Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The fathers and grandfathers of Vietnam troops went off to World War I, World War II and Korea knowing they wouldn't be back till it was over over there. But Vietnam troops went for a set tour (a year for soldiers, 13 months for Marines). Most kept calendars to tick off the 365 days. Short timer calendars, they were called. Some were simple calendars; others featured elaborate sketches of women which more often than not reflected a lack of familiarity with the original source material. But those paper calendars were carefully kept up to date and any solider or Marine could tell you with great precision how many days were left in their tour. When you got close to the date you were going home you called yourself "short." As in, "I'm so short I have to look up to Chesty Puller." I recall the moment the wheels of the plane carrying me and several hundred other vets lifted off from Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon -- just at lift off most guys on the plane whispered "short."

Not much has changed. Most of the Marines at Naw Zad can tell you exactly how long they've been there. How much longer they have to go is still a bit up in the air. But unlike the troops in Vietnam who kept paper calendars, these guys are high tech. Many have their iPods programmed to tell them how many days they've served in Afghanistan. We call this progress.

I left the guys last week and now I'm back in the states. I want to report to them that the beer back here is still cold and the women still look fabulous. I hope to be at Cherry Point and Lejeune to shoot their return. It was hard leaving. I always feel like I'm deserting them. But since no serious moment in a combat zone goes without being mocked, here is how I handled it. As I was going around saying my goodbyes, I'd tell a Marine, "Now don't get hurt while I'm gone." Pause for one beat. "That would screw up my movie." The Marines got the joke but I notice my civilian friends don't think that's funny. Oh, well ...


  1. Glad you are back, safe and sound. I was wondering if you will keep us posted on when we can expect to see the final product...and possibly purchase a copy? I realize the editing could be a full time job, just working around that "F" word!
    I hope you ARE at the Homecoming! You wouldn't want to miss that...
    p.s..I thought it was funny)

  2. You've done a wonderful job in your posts on this blog.....please let us know when all your diligent work and time will be aired! My family is looking forward to viewing it!!
    Thank-you bunches! :)

  3. Thanks you so much for being with our boys over there..I just knew you would get attached..they are a special bunch!!! Of course I am a little bias because the "Chicken Little" dude is my only son...I totally get the joke.....I would not want any of them to mess up your movie!!!! I sure hope to meet you soon up at LeJeune...I'll be the one with cookies and the rolling cooler filled with lots of food!!!!

  4. OK, it's settled -- Marine families have the same screwed up sense of humor as their Marines.

    This blog will be the best place to find out when the film will air. "Spring" is the best I can offer for now.

  5. Robert! What a great story! I can't wait to see the finished product.