Published December 24. 2010 4:00AM
On New Years of 1968, I was on R&R in Tokyo from Vietnam. I was with D company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and I hooked up with a trooper from C company.
When we were due to return to 'Nam, which we weren't thrilled about, I bought a bottle of Seagram's 7 from the hotel for the cab ride to our flight.
Being young and foolish, we partook of more of the Seagram's than we should have, and the cab driver took us for a ride. When we finally arrived, the cab bill was over $30, and we missed our flight by ten minutes.
We were taken to a sergeant who questioned us and told us we would be given an Article 15, busted one grade and, insult of insults, would have to pay our way back to 'Nam. He then had us locked up in an AWOL room where we spent the night.
The next morning, a Saturday, we were taken to the same sergeant. He told us that when he first got to Tokyo a cabbie had taken him for a ride, just like ours. He also told us he knew we were in combat and that if we missed our flight on the next Thursday, all three of us would go to jail.
He had given us five extra days in Tokyo, away from the hell we were going back to.
He was in my life for only 24 hours, and I wouldn't know him if I saw him now, but I will never forget him.