Since the mid to late eighties, an unusual phenomenon had been noticed: people who had never served in the military were declaring themselves to be Vietnam veterans, and real veterans were claiming to have served with elite units to enhance their service.
One study noted that while thirty-five hundred soldiers were said to have served as LRRP/ Rangers over the course of the war, more than five thousand veterans have since claimed to have served in LRRP/ Ranger units.
So it was no surprise when attendees to the weekend event showed up with hats, berets, T-shirts, and uniform jackets bearing logos or patches of elite units. There were also a few attendees dressed in battle-dress uniforms of foreign military units, including those of the French Foreign Legion.
Behind the Lines magazine, the journal of U.S. Military Special Operations, had set up a booth at the show, and its executive editor, Gary Linderer, had invited its editors and contributors to attend. Among those at the booth during the long weekend were Gary Linderer, Kenn Miller, Reynel Martinez, Larry Chambers, Greg Walker, Doc Norton—all veterans who’d served in elite units—and others who were talking with veterans, answering questions, telling war stories, or signing their books.
As the magazine’s “humorist,” I was there as well, looking for unusual stories.
One advantage of events like that is that I knew I wouldn’t have to search very hard to find them. That time I was lucky because the story came to me.
“Magazine, huh?” one visitor asked, stopping in front of the table and checking out the booth and staring at a stack of back issues of Behind the Lines.
"Yes, we are,” I said. “Here! Take a complimentary copy.” I handed him one.
Linderer and Martinez were taking a coffee break while Kenn Miller and I manned the booth. However, much of Miller’s attention was taken up by a Taiwanese film crew whose members were surprised and pleased to find an American who was able to answer their questions in their native tongue. Two of them, in fact; Miller is fluent in several Chinese dialects.
"What do you do at the magazine?” the visitor asked, studying my name tag. “A senior editor,” I said, “which just means I’m old. You a vet?”
"Nam,” he replied. I nodded. He was overweight and balding and wore what hair remained in a ponytail beneath a battered green beret.
"Special Forces, huh?” I said. This time he nodded. “You with the Group or SOG?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Green berets,” he said.
I sighed. He was dressed in jeans, frayed jungle boots, a T-shirt that read HONK IF YOU’RE HORNY, and a jungle fatigue shirt with a variety of patches sewn on the sleeves. There were two colorful rows of combat ribbons that said he had seen combat but that he didn’t know which order it came in. That was his first mistake. The red-white-and-blue-striped Silver Star award was placed after an Air Medal, below a Purple Heart, and next to a Good Conduct Medal. His Silver Star award also had a V device indicating that the award was for valor, which was another mistake, because the Silver Star is awarded for gallantry, which in the military scope of things ranks a step above valor. It is not awarded with a V device. A blue-and-white Combat Infantryman’s Badge was pinned just above the ribbons with a flat silver oblong badge. The flat badge had a triangle in its center, and I didn’t recognize it at first. Then I smiled seconds later, realizing that I had seen it on the uniforms of the officers who manned the bridge on the television series Star Trek, either generation. The combat patch on his right sleeve was an olive drab subdued MAC-V insignia, while a Special Forces arrowhead patch was sewn on the left sleeve. On one shirt jacket pocket was a death’s-head skull; an ace of spades was sewn on the opposite pocket. A number of Vietnam War–related pins were spread out across the pocket flaps and lapels like shrapnel from an exploding surplus store, but it was his green beret that caught most of my attention. The weathered beret had a Special Forces insignia, a French paracommando crest, and the flat-black rank pin of a Marine lance corporal. The crests, patches, other insignia, and beret were an unusual mix of services, units, and time warps.
It was happening again.
Earlier that morning while Linderer, Miller, and I were seated at the table at the booth, a man approached wearing an army fatigue shirt with a generic 75th Infantry Ranger scroll on the right shoulder as a combat patch. Since there wasn’t a division or field force patch beneath it, there was no way of knowing which company he had served in during the war.
"I was a Ranger in Nam,” he said. Linderer and Miller looked up.
"Who were you with?” asked Linderer, meaning which unit and where. It was the standard greeting ritual veterans go through with other veterans to establish common ground and a bond.
