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What Are the Odds?
By Patrick Finnegan
Gonna tell you a story. Actually two stories. Both of them are hard to believe, but none the less true. Both happened in those magical crazy '70s.
Bear with me. I Derosed and ETSed in early October 1969. Back home to Metro NY. Now it's the following spring of 1970 and for some reason, I can't possibly remember, I'm in a rented rowboat in a NYC Central Park Lake with a high school girlfriend that I hadn't seen in 5 years.
This is the first and only time I ever rowed around a lake in NYC. Ronnie and I are floating around, catching up on the years gone past.
I'm rowing, Ronnie is listening and interacting. I have so much to say and yet I for the most part don't know what or how to say, about so much that I have to speak about. The army and VN are still all too close to make any sort of sense of it.
I'm jabbering, ranting away and slowly ram into another couple also rowing around with the rower not paying attention. The other rower is a tall solid built guy with a nice 4-5 inch afro. I look closer and I'll be damned if it ain't Doc.
Carmello Villar. My 3rd platoon, "Delta Dew Master" VN field combat medic. The Medic of the "Delta Dew Masters" is rowing around Central Park on this fine spring day and I just ran into him.
I DEROSed and ETSed on 5 October 1969.
I got to the 3rd platoon Delta company 1/503rd Abn. Inf. Bn, 173rd Abn. Bde. on the 15-16th Jan 1969. Doc "Smiley" Villar got there maybe around the 30th-31st.
Time passes. Doc is in his 11th month in country when his WW II veteran father dies back in the Bronx. Doc gets pulled out of the country after 11 and 1/2 months in the field. Doc could not put up with the rear bullshit and opted for pulling his 6 months in the rear duty that all medics were entitled to, in the field.
Tuesday, he's in Bihn Dihn Province RSVN. Thursday, he's at an NYC airport. But he doesn't know where he is.
Doc, your Dad is dead. You are going home. Here's the paperwork. Just hold on. We'll take care of it. One to two days later he's back at an NYC airport, wondering where the fuck he is.
Doc had my phone number and knew I was in the general Metro NYC area and maybe I'd be home. So he calls. He takes a shot and he calls.
I was home. I listened to Doc's description of the terminal he was at. I figured he was at La Guardia and told him to hold on. If the traffic wasn't too bad I'd be picking him up in my newly purchased for $700, candy apple red 1963 Austin Healy 3000.
I grabbed Doc from the curb, on the run and took him home to Fox St. in the Bronx. I used my parents 6 seater Plymouth through Doc dad's funeral service and burial. Doc still had well over a year to finish with the Army. I was starting my college life. Time passed and we kinda lost touch.Fast forward to spring 1970 and I'm ramming Doc in Central Park. Doc s on his first date with Melba, His future wife and the mother of their 3 children. Doc's afro is too long for the military so I ask him, "What's up."
Doc looks at me and tells me, "I quit."
With the death of his father, Doc is now the patriarch of the Villar family. There are Doc's mom and 5 younger siblings. Doc asked for a compassionate reassignment at Fort Dix, NJ to put him closer to the Bronx to finish out his Army service requirement. That didn't happen. The Army assigned him to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC.
Doc tried that for a month or so and it wasn't working so he "Quit."
Lots of stories about what happened to Doc after that. Those stories are separate tales to be told. This tale just deals with the "What are the odds?"
Years go by and now it's the summer of 1973. I'd just stopped driving a cab in the Metro NY area and I'm heading south to Nashville to rehook up with the woman I'd hitchhiked across the width and length of America a few times since the summer of 1970.
The month after my encounter with Doc in Central park, like Simon and Garfunkel I went Looking for America and found Sally Johnson in Minneapolis.
I'm driving south through Pennslyvania on a hot sunny day and I see 2 long haired freaks up ahead walking the side of the road and going in my direction.
I'd done hundreds maybe thousands of miles myself the same way. You're at point A and you gotta get to point B and no one is giving you a ride so you walk. Maybe occasionally you stick out a thumb, but after a while, you just keep walking.
I figure I'd check them out and maybe offer a ride. Believe it or not. most hitch-hikers are not psychopathic mass or serial killers. Most are just people without an excess of cash that have a need to get to a place far away from where they are. So they hitchhike. It's a whole subterranean culture of America, especially in the '60s and '70s.
I slow down and stop. The two freaks walk up to the passenger door of my F-150 Ford VCan and open the door.
Wow. There standing in the road looking in at me is Paul Mount or Mounds. Never knew which his surname was. It was one or the other and whichever it was he was my squad's M-79 man from Vietnam. Here it is almost 4 years since I last saw Paul and that was back at LZ Uplift in September 1969. Now I'm picking him up hitchhiking in the middle of Pennsylvania in the spring/summer of 1973. If I'm an hour earlier or later. Paul isn't there. A day before a day later. he's not there. He changes his departure times on that day or day before and also he isn't there to be picked up on that day and time I stopped for him. Weird how that all works out. Beyond weird.
The universe was not going to allow me to forget Vietnam. Not that I was going to forget, but the universe was gonna keep jamming it in my face anyway.
10 years have gone by and I'm forgetting Vietnam and then BAM BB, my gun team partner ammo-bearer from Alabama is at my door selling Cable TV Programs and hook-ups. That didn't happen but it would have if I had forgotten about Vietnam.
What are the odds?
Pat Finnegan 3rd platoon, D Company 1/503rd 173 rd Abn Bde., USA 8/1/66-10/4/69