A soldier’s story


Mess Sergeant Parsons always had a hot meal for us when our company came in from a combat operation in Vietnam no matter what time it was. If things weren’t exact he’d start screaming instructions at his cooks. His face would turn red. The vein in his forehead would bulge and turn purple. He’d start shaking. His eyes would glaze, a madman on the brink. The tirade would last about 3 minutes before he’d storm off.

“What’s his problem?”, I asked the head cook after one particularly violent outburst.

“Lack of oxygen.”

“Lack of oxygen?”

“Yeah”, the cook smiled. “Parsons was infantry during Korea. That’s why he cares for you infantry guys. His company was overrun by the Chinese and he was one of three that survived by ‘playing dead’. They went through his shirt pockets for his cigarettes and lighter, took his wristwatch and ring, turned him over for his wallet. I figure he didn’t breathe too deep for 10 to 15 minutes.”

“My heart would’ve stopped.”

The cook laughed.

William Sirtola



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