The Birthday Party

In 1966 my uncle quit his law practice, went to Fort Bragg and joined the Green Berets. He ended up in the Mekong Delta training ARVN troops and doing river ops with the Navy.

One day a tall young Navy JG pulled his river patrol boat up to the shore, jumped off and walked directly over for a chat. He had a thick New England accent. Not the standard nasal Boston twang, but the sort of accent people have when they don’t move their jaws while speaking. My uncle recognized the type and asked the JG where he went to “school”. Turns out they went to the same place.

Feeling ever more comfortable with the situation, the lanky naval officer invited my uncle to his birthday party. Seems the young man was throwing himself a shindig and inviting selected officers. My uncle thought that strange. They were, after all, conducting ongoing combat operations in a war zone.

My uncle made some excuse, politely ended the conversation and started back toward his troops. The JG followed him, trying to convince him to come to the party. Finally, my uncle turned around and ordered the JG back to his boat.

That was the last my uncle saw of that particular officer. Word was that the JG left the Delta after a short, truncated tour. Apparently there had been several incidents that made him more trouble than he was worth and the command wanted him gone.

My uncle heard a good deal about that kid when he returned home from the war, but didn't pay much attention about him until almost forty years later when the phone rang in his office. A retired naval officer was calling to ask if my uncle was interested in helping a new political organization. They knew that my uncle had been on the Delta and wanted to know if he would join the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

My uncle is a judge and therefore cannot participate directly in politics. He declined the offer. But he thought again about that young JG who threw himself a birthday party in the middle of a combat zone. He wondered if anyone came.