternately used as an expression of relief that one has avoided being killed even if they are injured or maimed.)
The fighting man of action opened his eyes. And saw nothing. What's happening?
“Why can't I see?” He asked no one in particular. He didn't know where he was or if anyone was near him to hear the question.
When he tried to reach up to rub his useless eyes his left arm was too confined to reach up. “What is holding me down?” He reached over his torso with his right hand and felt tubing coming out of his left forearm. Then he felt his face and realized there were bandages over his eyes.
“Why? What's going on? Anyone there? Help!”
“Hey, G.I. Gonna join the living? The doc's on the other side of the room. Someone will be over soon to explain it all to ya. Kinda laid up myself at the moment on the cot next to ya. Got a few broken bones but I may live to fight again. Ain't bought the farm yet. We're still in the field meat factory. Medivac be coming soon I'm a hopin' to take me to that Freedom Bird. Just a short timer now. What's yer name, Grunt?”
“Uh, Joe. My name is 'Joe'. Can't think of no more. 'Joe' will have to do. Must have lost more than my eyes when my cover was blown off.”
“Well, hey, hey! What da ya know? That's a my name, too. Joe. Joe Black. Nice to meet ya, Joe Will-Have-To-Do. Yeh, gets pretty hairy out there with all that flak flying. Heard someone call 'incoming!' but I wasn't fast enough to run out of the way this time or maybe I ran towards it. Hard to tell. Won't be doing much runnin' fer a while now. They'll send me back to the World to recoup but I'm a lifer so will probably be sent back soon 'nough. Uncle Sam Ain't Released Me Yet.
“So tell me what do you do in your Real Life, Joe Will-Have-To-Do?”
“Me? Real Life? I don't know how I got here. How could I know anything about a real life? But...feels like I've done this before. Or I've done it forever. Or... wait! I remember a girl...”
“Nothin' like a little boom-boom to clear the mind. Maybe she clobbered you in the noggin? You a 'plenty cheap charlie'?”
“No, no. Pretty sure I'm a straight arrow. Don't want to mess up what I got in my 'Real Life' as you call it. Girl back home is really special. If I'm lucky, maybe she'll marry me. Got some stiff competition from some pretty-boy surfer while I'm stuck here fighting... Well, who understands what kind of demons we are fighting? It's worse than H-E-Double Hockey-sticks out there.
“I can't remember much. Something happened out on the trail we was humping. Been humping for days seems like. Carrying full rucksacks on our backs. And me with my Thumper. Through the worse kind of conditions. Air so hot and humid you can't breathe. Wet rice paddies full of leeches. Wouldn't be surprised if I contracted jungle rot on my legs. They're stinging like the devil now that I'm aware of them. Don't mean nuthin.
“Tick infested mountain and jungle paths so slick from monsoons ya can't keep your footing. All the time searching for those two-stepper yellow devils that can sneak up on you when you least expect it. Those vipers spring out then disappear again leaving devastation in our ranks. That's not even accounting for ambushes by the VC devils we are supposed to be routing out. They hide and travel in tunnels. Need tunnel rats to dig 'em out. Can't tell enemy from friendlies. Don't mean nuthin...”
“Yeah, yeah, I hear ya. Don't need ta dwell on it. Take a devil-may-care attitude, Dude. Tell me more about your girl. That's what I want ta hear about!”
“Well, Joe, she is a real doll is all I can tell ya. Don't understand what she sees in a hard-case, ruffian like me. She's a knock-out in a striped swimsuit. Her long blonde ponytail swings in step to her hips when she walks in her high heels. She is sunshine and lollipops, always wearing pink that makes me think of cotton candy and gum drops. Real sweet. And she is smart and ambitious. Wants to be a marine biologist or something like that. Maybe an astronaut someday? Who knows, maybe the next Armstrong?”
“Speaking of that guy Armstrong, how about that moon landing, huh? Quite a stretch. JFK wanted to get there by the end of the decade and we did it! Think it was for real?”
