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Brushing My Teeth ...

I was a big nut about brushing my teeth and shaving in the Nam. To me, it was more than hygiene. Plus, the Captain required it. He said good hygiene showed we had pride in ourselves and our Unit. And, I'll have to say that he led by example.

This one morning we were in this big grove of trees, kind of peaceful. I walked over and scooped a steel pot full of water out of one of the bomb craters, which were pretty numerous. I dropped a couple of water purification tabs in the pot. The pills gave a kind of silky, putrefied look to the water. The taste was like a nauseatingly iodine but a little "sweet," I thought. You get use to it. Being raised in foster homes and in an orphanage, I could adapt to anything and did. War was a "piece of cake."

I proceeded to brush my teeth first and then I saved part of the water for shaving although this was a nice little well of water and so there was plenty. In the distance, walking by the men and chatting was our First Sergeant. He was a giant of a man, over six feet tall and a vet of over three years in the Nam. He wasn't always in the field, but sometimes stayed in the rear doing paperwork. His trademark was a gigantic chew of tobacco stuffed in his jaw and spitting these gigantic globs of tobacco juice everywhere. He claimed that he could spit on a streetlight if we had one. This boast was usually followed by a big belly laugh and a demonstration of his spitting prowess. Our Captain was always saying, "Top, if the VC wanted to know where we are, all they got to do is follow your "bacca" juice. The Captain always emphasized "Bacca" because he said that is the way they say it in Kentucky. We had tremendous respect for "Top" and nobody messed with him. His presence could be noted with a trail of tobacco juice/spit.

I was brushing away when he got to me. "Chan," he said, as he spat a big glob of chewing tobacco spit into the water in my steel pot. "Damn Top, why did you do that?" With those comments, he cleared his throat again, let go with the entire chew right into my pot of water. If I hadn't had so much respect for him, I would have wanted to kill him. He must have seen the look on my face as he motioned me over to one of the bomb craters. I didn't want to get too close as I might be temped to throw him in. I walked over and he took me by the arm and forced me to look down into the bottom of the crater. I almost threw up. At the bottom were two decomposing bodies of enemy soldiers. How in the world had I missed it. I'll never forget that morning of brushing my teeth.

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