"The Second Batt,” said the man. “The Second Batt” meant the 2d Ranger Battalion. Linderer smiled. Miller, on the other hand, was sneering, as I pointed out that there wasn’t a 2d Ranger Battalion in Vietnam.
"In fact, the battalions didn’t exist back then, just companies,” Linderer added, smiling.
Miller smiled, too, but it was the deranged grin of a pit bull sizing up a poodle. “You worthless piece of shit! I ought to cut your legs off,” he said, with as much diplomacy as he could muster.
Kenn Miller is one of only a handful of LRRP/ Rangers to have served two and a half years with the 101st Airborne in behind-the-lines combat. He has little patience for “wanna-be” elite combat veterans and a pathological disgust for those who’d wear a 75th Ranger combat patch pretending to have earned it.
Linderer was still shaking his head in disgust as the make-believe LRRP/ Ranger veteran quickly excused himself, realizing that he had somewhere else to be.
Throughout the previous evening and much of that morning, we had encountered other such “make-believe” veterans, including a French Foreign Legionnaire who couldn’t speak French, a navy SEAL or two who couldn’t remember which team they served with, and other pretend Rangers who wore the 75th Ranger scroll company patch over the wrong division or field force patch.
“Very Crazy, G.I.! Strange but True Stories of the Vietnam War,” by Kregg P. Jorgensen
For the anniversary of the D-Day invasion, these Pathfinders of F Company, Task Force Eagle Assault at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Afghanistan paid special tribute to those original World War II Pathfinders of the 101st Airborne Division by giving each other Mohawk haircuts and painting their faces much like their forerunners had for a combat patching ceremony.
Another dark!elsanna one shot. More battle than romance - I’ve been rereading Gates of Fire (an excellent book by Steven Pressfield). I like the idea of doing these as quick one shots in patronustrip’s new dark!elsanna universe. Do you like the structure or do you want to see more smut?
People of all the realms whispered of Queen Elsa of Arendelle’s dark magics but the best soldiers and warriors spoke with hushed fear instead of her sister and consort. She took only the title of Queen’s Champion but she was also known as the Princess of Blades. Her duelling record was impeccable but it was when Arendelle went to war that the world really experienced her fury.
Anna struggled to find her footing on the ground which was slick with blood soaked dirt. All around her, her men lay dead or dying. Her treasured blades were broken in battle hours ago or was it minutes. Time seemed to flow erratically during battle. Anna’s hands groped around trying to find a weapon that was usable.
The ambush had happened so fast. They warned her the kingdom of Corona was not to be taken lightly. She had just laughed thinking of Arendelle’s easy victory over the Southern Islands. Ten fists of Corona heavy infantry had flanked Anna’s vanguard and decimated them under the cover of night. Morning was breaking and Anna was sure that the knights of Corona would be looking for her head to put on a spike. She did not want to go down easily.
The fighting had been so hard that the only weapon Anna could find that was remotely usable was a spear with a broken haft. The pointy end was still sharp though. Anna smiled grimly. It was a fixer upper but it would have to do. She could hear isolated patches of combat as the forces of Corona mopped up the remnants of Anna’s army. She was just glad she wouldn’t see the disappointment in her sister’s eyes at her failure. She would die on her feet fighting for Elsa rather than run away.
Anna’s face was crusted with dried blood. She guessed it was hers because of the dull pain across her temple after a blade had torn her helm from her head. Her armour was dented and battered and she gripped her broken spear. There were precious few felled enemies nearby. It seemed like Corona’s surprise attack was brutally effective. Anna didn’t dare call out as she was sure the only people that would hear her were the enemy.
“Is that you under that filth, Princess Anna?” a voice called out from behind her. It was that bitch Rapunzel. The two had met a lifetime ago at Elsa’s coronation. They had both swapped the pretty dresses for blades and armour. Rapunzel sat on horseback in immaculate plated armour. At her side were a dozen of Corona’s House Guard who chuckled from their warhorses like gossiping teenager girls.
Anna snarled in response. Mentally calculating the chance that she could drag the bimbo from her horse and wipe the smile from Rapunzel’s face with her fists. They were not good. “Blondie, why don’t you come down off your pretty horse and say that to my face.” Anna gripped her improvised weapon angrily, her knuckles were white where they weren’t shredded.
