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War Stories

The Birth of Robin

Robert "Bob" Graham

This is an essay that Bob wrote in Nam about a special personal celebration

I vividly recall one special personal celebration that took place at Cu Chi after Majors Prosser, Squires, Pick, O’day and I moved into the new majors’ grass hooch completed near the end of April/May 66. About 10 to 15 June, upon returning from a late afternoon fire team mission, I had finished a quick after action chat at the Troop operations. The mail clerk passed me a large plain brown manila envelope. Affixed was an official Government Return Address to which I gave little heed. Thinking it was associated with some ongoing career manipulations that I was trying to accomplish, I set it aside on my hand crafted personal field desk, a footlocker on its side atop four salvaged rocket ammo boxes. I’d read that stuff after chow.

I opened it after dark in my corner of the grass hooch, under a grim, dim, bare 40 watt bulb. There was a nice congratulatory letter from the Fort Sill Hospital Commander and an 8 X 10 photo of a newborn baby. The photo was Robin, my third child. The U.S. Army Official Baby Picture was a courtesy of U.S. Army Hospital, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The official letter had arrived before Diana’s, penned the same day. It is hard to explain my stunned reaction. Even though I knew it was going to happen, and was awaiting news of the event, I was completely blown away.

I couldn’t talk to anyone! I went for a walk in the hot humid dusk, north down dusty Cu Chi Main Street toward the M-107 175 mm Gun Battery, past the long tubes pointed North West toward Hobo Woods, crews preparing for later H & I (Harassment and Interdiction) fires. Neat stacks of propellant canister were beside short rows of the huge 147lb projectiles. The guns always seemed to be active just when sleep was finally coming during the hot humid nights. The muzzle blast of these high velocity guns firing their 147 lb HE projectile with charge three, for ranges of 20 miles raised the dust for 100’s of yards.

I passed on around through the Centaur Corral’s, helicopter parking pads. The individual sand bagged mortar protection revetments silhouette in the evening’s diminishing light like silent protective tomes. The Corral was a bustling area after evening chow. D Troop 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry had 26 Choppers. New Armed UH-B gunships, with an improved 540 rotor head; UH-1H Slicks, and the H-23 Raven light scouts that we wore out daily.
Every helicopter must be checked by one or more crewmen and readied for the night or next day’s missions. I wandered aimlessly, sort of avoiding personal contact of the bevy of crewmen, maintenance-rearming. Refueling laced the still air with the familiar light fragrance of JP-4. Centaurs, all performing their end of day maintenance duties. I evaded south, back toward 25th Infantry Division HQ.

I knew there would still be left over hot coffee at the Centaur mess and I picked up a mug. The smell was pleasant. There was the continuing early evening bustle of troopers passing sort of helter-skelter. Multi radios with different stations blending, a cover of individual activities.

Nearby I found a semi, isolated place to sit down on the ground and leaned back on the sand bags at the side of the mess tent. I sat motionless, perspiring, staring at the next wall of sandbags. At no other time during my tour did I feel so detached from reality. I was oblivious to the oppressive hot humid air. I had not allowed this introspective mentality to happen as yet but now I felt stifled by loneliness. Trying to reconcile my separation from my family at that moment was nearly impossible.

It was dark by then, just a thin bright line of the closing sunset to the west toward Cambodia. One of the late duty troopers, probably not more than 20, working in the mess came out and asked if I would like a hot refill, he had just brewed a fresh after hour’s batch. He poured and asked “Is something wrong Sir”. I told him that my wife just had a new daughter! He really brightened up. His reply was challenging. ”I bet you’re really proud, and especially of your wife, in that she is able to handle it all without you”. He assured me,” You really do not have anything to worry about.” The young man said the right thing! Inferring, don’t be a poor pitiful Pearl! What a reality check!

There was Diana at Fort Sill/Lawton Oklahoma, with a three and two year old, and now with a newborn. She has a baby: plus handling all those arrangements, and me down in the dumps because I was away. Back to the real world guy, life does need to Go On, OK!! One just has to look at it properly. I thanked him for the good coffee and knew what I needed to do. Back at the hut the little light bulb seemed brighter than before. I was actually happy; I had reason to celebrate. I wrote a long letter to Diana for the morning mail. I was upbeat by then and tried my best to reinforce her for doing such a great job. The picture, Robin, was so pretty and tiny! Celebrate!