Pass It On is a new, bi-weekly peek inside the heart and mind of Francis Pass…
Hello in there. What’s on your mind today? Like two choppers passing in the sunlit sky, I’m thinking about an old friend today.
I’m not much for destruction, but this was war and I was experiencing first-hand the awesome power of our United States military.
Our platoon had just finished an assault on the end of the runway at Bien Hoa airbase. The MP’s had taken heavy fire. H-e-a-v-y fire! We took the end of that runway all the way to the tree line. Boy, if you could have seen it, all of those antennas and ACAV’s. It was, for war purposes, a magnificent sight. I almost wish I had a picture of it.
We finished our assault on that tree line and came back and set up next to the MP’s bunker when I heard this voice chattering in the background. “Bailey”, I said like that, “Is that you?” He hollered back at me, “Yeah!” I said, “What in the world brings you out here?” He said, “Oh my God, Pass!”
Bailey and I had gone to radio operator school together. The odds of us meeting up at Bien Hoa airbase was about as good as a black cat picking the winning Powerball. It was as if the Good Lord himself had seen to it that, amidst the darkness of those days, I could see a little light in the face of friendship.
I was happy: happy to see Bailey, and Bailey was even happier to see us. So happy, he asked if he could stay out with us that night.
I laughed. “Stay out here? With us? Where are you from?” I asked.
“Those barracks back there,” he said.
“And you want to stay out here with us?”
“Heck yes,” he said. “You see my weapon, I don’t have any ammo.”
Laughter filled the air. Back in Bailey’s barracks, radio operators weren’t given any ammo… true story… but it’s a different story for a different day…
The laughter between old friends continued the next night as Bailey took me out for my birthday. That’s right… I ran into Bailey right before my birthday… talk about a God-wink… so we walked over to the NCO Club for a steak dinner, and of course, I had my 45 and my M16.
Bailey asked me, he says, “They let you carry these anywhere?
“We don’t go anyplace without ‘em”, I said.
Now, Bailey just knew we wouldn’t be able to get into the NCO Club with these weapons.
And I said, “Well, my weapon ain’t a leaving me.”
And we’d come in and I guess they recognized my Blackhorse attire, and said, “You guys come on here.”
Ol’ Bailey couldn’t believe it. And we laughed some more.
That night I got a T-bone steak, a pile of French fries and a couple of long-awaited ice-cold beverages as our laughter lit up the room, Bailey and me… (pause)
I never saw him again after that night. Our Cavary unit went to Widow’s Village the next day.
Was that 51 years ago or just yesterday? What happens to time in our minds?
When I ask you… “what old friend are you thinking about right now?” Who comes to mind? Right now, who are you thinking about?
Might I recommend you give’em a call?
Send’em a text.
Type’em up an email.
Hop in your car and go visit’em.
Or, place your hand at the top of their tombstone.
And say hello in there… not sure what you’re waiting on… we never do know for sure, do we? Maybe we’re waiting for a God-wink…
And maybe this is it…
Thanks for reading,
Oh and PS – If you’d like to see a real wartime helicopter, visit the Herrin VFW, they got one on display there at the top of the pole.