"When I was in Vietnam, somewhere near the Laotian border, there were these Vietnamese children we called 'field orphans.'"
Although it was unclear to me whether or not the children traveled with the platoons, or appeared while the platoons were out on patrol, they were there somehow.
"In the 15 minutes it took for you to rest from a march, the kids -- anywhere from about 9 or 10 years old, to teenagers -- they would give you foot massages, shoulder massages, whatever... and also, strip down your weapons; take the bolt out, clean them off, oil them up and then put them all together. ...and ALL of this would happen in less than 15 minutes. They were awesome.
So, one time, we decided to get clever with one of the kids who was going to clean our weapons. We gave him a Russian AK, a Chinese AK, and an M-16 to see if he could take them all apart, clean them, and then put them back together right, given all of the different parts -- but blindfolded. And he did. In less than the 15 minutes of our rest, he had them all back together and cleaned up -- and this is a rural kid about 15 years old."
He continues about the field orphans:
"One time, I noticed that one of the field orphans was missing a leg -- he had a stump left from the amputation. I asked him how he lost his leg, and he said,
'You did that.'
I thought to myself, I didn't do that -- I hadn't even even seen the kid before. So I asked the kid,
'What do you mean that I did that,'
and he said,
And I thought about it for a minute. I went into my gear to offer him a can of fruit, and motioned for him to come over to me. After I gave him the can, I asked him,
'So if we did that to you, how is it that you will come and clean our weapons for us -- why would you come and help us?'
The kid said,
'The American people are not bad, the American government is bad.'"
He chuckled briefly to himself, leaned forward in his chair, and then gave me a compelling, wide-eyed, raised-eyebrow look, saying,
"Are you kidding me? Did we really know who we were fuckin' with out there? How is it that a rural 15-year-old Vietnamese field orphan has an understanding of what the real issue with the war was -- one that is superior to that of a great portion of the population back at home?"