Good Morning Vietnam . . .
By Michael Nelson
It was hot. Really hot.
I was sitting with my class from Chaplain Assistant School. Yes, there really is such a thing as Chaplain School. We were gathered around a picnic table in Saigon.
The chaplain in charge was pointing to a large map of Vietnam as he told each of us where we were headed. I was patiently waiting for my name to be called.
But it wasn't.
About half of us were staying in Saigon, which he said, "Was like duty in the World, shined boots, starched fatigues and lots of saluting."
He would occasionally comment on the assignments, like Cam Ranh Bay and Qui Nhon as "resort"duty.
As he said a name and pointed to the map, he was moving further and further north.
Finally...and it really was final...I was the last person not called.
He pointed to the DMZ.
He said, "This is where you're going Nelson."
My immediate response was, "Am I a prisoner of war?"
Everyone chuckled...but everyone knew I was going too far north.
He said, "The chaplain at Dong Ha is having morale problems and requested someone who plays the guitar."
I said, "I played bass in a band in high school, but we only knew 4 songs and they all had the same chords and we played each one for 30 minutes."
Everyone chuckled again...because they really knew I was going too far north.
He replied, "Well, you checked the guitar box in basic training."
I said, "I checked every box that would indicate I had no aptitude for the infantry."
Again, chuckles all around. I didn't mean to be the class clown, it was forced upon me considering the situation.
As I looked around the picnic table, I could see the look in my classmates' eyes.
You know the "look," its the "sorry you're going to die" look.
I thought to myself, "How did I get here?"
My next thought was, "Perhaps I should take notes."
Michael Nelson was a Chaplain Assistant with the 212th Combat Aviation Battalion stationed at Dong Ha and Marble Mountain in 1971.