The Things I Carried

By Bob Kilpatrick

Tongue in cheek “Things I Carried” that I wrote for some guys on the old C$erve Military Forum years ago. Bantering with a bunch of grunts, I had sworn we had the helicopter filled with little rearview pine trees to take care of the grunt smell, and nobody knew whether to believe me or not. I think I told them I wore one around my neck.

Back to that little cardboard pine tree on the helicopter dashboard, to be totally, absolutely, completely, 100% serious for just this once (honest), there really would not have been enough room left on our ship’s dashboard to squeeze in even a little smelly pine tree to take care of the geshtunken.

All available space was taken by:

  • our new AC’s shiny new Hong Kong hand-painted plastic Jesus, self-adhesive. Don’t laugh, we figured if it worked in cars, then it might work in helicopters;
  • a Mezuzah that was there before all of us ever were. I didn’t know much about it but, hey, why take a chance? Maybe Father Hurley and Sister Mary Alice were wrong;
  • the little magnetic crucifix that wouldn’t stick to anything in the ship, always sliding around, getting in the way, but nobody wanted to be the one who threw it away;
  • one former peter pilot’s lucky rabbit’s foot (got his cherry busted when they bounced a round off his chicken plate, just missed with a couple others, and he instantly became a maintenance officer);
  • the Miraculous Medal that the last crew chief stole from a hooker in Kuala Lumpur. He never thought there was any contradiction there;
  • the bronze-colored plastic Buddha we filched from some sap at a supply pad in Kontum while he was busy double-checking the count on the beer we had loaded. He missed counting the cases that went straight through the ship, out the other side, and into the battery compartment. They kept trying to send us the rotgut Falstaff, so we kept stealing their Schlitz;
  • the scorched and bubbled plastic Madonna that Eggy saved and stuck in his pocket as he was putting out a helicopter on fire on the flight line. So it didn’t work before, maybe it’ll work for us;
  • our spare lucky rabbit’s foot, bought and installed right after the first hydraulic failure/running landing. Sure didn’t want to do that twice;
  • my grandmother’s Rosary;
  • our spare spare super lucky rabbit’s foot, bought after the second hydraulic failure/running landing. So we made it through two without burning to death, we really didn’t want to ever have to do that three damn times;
  • a four leaf clover someone’s mom or sister sent;
  • my cousin’s St. Christopher medal;
  • half of some chaplain’s Scapular, with a Snoopy pin stuck through it. Mildly surprised (as were we) that he had lived through our third running landing, he tumbled out of the ship when we finally stopped sliding, puked into the foam on the Pleiku Air Base runway, sprinkled everything with holy water, pinned up the Scapular, and without a word went staggering off across the airfield on an azimuth for the O-Club. I stopped buying so-called lucky rabbits’ feet and began to consider the possibility that we might have a hydraulic problem;
  • a twisted up copper wire ‘Yard charm the last gunner left (He suddenly quit flying when they shot one of his toes off with a single AK round straight up thru the sole of his boot. New Yorker, he figured they’d probably shoot off something more important next time);
  • my cherry gunner’s glow-in-the-dark plastic Jesus that drove the firefly pilots freakin’ crazy in the dark;
  • the …
Bob flew out of Pleiku in '69:
Bob flew out of Pleiku in ’69:

Not to suggest that helicopter crews, in general, were superstitious or fraidy-scared or anything, you understand.