his is a story about a toothache. Who in their right mind would write a story about a toothache?!! Well, who said a Vietnam Vet is in their right mind, and have you ever had a toothache in combat? One glorious day at LZ Stinson, a very long time ago when my waist was smaller around than my chest (I think it was 1969), one of my molars started to ache. Since we were out of Manila Bay Rum (THANK HEAVENS!), we decided to handle this in a boring, conventional manner. So, my CO let me catch the next chopper to the rear to see a dentist.
I was waiting outside our perimeter for the chopper when the absolute meanest, gnarliest, nastiest, battle scarred soldier I have ever seen wandered out of the bush and settled about 20 meters from me. He was South Vietnamese Special Forces who was probably 30 going on 75, and I mean to say I was relieved the chopper was early. When the Chopper landed, Santa Clause popped out (it was the week before Christmas)-you could have knocked me over with a feather. Talk about a range of emotions in a short period of time!
We, excluding Mr. Terrible, were flying along peacefully when all of a sudden an alarm (a very loud alarm with big flashing RED lights) began wailing and the chopper started dropping like a ton of bricks. Pure terror! However, I quickly realized I was the only excited person onboard (and excited I was!). About halfway to the ground I figured we weren't shot down because the door gunner didn't miss even one chew on his wad of tobacco. Hurrah - we would most likely survive! Sure enough, we stopped freefalling at tree top level and made it to the rear where I was MOST happy to beat a fast exit without asking what had gone on.
After all that, I was actually looking forward to sitting in the relative peace and quiet of a dentistís chair. Well, the tooth had to come out and what turned out to be a rough extraction was underway. You see, I insisted on holding my M16 to keep it from getting stolen (a problem in this particular rear area) and was wearing two bandoleers of ammo (about 200 rounds) . The "assistant" was Vietnamese, so far as I could tell couldnít speak a word of English (unless you count her pointing at my rifle and saying ěNumber 10î as English), and was scared to death of me, my rifle, and the menace we posed. The combination got her extremely nervous and she kept dropping things all over, including pieces of my tooth down my shirt. At some point the dentist (who was an ARMY dentist for a reason!) also got rattled. Well, to make a long story short, I got hacked good! I needed an orderly to help me find a General to sign the pain medication prescription since it was so strong, and was ordered to bed for 4 days. After 3 days I still couldnít eat and was ordered to stay another 4 days.
Since I was bored half to death, wasn't being positively impacted by our ace medical team, and had a shorthanded battery waiting for me, my 1st Sergeant and I contrived a scheme to get me back to the LZ. We drove about 20 miles down a "mostly" secured stretch of Highway 1 beautiful but dangerous at the time) to catch the only chopper to LZ Stinson that day. My concern for our safety was such that I didnít breath the whole way and they needed a crowbar to get my fingers from around my M16 when we got there! (I hadnít thought about it before, but doesnít that PROVE Iím not menacing?) You know, itís a testament to the Army that we had to leave a safe rear area and drive 20 miles along a mostly secure road to reach a landing pad in the middle of nowhere. Go figure!
Well anyway, the chopper finally came, the ride "home" and the pain medication did not mix, and the pilot was at least as happy as I when we landed at good old LZ Stinson. RELIEF! The only bad things I had to face there were the critters, the food, and the enemy.
I WILLED my remaining teeth to behave properly for the rest of my tour, and it was 10 years before I could bring myself to see another dentist. Can you blame me?
Creedence calls. PEACE!
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