An ex-soldier, he’d modified a small and mild-mannered orange Honda motorcycle into a arched-handlebars hog, or perhaps a piglet. He had a very fancy medal for bravery in the Viet Nam war. It happened like this …
After high-school, Gregg needed Uncle Sam’s pocketbook to attend college, and signed up for some program involving the ROTC. I was in it, too, at Midwestern University, because it was a required course. I got a khaki uniform and learned how to shine a belt buckle with Brasso. We had to march, and stand there, and hold a rifle in a certain way. For me, it was little more than that, sort of a mild PE class.
For Gregg, due to timing, it became much more, when Viet Nam erupted and he found himself a lieutenant, in a trench, in a jungle, between two Vietnamese machine guns.
“All around me,” he said. “guys were getting wasted. My men were shot up; we were scattered, crawling and scrambling to get out of the fire.
“The din was incredible. Huge bombs were blowing up nearby, and the air was thick with smoke. The machine guns blared away, the wounded were screaming. You couldn’t see a thing, and we couldn’t tell where the fire was coming from.
“And I freaked out.
“All of a sudden, I thought What the hell am I doing here? and I threw down my rifle and made a run for it. I left my men, wherever the hell they were, and ran like hell to get away.
“Bullets were flying around me. I heard them buzz past and heard them ping into the leaves and branches. I zigged and zagged, and got quite turned around, and suddenly rounded a tree and found myself running into the machine-gun nest from the side.
“They saw me, and there was no time to stop. One guy was reaching for his sidearm, and the other began to rotate the machine gun, so I just ran right between them as fast as I could.
“I had no rifle, but I pulled a grenade from my vest and dropped it as I ran past.
“They recovered from surprise, and began to swing the machine gun toward me, and I saw the bullets stiching in from the side, but I guess they didn’t notice the grenade because it went off and killed them.
“I kept running until I fell down, and just lay there, gasping for breath, scared as a ghost in hell. I was kind of thinking about how deserters are shot by firing squads, when the sargent found me, and he’d brought the company Commander.”
Here’s what happened:
“Soldier,” said the Commander, “That’s the bravest thing I ever saw in my life.”