Another Man’s Fatigues

Military dog tags

Pass It On is a new, bi-weekly peek inside the heart and mind of Francis Pass…


Click the play button to listen to Francis Pass tell this story.

For a while there in Vietnam, I walked around in another man’s fatigues

Sergeant Aue was a draftee… and one of the original boat people. He didn’t much care for the Army but, there he was, in the middle of a daggum war in the South part of Vietnam.

Sargent Aue was an armorer. That’s what we called the guy who fixed our weapons.

He also worked in the Supply Tent. It was just the Supply Sergeant and Sergeant Aue.

Before getting drafted, Sargent Aue worked for the Benjamin Firearm company up in northern Illinois. At least that’s what I think it was called. My memory is a little fuzzy.

But one thing I do recall… out there in the boonies of Vietnam, everything was different.

military dog tags

A chopper would fly in a hot meal at night along with the mail bag, water, ammo, repaired weapons, and – every so often – clean fatigues.

Yes, I said “every so often.” Because, typically, we’d wear our fatigues for four or five days before we could change ’em.

We had a laundry service back at basecamp, but not out in the boonies.

As I recall, every man was issued five fatigues. That’s it. Five. The Army didn’t replace your fatigues as often as you would think. So, as you can imagine, they would wear out.

But that’s just the half of it.

When you wear the same set of fatigues for a week in the jungle, you smell in ways you never knew possible. But, so long as everyone else that you’re with is smelling just as bad, no one really notices.

military dog tags

Then, one day, it happened. Sargent Aue got his orders to go home.

When you got your orders, you had to turn in your weapon. Otherwise you could be court-martialed. (You could also be court-martialed for LOSING your weapon.) But, aside from your weapon, just about everything else could be left behind for the rest of the soldiers.

That’s when I saw them: a pair of clean, pressed fatigues with the name “Aue” stitched on the chest.

He left ‘em. I took ‘em.

Sergeant Aue was a little taller than me. But the difference in height wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

In the military, everyone was known by their last name. You would only identify your closest buddies by their first names.

For a while there in Vietnam, I walked around in another man’s fatigues. So instead of others calling me “Pass,” I was known to everyone else as “Aue.”

military dog tags

And that was okay with me.

You know, It’s the simple things in life that we so often take for granted. In this country, we are truly blessed.

Clean water flows on-demand from a tap.

Food is readably available on just about every corner.

Our homes are heated in the winter and cooled in the summer.

And we don’t have to wait five days to change our clothes.

The clothes on our back can easily be purchased or donated.

I’m mighty obliged to the man who donated his clothes to me way back when.

And I was proud to wear his name out there in the boonies.

Thank you, Sergeant Aue. Wherever you are.

And thank you for reading…

Francis Pass.

P.S. – Did you know the poncho was used during the Vietnam war to keep soldiers dry in the jungle and warm at night? We called ‘em Woobies. I wonder whatever happened to Sergeant Aue’s Woobie…

trees in a jungle