26 Jul 2005
In Memory Of My Friend
SGT. Varis J. Savage
(V.J. The Bad Guy)
Hot couldn't describe how I felt. Why is it that every time I have to dig the ground is hard and full of rocks? I must have been a sight, skinny little frame, sweat mixed with dirt and a steel pot wobbling around on my head like a bobble-head doll on the dash of my 56 Chevy. I knew Sgt Savage was an NCO but he was my foxhole buddy and I was doing all the digging, why? Here I am, puny little bird chested runt as VJ called me (VJ, Varus J. Savage) or VJ the Bad Guy as he referred to himself, and he looked like he could bench press a Buick. He had muscles on top of muscles, yet I was doing most of the digging. Hey, VJ why am I doing all the digging here? Look at you, your arms are bigger than my waist and harder than this boulder I've been digging around for the last hour.
"Don, my boy, someday you too will look like this," he drags a well-manicured hand down the side of his face and onto the most muscular arm in the country of Vietnam. "Keep digging, bird chest, I'm just trying to get you in shape, you want me to help don't you? Keep digging. I think I see a muscle coming out! Yup by God you're starting to build up muscle tone, Donny!" I looked at my arms and just didn't see what he saw, but he was my squad leader and he wouldn't lie to me, so on I went, thankful for his guidance and encouragement. I was going to look like VJ the bad-guy! No more jokes - "Hey, is that bamboo?" "No, that's just Pond's arms!". Well, we'll see who's laughing when I get done with this hole. Under the tutelage of VJ the Bad-Guy, I'll be the envy of my platoon. Move over VJ, I'm going to start on that side of the hole; you just stand and watch.
Oh, his words of encouragement had me feeling like a new man, I just hope he doesn't insist on helping me, God knows I want to get big and strong and look like VJ. I got my wish, that kindhearted man, my idol, my leader, allowed my to finish the new bunker entirely by myself. Working just about 20 hours non-stop, I had dug a bunker the size of a small apartment. My training would pay off, I was developing muscles. I was going to look Bad! Yes I was going to be "DA the bad-guy"! VJ and me would intimidate the rest of the army, we would become legends! People would whisper when we strolled by - "That's them. Man, just look at those 'Pecks'. Did you ever think there would be so much muscle on those guys?" Yes, I was sure that under the guidance of VJ and his relentless encouragement we would be the ones! The team. The Bad-boys. No other member of my company would have allowed me the opportunity to develop into "DA the Bad-Guy".
The year went fast, I really didn't realize it, but felt like I just got in country and it was time to leave. As I packed my few things, I chatted with John Tsang about all the fun we had - broke in Hawaii, broke in Guam, broke in Tokyo. The time I blew up the two holers (two seated outhouse, another story). John and I were the same age, we met at Basic and stayed together through AIT, Jump School and into the 11th Airborne, later the 1st Cavalry. Eventually into the Platoon, Squad, and Team VJ as we called it. I remembered all the things we said - See you when you get home. Take care. Be safe. Call, write, and come see me when you get home, or I'll come see you when you get home. As I walked out of the Tent (GP Medium) the 1st Shirt asked if I had forgotten anything? No Top, I have everything I need, thanks. His humor was sharp; we're going to miss you, you little "Bird Chested F___"! His words reminded me that I had not developed into the muscleman I had tried so hard to become. No, I wasn't DA the Bad Guy.
This Memorial day I will visit the graves of some friends at the National Cemetery at Bourne. I will sit and reminisce about the friends I have lost over the years and what they gave. I know I have heard that said hundreds of times but this weekend I will really remember, for them. I will think of John Tsang, killed in a car accident, one day before he was to come to Massachusetts for a golf weekend with me. Of "Doc" Rivers and John "Fergee" Ferguson, and of "Panel 3E" the Wall! Under the date 6 November 1965: Varis J Savage Sgt, a name on the wall, blended in with the other 58000 names. This Memorial Day I will remember VJ and when he helped me get muscles! For at least a few months allowing me to be "DA the Bad Guy. And 6 November, approximately 1:00 PM when the heat of battle came to a stop, at least momentarily for me and eternally for "V.J. The Bad-Guy.
Donald A. Pond, SFC (Ret.)
168 Lakeshore Drive
Blackstone, MA. 01504