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RECOLLECTIONS: Dedicated REMF Then and Dedicated REMF Now
By Steve Crandall
I've heard more than one comment coming from combat veterans regarding a lack of respect for REMFs, like if you weren't a combat veteran you weren't there. I was a weapons loader of F-4 aircraft at Danang in 1970 and yes, I was a REMF, a Rear Echelon Mother Fucker.
In Vietnam we not only had names for the Vietnamese we even had names for our own troops. We called the guys that worked in the bomb dump "BEE BEE STACKERS" and the guys that worked on the guns "MUZZLE FUCKERS." But there is no doubt, without them we would not have been able to do our jobs effectively and the weapons would not have reached their destination.
In May of 1970 my support for the war ended when four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State. I still had eight months left to go to serve out my year in Vietnam. My attitude about the war didn't stop my support of the combat troops on the front line. The other three members of our four man crew had the same feeling about the war. We kept our spirits high by reminding ourselves that we are here to support the combat troops and to get the planes off the ground in hopes of squelching enemy fire. We took some short cuts to turn around the planes as quickly as possible. The short cuts included not putting all the safety pins in the ejection seat and not strapping the bombs during the loading process. For this one of the best loading crews was disbanded. I and one other member of our crew were sent to a Lead Crew where we trained and certified FNGs, one more name to add to the list. The other two crew members were separated and joined other crews. I never saw them again after Vietnam and sometimes wonder what they are doing today.
I went back to finish college, married and had two children. I tried to talk about Vietnam when I was in college but quickly learned that none of the students wanted to hear about it and besides they wouldn't understand anyway. I never talked to my wife about it for the same reasons. Because veterans didn't speak about Vietnam it was hard to know who was a veteran and who was not. I buried myself with work and family life to the point I didn't even remember I was a veteran. Only after marrying again some years later did I finally have someone who would listen and provide support so that I could proudly say I was a Vietnam veteran, even though I was only a REMF.
Being a REMF, I wouldn't pretend to compare what I did to the courage of what it took to be on the front lines. I don't suffer from PTSD like so many combat troops do and I wasn't wounded. I can though, compare some similar instances about fitting back into society, especially since we all served in an unpopular war. I can also compare the dedication I had for doing my job to support the troops and buddies. I would also like to think I can compare the dedication we have today to support returning troops, fighting for veterans' rights, fighting for veterans' benefits and fighting to stop the theft of veterans' land. But sadly, over the passing of time, the dedication has waned with both combat troops and REMFs alike.
So call me a REMF if you wish, just remember my dedication is as strong as it was nearly forty years ago. The question is "What does it take to get you dedicated again?"
Steve Crandall is the president of the California Central Coast Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.