To her surprise Rapunzel began to dismount. Anna must have looked worse than she thought. People that knew about her should be scared of her. Rapunzel was acting like every man who had underestimated Anna in the arena. The blonde wielded a gleaming gilded sword and a polished shield. She looked like a warrior princess from a children’s story. Anna was the reality. Battered and bleeding with a body that roared in pain at every step.
More Corona soldiers had arrived surrounding Anna. At least they respected her enough to give her a wide berth. The ring of shields and steel created a makeshift arena. Anna’s eyes quickly darted over the ground looking for something that could give her an advantage. The only thing she noticed was the handle of a sword that had its blade shorn off. It looked like Anna would have only one shot at defeating Rapunzel. Battlefield duels were without much pageantry as the two princesses squared off against each other.
Rapunzel at least feared Anna enough to be hesitant of taking the first move despite the advantage her sword and shield gave her. Anna tensed her muscles and pushed herself into action charging the blonde and throwing all her strength into guiding her spear at the slit in Rapunzel’s helmet while taking a flying leap. She had one shot at this.
Time slowed down as Anna could see the spear make its journey towards its target. Nobody had defeated Anna. She could do this. She realised the roar she could hear was her own.
She was too slow.
Rapunzel caught the spear on her shield and easily deflected it. Anna glanced off the armoured warrior falling to the ground. Desperately trying to scrabble to her feet as Rapunzel’s sword whistled down at her. Reflexes from hundreds of fights meant Anna was able to throw herself backwards barely evading the blade. She could see Rapunzel’s blue eyes harden as she drew back her blade again. Anna’s hand found the handle of the broken blade she’d seen earlier. Perhaps that was a chance. She might at least make some of the Corona soldiers laugh by trying to parry with no blade.
The golden blade again came for Anna. Time lengthened the seconds, Anna lifted the handle upwards in her foolish attempt to buy a few more moments of breath. To share the world Elsa walked in as long as possible.
Rapunzel’s eyes widened as her blade shattered on the ice of Anna’s.
Anna smiled as she saw the sharp hard ice grow from the useless handle.
Elsa had arrived.
Rapunzel had staggered back, this time she was the one with the useless handle. Energised knowing that her Queen was near, Anna closed the gap on Rapunzel and slashed at her helmet. The flurry of blows forced Rapunzel to her knees desperately blocking with her shield and gauntlets.
Anna stood over Rapunzel panting. The blonde looked up at her face wet with blood. Anna was not known for mercy.
Looking side to side Anna saw that an icy mist had descended obscuring all but her and her defeated opponent. She could hear terrible sounds in the mist as she could only imagine what Elsa had conjured to combat Corona’s best.
The Ice Queen stepped out of the frigid mist. If Rapunzel looked like a Princess on the battlefield, Elsa looked like a goddess. Dressed in an elegant gown, her eyes twinkled as if she’d just heard a joke.
“I see you’ve found a playmate, sister dear.” Elsa’s lips twisted in a cruel smile. “Can I join?”
I was looking at picture of green day on the red carpet and then it all hit me at once, and i just looked at the screen in front of me and smiled. I realized that they taught me to be my own person, and don’t be a follower. They taught my that it’s okay to be weird and stand out. Before i started listening to them i was like people’s door mat or something. I used to not even where clothes that stood out, cause i didn’t want too much attention. But yesterday i walked around my school with safety pin jeans, combats, and a patched up vest with black smeared eyeliner. I was the only one looking like that, but i wad me. I wasn’t a photo copy of other people like everyone else was. I was different. And I’m okay with that.
So, my boys, I’m proud of u and I’m glad u are going down in history with your heroes, because u guys are my heroes.
I was pretty proud of my new patch - couldn’t resist taking a bathroom-mirror-selfie!
In the US army, having a patch on your right shoulder is a badge of honor. Some soldiers - even today - go their entire careers without getting one. They aren’t given out stateside, or on tours in peaceful places. They represent the insignia of the command under which you served in a combat zone. They mean you’ve placed your life on the line for your country. They mean you’ve sacrificed - spent time away from family, friends; missed birthdays, Christmas, New Years, thanksgiving. They mean you’ve gone on an adventure a long way from home to do something bigger than yourself.