Gus. The guy whom I served with in Vietnam as a Marine combat correspondent. The goofy, flower-child in green fatigues. The guy who wrote a novel proclaimed by some as the finest work of fiction on the Vietnam War. The guy who always ordered a large milk and large Coke to go with his fast food. The guy who would get a $10,000 royalty check and a month later have to borrow money for a dinner.
Gustav Hasford will be remembered. He served his country in Vietnam. He wrote three worthy novels. And, as Bob Bayer said: "He got the greatest fine ever levied in the written history of library science.''
I grunt. I stand
up, ramrod straight. I tuck my chin into my Adam’s apple and I strut
to the edge of the bunker top, fists-on-hips like a Parris Island
I say, “LISTEN UP, MAGGOT!” I do an about-face. March back, about-face again. Looking sharp, standing tall, lean and mean. “DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOREVER?”
I’m a stone-cold comedian yelling punch lines into No Man’s Land. It's a midnight comedy show in the last days of Khe Sanh. I am show business for the shadow-things that crawl and slither out in the darkness beyond our wire. At any moment forty thousand heavily-armed, opium-crazedCommunist individuals can come in screaming from out of the swirling fog.
I say, “DAMN THE TORPEDOES, FULL SPEED AHEAD! I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT! GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! DON'T TREAD ON ME! SEND MORE CONG! SEND MORE CONG!”
I wait for a reply. I listen. But nothing happens.