“Could of been all smoke and mirrors for all I know about it. All the FUBAR here in-country it is hard to believe anything good coming out of Disneyland East or NASA.
“Anyway, can't wait ta see her again. Oh, wait... Maybe I won't ever be able ta see her again...Don't mean nuthin.”
“Now, don't start thinkin' like that. Maybe your brain just needs a little rest and everything will be normal again. No doc has told ya different, right? Besides, with a dame ya can always read Braille in the dark, get it?”
“Yeah, right, like I said 'don't mean nuthin'.”
“We're in luck. Here comes the doc. Now you'll maybe get some answers. But be wary. They say nice things and always wear those manufactured smiles.”
“Well, Mr. Black. Good news. Your REFRAD orders have come through and you will be going home to recuperate. Make sure you never show up again on my watch. Stay healthy, will you? No more being a pin cushion for Satin's toothpicks. Or a mine magnet or anything else that threatens to zap you. Take a nice state-side job when they offer you one. Your old boots have seen too many tours in Nam.
“Now, how's the new cherry guy getting along?”
“His gourd is pretty messed up, Doc. Can't remember his own name and lot's don't mean nuthin to him no more. Dinky dau. Thinks he has been through all this before.”
“I hear you. Well, now Mr... Joe. That's all it says on your tag. How is your head feeling?”
“Like it hurts to think. Why are my eyes bandaged? Will I be able to see again? What happened to me?”
“Dustoff helicopter picked you and a few of your platoon members off a mountain near a Yard village. Probably a sapper popped up on you as they were aiming for a bigger target to blow up. You have a pretty good concussion and your eyes are bandaged as a precaution to let them get some rest. We can take them off now if you want. However, you may always need to wear a patch over one.”
“Of course, I want. Unwrap them, please.”
“You? W-What are you doing here? You are supposed to be waiting for me back home in my Real Life. W-why are you here?”
“I wanted to become a doctor so I donned this lab coat and stethoscope and had a diploma printed up to add to my accessories. That is really all it took. Signed up to work out in the field so here I am. How do I look?”
“Fabulously sweet as always. Pink is your color.”
“I see you have met G.I. Joe Black. He is USMC. One of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. He'll go back to the World and be patched up to be put back in a box to start his next big adventure as a fighting man of action. If you want I can write a prescription advising it is wise to get your ETS settled since you are obviously dinky dau. Then you can fly the Freedom Bird home to start over again, too, G.I. Joe. You can find yourself back in a box with all your camouflage, canteen, K-bar, M16 and Thumper. Any more COBRA devils to fight? Still need more action and adventure? What's your pleasure?”
“Think I would like to brush up on my Braille, Barbie.”
Bought the farm: Died
Meat Factory: Hospital
Freedom Bird: Plane taking soldiers back to USA.
Cover: Hat or helmet
The World/ Real Life: Home/Career
Thumper: Grenade launcher
Jungle Rot: Generally a fungal of staph infection causing boils, swelling and tissue necrosis resulting from dirt, grime, and constant wet conditions.
Two-Stepper: Yellow bamboo pit viper – said to kill a person within two steps after being bitten.
VC: Viet Cong; North Vietnamese
FUBAR: F...ed UP Beyond All Recognition
Disneyland East: Pentagon or USA
REFRAD: Released From Active Duty
Satin's toothpicks: Nails or hardened steel darts fired from howitzers or grenade launchers
Dinky Dau: Crazy
Dustoff Helicopter: Duty Uniform Services To Others Friend and Foe
Yard: Short for Montagnard, a French word meaning; “mountaineer.” Member of any one of a number of semi-nomadic, aboriginal tribes which live in the mountains of Vietnam.
Sapper: Enemy soldier whose job is to blow things up.
ETS: End Time of Service
K-Bar: Marine-issue fighting knife.
COBRA: Evil force trying to rule the world GI Joe fought against.