Stories - LZ Stud - Vandegrift Combat Base
Truitt - Beans 'n Balls - July, 1969
Truitt - Greek and the Scorpion - July, 1969
At VCB the 1st Radio Bn area was on the side of a hill to the right just after entering. It seems like the Ops Bunker was right next to our living bunker. Someone had made sleeping racks, about two, or three high up against the walls of the bunker. They were like bunk beds, but just ply wood, and we slept on "rubber ladies" with a poncho liner. I can't remember using mosquito nets there, but we sure did later when I was in An Hoa. Regardless, there were a whole bunch of bugs, of many different varieties, both recognizable and many that were unknown. I'll never forget the scorpions; there were lots of them. I believe "The Greek", Bob Hrisoulis arrived there just a few days before I did, maybe a week before, but not much. His magnetic personality caused him to be very much accepted and liked by everyone else, and he was like an old hand there already, it took me awhile longer. Seems like he had the sleeping rack next to mine, but on the bottom, but we became fast friends.
One time he started yelling about a bug crawling on him and then he yelled "it's a scorpion" as he scrambled to the floor. About that time everyone got into the action by watching, or actively taking part in disposing of the pest, and seems like we all were wearing just shorts, because of the heat. Greek started crawling on the floor under the rack amongst the boots, at the same time one of the other guys started shaking Greek's "rubber lady" and poncho liner on his rack. About that time the scorpion fell onto Greek's bare back and he nearly ended his tour right then and there. He wasn't stung, but he sure made a big fuss; I thought we were about to have a fight. The whole bunch of guys thought it was hilarious. That is, everyone but "The Greek." top
Truitt - Greek and the Proboscis Bug - August, 1969
I was more used to the heat than most of those guys, since I grew up in South Florida. Shoot, I had never even seen snow, except at the movies, or on TV. Once a couple years earlier, about November 1967, I had to "police" the outdoor theater at Camp Geiger, Camp Lejeune, NC while there for infantry training (ITR). It was about 0700 Saturday morning and several of us were doing a general policing up of the area from the folks who had used the theater the evening before. I yelled out, "hey you guys, look at this, you gotta see this, somebody threw this cup down and it's still got ice in it from last night!" The rest of those guys thought I was crazy or something, "Truitt, you're an idiot!"
Though the heat was certainly nothing new to me, it sure was hot at VCB in August. One day the Skipper (Captain Eckman) came out and told us to "knock off filling the sand bags" because the thermometer was reading 127 degrees.
I was exactly 6' tall, and weighed 165 lbs a few weeks earlier when I first arrived "Down South" in "Da Nam." The heat and lack of abundantly fine home-cooked meals (Linda's a great cook) was causing me to lose weight rapidly; by the time I left Vietnam a year later my weight was only 145 lbs. It was all due to a rapid metabolism which caused me to need copious amounts of food to maintain my normal body weight. Back in "The World" (slang for America) I often emphasized to the waitress that she could sacrifice quality for quantity. Now in Vietnam, I'ld augment my regular meals, with extra C-ration cans of just about anything that was left over from the other guy's meals. Especially treasured was a Pecan Nut Roll, or a Date Nut Roll. But, I was still losing weight.
At VCB, our operations bunker required electricity so we had two 20kw generators, in the field below, that ran on diesel fuel. The same field where we parked our 6-by, and where we filled our sand bags. With my knack for mechanics, I was a shoo-in for being the "generator guy," (one of my collateral duties). That's alright, I loved it. There was always one cranked up, and making the electrons flow. Every couple days I'ld give one of them a PM, and after a couple weeks I trained The Greek on the generator and he helped me out.
I'll never forget the perpetual smile on the Greek's face, and he had the ability to "clown around" with any and all work; it was his unique ability to make the hardest work into a game, and it seemed like child's play. One evening several of us were sitting in the bunker and playing cards, "Back Alley" which, in Vietnam, was almost exclusively a Marine card game. The bunker being much cooler than about anywhere else (we had a big fan in there to ventilate the thing - remember - we had generators), was our number one place to relax.
As we played cards, we were being buzzed by a fly. For some reason the fly was very irritating and persistent, more so than normally. We were sitting around in shorts, or cutoff cammies, and that fly suddenly landed on Greek's leg just above his knee. Since about six of us were sitting there in a circle, we all saw the fly light on Greek's leg at about the same time. All of a sudden, zoom, zap, then a pronounced "yeow" came from The Greek. We were all transfixed by the strangest bug I've ever seen in my life. A large, spindly bug with big translucent wings, and a long proboscis swooped down and impaled that fly on Greek's leg. The bug's nose went all the way through the fly and stuck into Greek's leg. We all gazed in amazement as the bug fluttered and then took off with the fly.
"Wow, can you believe THAT?" was on every bodies lips. I don't remember what The Greek said, but you can be sure that it was a winner. And, you can be sure that The Greek told that story over, and over again. It's absolutely true, guys. I saw it too.
Greek and I became good friends. He had been raised Greek Orthodox, but it was all just a formality with him. Me, I wasn't raised in any particular religion, but I had gone to a church there in Ft. Lauderdale, where I grew up, because of the good looking girls that were there. Once, when I was about thirteen, there was an evangelist who preached the Gospel, and I received Jesus Christ as my Savior because I knew that I was a sinner, and I definitely didn't want to pay for those sins myself, that would be Hell. I prayed to Jesus and asked him to forgive me, and come into my heart, because I believed that He paid for my sins Himself. Romans 10:8-10 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
It's not that Christ got caught and was executed. He allowed Himself to be crucified and paid for my sins with his own bloody death. He bled to death you know; he died just like the sacrificial lambs under the knives of the priests. That changed my life! I have never been the same since that time when I was thirteen years old. There have been a lot of times that I didn't act like I was different, but for sure, I've never been the same. I was changed!
Something that I've deeply regretted ever since, is the fact that I never, not even once, told The Greek about the difference trusting in Christ made in my life. Christ shed His blood for me, and I wasn't bold enough to even tell my friend.
Greek and I were split up after we left VCB, but we maintained contact and when I got my orders for Company "B" in Scotland I gladly received them, and took my wife and baby daughter. I was tempted a little to extend for another six months in Nam; The Greek did, but I took my orders and "didi maued" (Vietnamese for 'go fast') out of there.
After my last letter to The Greek in December '70, I didn't hear from him for awhile. Then sometime around the end of February 1971 I received a letter, there in Scotland, from Dave McWatters (Greeks platoon commander) telling me that Bob "The Greek" Hrisoulis was KIA on the 21st of January 1970.
No, I never told The Greek about trusting in Christ, and the change it would make in his life. But, I do know that if he did, at sometime, receive Christ as his Savior, that I'll see my friend, and his electric smile again one day. It will always be on my heart and mind that I never told him when I had the chance. By-the-way, I've learned to be much more bold today, and I try to tell the Gospel as often as I can.
I'll say, "Hey Greek. Remember the time we were playing Back Alley, and that big Proboscis Bug zapped your leg?" Ha! Di Dah, Di Da Dit
Note: Since I'm probably writing a book, this will be the last story in the book! But, I've got several more stories to write. This was awhile writing. I'm very sad that I let my friends down. Both of my friends, Jesus Christ, and The Greek. top