Despite my indiscretions, or perhaps because of them, going to church seemed like a good idea since Christmas was coming up soon. I held only a smidgen of hope that the chaplain would provide any profound message of inspiration. It was more the ritual that I sought. A way to make a connection with something more pure than the immoral morass in which we lived as soldiers in Vietnam. Given the number of Protestant denominations, chaplains for each and every one of them were not available at every base. Oftentimes, a somewhat generic Protestant service was all there was. This was the case at Bearcat.

      So I went to the Protestant chapel where I waited and waited. Chaplain Vladimir kept conferring with his enlisted aide, spec-4 Estragon (the names have been changed to protect the guilty and gratify those who enjoy literary allusions). They were stalling-5, 10, 15 minutes after Sunday services were supposed to have started in the chapel at Bearcat. The civilian church services I had attended typically followed a tight schedule. If anything, unlike other military activities, the timing of religious services conducted by chaplains was even tighter. Finally, as the chaplain's face brightened, the reason for the delay became clear. Preceded by his junior officer flunky, General Westmoreland strode sharply into the back of the room, taking a seat in the last pew. After the services, the general shook hands with each of the departing soldiers, greeting them somewhat like a parent in the receiving line at a wedding, but even more like a politician at a campaign stop.



Copyright © 2007 by John Maberry