Most Memorable Vietnam Experience
Getting busted for pot, had to be my most memorable Vietnam experience. I had just began my second extension, a little over 5 months away from a 6 month "early out". I had already been in Vietnam for over 19 months, I had seen everyone come in and I had been the re when it was only considered important that you do your job. It was well known that the majority of military enlisted men smoked pot. But the 569th company was getting very "stateside", and we had been warned that the times were a'changing. The new C.O. a skin-headed, paratrooper trained, never smiling Captain Bierman had a reputation that had preceded him. We had pretty much quit smoking in the barracks by the n, so we took a little walk that afternoon.
There were five of us out there, sitting on the stairs of the the n empty Korean barracks a few hundred yards from our company area. It was a warm balmy evening, just at dusk and if I recall correctly we were celebrating the return from R & R of Taggert and Nealon. We were breaking in a new waterpipe and power hitting off of a toilet paper roll tube with multiple joints sticking out of it. We were having a grand old time, just talkin' and jokin' when the MP's jeep pulled up at the bottom of the steps. We all quickly and discreetly pushed the offending paraphanelia off the steps so it fell through the space to the ground below. But I new I was a goner. I had a joint in my fatiques pocket, and I figured o the rs did too. We all had our army/hippie accessories, the granny glasses, the hair and mustaches that pushed the limits, the bracelets and peace sign pendants hanging around our necks. We were obviously "a threat" to the military establishment. The gung-ho, little, lifer corporal from the 505th MP's, whose jeep blocked any chance of exit from the stairwell, was only too happy to see to it that we would pay for our evil ways. We were picked up by our carto warrant officer and Captain Bierman at the MP holding tank and taken back to the company area. We were placed on total restriction and told that our punishment would be swift and hard.
I was a Sp5 and was the ranking person in the group. I received a Field Grade Article 15, busting me from E-5 to E-4, the maximum without a court martial. The other guys E-4's and below were taken all the way down to E-1. We lost a bunch of pay for I believe 6 months, and received 30 days hard labor, and 60 days restriction to the company area. We looked at it as a typical military reaction -- did not change our ways -- and even smoked pot while doing our hard labor - often paying the Vietnamese kids to fill bags for us while we enjoyed time on the beach. (best place to get sand)
It also caused me to get sent back to the states with just a few weeks short to be able to get my long planned early out. Bierman and staff surely felt that would be the worst punishment they could give me. I spent the last 6 months and some odd days at the 66th Topo Corp in Fort Bragg NC. as an E-4, guard duty, KP, and lots of details...but it wasn't bad. I met some more great guys, and had it pretty easy because I was a Nam vet. If I had it to do all over again, I would do it the same. I don't smoke any more and haven't since the mid-eighties. I never had a drug "problem". But smokin' it in Nam was great times. It was a bonding force, almost like sharing a religion, and I will never forget the times I had and the friends I got to know.
I have lived in Las Vegas with my wife, Christine and our two cats since March of 1994. We left Los Angeles after the riots, earthquakes, mudslides and all. In L.A. we had been living in the loft of our photo studio, paying out a small fortune every month in rent and still living in a pretty tough area just a bit south of Hollywood.
I am in the Internet business since 1995. We do photo and video licensing, outside web development, site design and hosting services.
I was a hot-rodder before the Army and Vietnam but after that I kinda got out of cars, and they never gained such an important spot in my life again. Several years without a car made me realize that there were so many other things in life. I still like cars a lot and we drive a bit of an enthusiasts car, but it is kind of "old man's hot rod".
I would very much like to see some of the old 569th gang again. I am sure several of you are in Las Vegas every year. Please drop us a note if you are coming. It would be great to talk about old times. We are also contemplating a trip to Nha Trang sometime, and it would be nice if we could organize a reunion in the next years.
Life after Vietnam:
After my tour in the Army, I got a job working as an apprentice in a large printing company and worked as a stripper/cameraman for the better part of the 70's while using my G.I. bill to study Photography, Design, Art History, and Drawing at Santa Monica College.
I took a portfolio of nudes to Playboy and Penthouse magazines in 1977. Playboy showed interest in some of my models but wanted their photographers to shoot the girls -- this was not what I had in mind. I wanted to shoot.
Penthouse on the other hand showed interest in me and encouraged me to find my own "personal style". By the middle of 1978 I was a regular contributor to Penthouse, and became a "Staff" photographer in 1979.
In 1981 I was lucky enough to go to Germany and help with the start up the new German edition of Penthouse. I got on quite well with the publishers there, and over the next three years I traveled to Europe seven different times and photographed over thirty layouts. During this time I syndicated self produced pictorials to many smaller publications as well as to both the American and International editions of Penthouse.
I was a staff photographer for American Penthouse from late 1979 to early 1984 and for the German edition from its inception in 1981 thru 1986. I lived in Munich Germany from early '84 to late '87. In 1986 I began working for the German edition of Playboy. This turned out to be more of a major turning point in my life than I had ever imagined. When I went to Playboy I needed a German speaking production coordinator and makeup artist of my own. One year later, the girl I hired to help me, also became my wife and life partner. We are still together to this day.
In late 1987 We decided to change course - leave the centerfold photography - and go back to Los Angeles and work as a freelance commercial photographer. Once back in LA the early days were spent mainly testing, doing portraits, actors and models portfolios, and promotional photos.
It was a good period for me. I made little money but did some of my best photography work of all time.
In the early 90's Strip Bars and "Gentleman's Clubs" became a big business and the men's magazine's flourished like never before. I began producing regularly for the men's magazine markets once again. It became the busiest time of my entire photo career.
In 1995 we decided to give the Internet a try. I got involved with computers in the early 90's and have always been interested in them. The internet business has been a constant battle and the hardest I have ever had to work in my life. It is very competitive and incredibly cut-throat, and has made quite a cynic of me. The photography and magazine market have changed dramatically with the ease of digital imaging and internet publishing, and I no longer shoot as a business. The adult industry has anyhow gotten a bit too perverse for an old guy like myself. :-) The new wave of "Porn" has made my type of photography seem almost "quaint and charming" - and old fashioned. I guess I'll leave it up to the new "pups" from now on.
It has been a fun and interesting run. I have done some stupid things, but ultimately am satisfied with what I have accomplished and where my life has gone. With my wife Christine, I hope to continue for years to come..
We have a fantasy of someday moving to Portugal, Spain or the South of France. Christine would like to be closer to her family - within driving distance - but living in climate like Germany's is no longer an option. We like the Spanish islands in the Mediterranean, and would like to spend time tere. We could also be very happy staying here in Las Vegas, fixing our home the way we would like it, and enjoying the parts of Las Vegas we now only see when guests are in town. The most important thing we can hope to do is have good health. Christine is 13 years younger than I am, and I would hope my health stays well so I would never become a burden on her. I am a workaholic for now, I work hard and long hours, and I hope to have our business in a position where it can support us, and give us financial freedom in the future.