Ain’t Released Me Yet
Memoirs of a REMF
Copyright© 2016 by Robert B. Martin, IV
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. I have attempted to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.
Letters From Fourth Graders
“Children make your life important.” .........Erma Bombeck
I was promoted to SP5 (Specialist 5th Class—E-5) in February and my Primary MOS was changed from 13E20 (Fire Direction Control) to 71B30 (Clerk Typist). I was still somewhat ashamed to be nothing more glamorous than a clerk and would rather have kept my 13E20 MOS. I did continue to tell anyone who asked that my MOS was 13E20. I guess I still do sometimes because I’m embarrassed to say I was a clerk-typist. Maybe I should say, “Combat typist!” That sounds better. I learned that term from my son’s father-in-law, also a Vietnam War veteran.
My promotions had come much faster than normal. All of the Time-in-Service and Time-in-Grade requirements were waived because the clerk’s position was an E-5 slot. That was fine by me. Once I made E-5, my pay increased to $254.70 a month plus $105.00 dependent’s allowance. The foreign duty and hostile fire pay did not change. It all came to a total of $440.70 a month, about four times my trainee monthly pay. I continued drawing only $40 cash a month throughout my entire tour. It helped that a service man’s pay in Vietnam was tax-exempt and that postage from Vietnam to the World was free. All you had to do was write the word “FREE” in the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.
I was still losing a significant amount of potential income in the Army. My SP5 pay was less than half of what my civilian pharmacist pay would have been. I considered the lost income a donation to Uncle Sam. At least there was no income tax.
Our battery began receiving letters from a fourth grade glass in California in late 1969, and I still have a few of them from February, 1970. The class adopted our battery as a project for the school year and wrote to us every few weeks with questions they wanted us to answer.
When these cute letters arrived, I would post them on the HQ bulletin for all to see. Each packet we received contained a letter from each of the forty-two students. Most of them also included some artwork, and one kid even sent a rabbit’s foot for good luck. The members of the battery didn’t pay much attention to them, so I tried to answer as many of them as I could. They asked a lot of questions, which I would usually answer in one letter to the class as a whole. Their questions were very simple, such as, “What do you do for entertainment?” I did not mention the porn movies when I answered that question. Several letters mentioned a “Drug Club” they had formed and cautioned us against using drugs.
Continued in Chapter 42, Another Birthday in the Army.…