Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Hooch

The Jackson Room is located on the first floor above the Doubletree Hotel lobby in downtown Nashville. We called this room "the hooch" for our gatherings because this term was used in Vietnam by GI's to refer to shacks at base camp.  However, there was no hooch for Alpha Troop in 1966.  Alpha Troop departed base camp at Phan Rang on 1/5/66 and didn't return.  

The hooch remained open all day and late into the night as veterans met to talk, eat snack foods, consume beverages, look at old photos albums, and watch a DVD of film footage taken in 'Nam by one vet from Texas.  Food and beverages were replenished regularly by a devoted member and his wife who were from Wisconsin.  They took great interest and put forth much effort to make certain we were cared for.  The couple also managed the raffle sales and prizes. 

A business meeting was led by the association president one morning with agenda and presentation data delivered by PowerPoint and digital projection. Among other reports, the meeting included the treasurer's report on financials and discussions about open positions. Ample time was given to members seated at each table to make comments or ask questions.  

The only input I offered was near the end when "other business" came up on the agenda.  I spoke to the members about substitute teaching 301 days in high schools since my retirement 3 years ago.  I pointed out that I've noticed an interest by today's teenagers, history teachers, and junior ROTC leaders to have Vietnam veterans speak to them when their curriculum in US History brought them to the Vietnam War.  I commented about the invitations I received to speak to classes about my participation in that war.  This interest by them is unusual compared to my generation.  Most boomers and older people generally showed little interest in hearing from Vietnam veterans.  I progressed through a university and a career in corporate management of big business and few people ever asked about my experiences.  

(I didn't say this to Alpha Troop, but my experience has been that whenever Vietnam came up in conversation, the other person quickly remarked how wrong it had been for our country to enter that far away war . . . blah, blah, blah.  I always thought these were inappropriate and insensitive comments to say to one of their country's warriors who fought there.  This type of comment should be directed to policy makers, representatives, or historians. Perhaps your experiences as a veteran are different from mine.)  

The modern teenager today is different from us and I've discovered them to be better quality than my generation when we were their age.  I encouraged Alpha Troop members to gauge the interest in their local high schools and be proactive to sub or become a guest speaker to these young people.  One member from Wisconsin followed me by speaking about his experiences with high schools for many years. 

The president concluded the meeting with an classy touch.  He had a gift for everyone, but instead of distributing the gift like a teacher passing out a class assignment paper, he invited anyone who chose to receive it to come forward after the meeting.  When that happened, he handed each member a tag and chain and embraced the person or shook his hand.  I thought his presentation of the gift was a class act.  The picture below is the tag called Shield of Strength.  The reverse side expresses a commitment to the scripture verse from the book of Joshua chapter 1 verse 9 in the Holy Bible.  The verse can be read by clicking here.  The shape of the tag and style of chain are like a military dog tag. 

Mementos were for-sale in the hooch. I purchased a bumper sticker, a DVD, and a challenge coin struck with a  Screaming Eagles shoulder patch insignia, 17th Cavalry crest and guidon. The coins are sequentially numbered on the obverse side.  The bronze coin or medallion measures 1.5 inches in diameter and weighs 26.38 grams.  I plan to send this coin, number 188, to the medic who was in my platoon in '66.  We've made contact with each other for the first time in 42 years. 

On 7/20 I'll comment about the remembrance service.

Have a good week!


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