Walt Morrow is third from left and Grady Myers is second from right in the front row
Basic training came as a brutal shock to the systems of what Walt Morrow calls "a bunch of freewheeling Boiseans" -- the group of 18 or 19 young Idaho men who were drafted together one summer day in 1968. The draftees included Grady, who recounts his U.S. Army experiences in "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." And they included Walt, who remembers Grady as smart as well as funny.
"He was a guy with great intellect and a really dry sense of humor," says Walt, recalling that the other trainees had to pay close attention to catch the double meaning of what Grady said within earshot of the drill sergeant. They'd be marching along and suddenly get the joke. "Then you'd have to keep from smirking or you'd be down doing pushups."
Walt's fun times at Fort Lewis included huddling near the barracks coal furnace with Grady and other trainees. All eyes were on a cake that Bob Ramsey's mom had brought him.
"Bob stabs a pocket knife in it and it goes 'clunk.' She had put a pint of whiskey in the center of the cake. Each guy took two pulls on the pint and it was gone."
Given the chronic hunger of the trainees, the cake no doubt disappeared just as quickly.
Like Grady, Walt was an M-60 machine gunner in Vietnam. He survived 13 months, while Grady served three months before being seriously wounded. Grady, awaiting evacuation, crossed paths with Walt in a field hospital. In "Boocoo Dinky Dow," he recalls it this way:
I’d spotted Morrow, who was in the 1st Air Cavalry Division, pulling himself on crutches through the ward. He told me that he arrived at his first firebase assignment only to have the company pack into helicopters and fly away while he and another replacement continued to stand O.P. for no one. It was a full, fearful day after they were abandoned before they frantically flagged down a passing Huey. The suspicious gunship pilot circled for a long time and called in another Huey before a third chopper was summoned to rescue the stranded soldiers.
Walt remembers the encounter, but not being on crutches that day. Asked about his wounds, he allows that there was "some shrapnel stuff." And, later, "some poisoning stuff."
"I don't have any bad memories of that time," says Walt, who lives in Meridian, Idaho. "Just interesting memories."
His stories from the war years are full of resilience and humor. Like the one about being in the San Francisco airport, in his dress greens, coming home from 'Nam. Fresh from primitive conditions in the field and having enjoyed a cocktail or two, he didn't think twice about using a newfangled airport urinal. Two years later, he had a flush of enlightened embarrassment when he saw another hand-washing sink.
Grady would've liked that one. What a shame he and Walt didn't connect after the war.
In his 1968 U.S. Army training at Fort Lewis, Washington, Grady was housed in World War II-era barracks like these still standing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. There were once 5,000 of these buildings. Now there are 2,000, and those are slated to be demolished in the next two years. Nearby are huge, modern, multi-story dormitories, like those on a giant college campus. Photo by Julie Titone
The barracks are an important setting in the training chapters of "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." In this drawing, Grady depicts himself and a fellow trainee peering down at other men who are carrying footlockers as part of discipline meted out by the drill sergeant.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.