Boondocker's Diary: Page 6


R&R well deserved and I was ready to go. I decided to stay in country, the question being that, If I ever got out of this place, Would I come back. I didn't want to put this thought to the test. I chose China beach. The day before I left I prepared my bag and later that evening went to the mess tent for evening chow. My friend Julio Vargas was there and I sat with him. We talked and shared thoughts of home. We talked about the upcoming sweep and how I would luck out and miss this one. Julio asked that when I return to bring him a can of sour ball candy. He would appreciate them when he was in the bush. I considered it a small favor to ask. We had made a Med cruise and pulled liberty a number of times in the world. He was a good friend, a talented Artist and he always had a smile when we met no matter what the situation. A true Marine in every sense of the word. We went to the make shift club, shared a few beers and laughs, we shook hands and both went our ways. I can remember him shouting, “don't forget my sour balls Amigo” I yelled back, no sweat my friend, keep your head down, I'll bring em' to you when I get back...

China beach R & R, it was quiet. The nights were peaceful and I slept for the first time without fear in six months. The days were relaxed, the ocean soothed my senses and I had time to write home and catch up on some well needed rest. I made the correct choice or so I thought. I bumped into a friend of mine while wandering around paradise. His name was Hooch, we were in the same platoon at Lejeune. He got orders along with a few others just before I volunteered for Nam. He said, “did you hear about Sal?” I said no what's up? He replied that he had been KIA a few weeks back and then he told me about another friend Ron, Who I was close to stateside, Hell we even went UA together and got busted to private. Hooch said Ron was KIA at Thua Thien, My heart sank. Maybe China Beach wasn't the right choice after all. Sleep eluded me and thoughts of my to Marine friends now KIA engulfed me. R & R was almost over and I made it to the PX to keep the promise I had made to Julio. I picked up a can of those English Sour balls and thought to myself, It will be good to get back to camp. Julio would like to know about Ron and Sal...

I got back to Phubai late in the evening, stowed my gear and hit the rack. I remember thinking to myself...“ In the morning I will find Julio, In the morning..”

The sweep was over, I made my way to Lima company's camp. They had been hit hard while out but they were back. It was good to see a few friendly faces. Hey Marine I shouted, point me the way to Corporal Vargas, I got something for him. The Marine looked at me with a look I had seen too many times before. He looked down at the ground unable to speak. I took his arm and shook him, I repeated the question...Where is Julio? He choked out, Julio's dead. he was KIA two days ago at Quang Tri. I dropped to my knees, stunned. I left the candy in the dirt, mumbled something like, you keep this, got up and walked away. I was dazed, all I could say and think was, this son of a bitch of a God forsaken place has killed Julio, mother fucker! When will it stop, tears flowed and I said, This means sumthin'... This means everything...


Richard D. Preston

Page created: Sunday, 28 May 2000



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