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Dead to the World

By Pat Lisi, Southern Utah Vets Aid

Many of my Marine Corps buddies still think this story is a crock of doggie doo-doo.  But it’s the truth.  It’s a story of how I spent the first couple days of my week-long R&R (Rest and Relaxation) in Japan at the 3/4ths mark of my 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam.

I went Vietnam in July of 1968 and was assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (Echo 2/5).  From the very first day in the bush which for me was July 18th, I knew it was going to be an exciting, terrifying, arduous if not onerous adventure.  Around mid-morning that crazy day I lost my first platoon commander, 1st Lieutenant William Jones.  I wouldn’t have remembered his name except for how common a name he had.  Also killed that morning were 5 other members of Echo Company who were unlucky enough to be huddled around Lt. Jones when the VC triggered a command-donated, booby-trapped .155 MM artillery round they had rigged at the edge of the hamlet.

From there things got even wilder and I matured very quickly in a short amount of time as 2/5 conducted Operation after Operation in our TAOR (Tactical Area of Responsibility).  There would be many more booby-traps and lots more Marines sent out in body bags, or patched up with field dressings, eye patches and tourniquets.  Every day was another exercise in stamina against the miles we humped in full gear under a relentless, boiling sun, and when we ended up in a fire fight with the enemy it was almost a relief to be able to stop humping and actually stay in one place for awhile, even at the expense of more casualties.  Days of patrolling, inserting in and out of LZs hastily created in elephant grass or at the edges of rice paddies, long miserable nights running LPs (Listening Posts) and ambushes, and even some nighttime patrols, took every ounce of spare energy from my body, mind and spirit.

By the time I got to Yokosuka, Japan for R&R in late April, 1969 I was completely and thoroughly exhausted.  In fact I was way beyond exhaustion; I was beat, done-in, pooped, fatigued; almost to the level of physical hazard.  The only thing that appealed to me at the moment was SLEEP.  And now we’re at the part of the story where my Marine pals had trouble believing when I returned to them 8 days later.

I must confess that the opportunities to  raise hell, drink to unconsciousness, troll the bars and houses of ill-repute for ladies of the evening, eat to the point of  insatiable gluttony, and partake in all sorts of other vile and borderline legal activities while leaving only a couple hours a day for sleep, were numerous beyond belief.  When I was dropped off by cab at my hotel, the name of which totally escapes me, I immediately sought my room, and the bed.  There was ample prospect for “companionship” right there in the lobby and the bar at the hotel, but I wasn’t even tempted.  In fact, I was pestered by a rather pleasant and well – framed Japanese female right there at the registration desk who tried her best to make a deal to be my personal “tour guide”, day and night, during my stay in her fine city.  But, I unequivocally said, “No”, turning her down several times before she finally relented and allowed me to carry my war-torn, slumping body up two flights of stairs to the floor where my room, and bed, invitingly beckoned me.

Here’s where things get interesting and my Marines start doubting me:  In my totally exhaustive state I forgot to lock the door behind me.  I had tossed my small suitcase on a chair, stripped down to my skivvies, and slid between the white sheets of the one-person bed in the middle of the room.  Oh, it was so sweet!  It had been many months since I last experienced this superb feeling of comfort and elation.  It was warm and cozy and I didn’t give a you-know-what about anything at that moment. I shut my eyes and was out, hopefully for as many hours, or days, as it would take to fully satisfy the need for deep, uninterrupted slumber.

Somewhere in the middle of dreaming that I was home in Madison, Wisconsin and hanging out with my high school buddies drinking beer at the “Anchor Inn,” I was stirred from my REM state by the feeling of something, or someone, putting pressure on the small bed where I had hoped would be my one and only sanctuary and salvation for many, many hours.  Through half-opened eyelids I barely made out the unmistakable form of the aforementioned Japanese woman who had propositioned me earlier in the hotel lobby.  I’ll kind of leave the next few lines completely to your naughty and dirty imaginations. But I will say that she had now gone quite a bit further in her attempts to provide the amount of inducement that should have caused a man, any man, to surrender to her prowess; especially given the fact that it had been so many months of war with only the pledge of returning to that war, and with the prospects of perhaps getting killed back there sometime during the rest of my tour, before having the chance to return home.

By sheer will, and heavily influenced by my desperate need for sleep of course, I was able to resist this vixen, and after quite a few attempts to change my mind she got off the bed, put the items of clothing back on that had apparently accidentally fallen off her, and she finally left the room.  On the way out she called me a couple of derogatory epitaphs but I didn’t care – I was finally free to do nothing!  One last thing, though, and that was to follow her to the door and lock it when she was safely out in the hall.

Much to the delight of my Marines back in the squad when I rejoined them in Nam, my report on the other 5 days of my vacation to Japan gave them hope that I was still a fun-loving, red-blooded American male.  Those 5 days were actually rather sleepless as I remember; after all, I didn’t want to get too used to sleeping like a log in Japan, knowing I was headed back to the war where my body, mind and spirit needed to adjust to the hardships and the exhaustion again.  And, they did.

I still fondly remember those first two days in Yokosuka, Japan and I’ve come to appreciate the experience in a unique sort of way.  Now, whenever I’m having a tough time getting to sleep for whatever reason, I let my mind drift back to that time when I was completely wiped out, lying between those clean, white sheets in a hotel in Japan.  I think about how nice it felt and how soon I fell into deep sleep. And then I’m out ‘like a lamp’ and I’m not worried about anything.



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