Temporary Duty

While in the military, I was assigned temporary duty in Ubon, Thailand. When I got there, the electric shop that I was supposed to be assigned to never got my orders to be there. Because of no orders, the Sergeant in charge didn’t want me there. Also, I found out later that my paycheck was also missing in action.

Here I was in a foreign country, no work, no money. Luckily there was room in the enlisted men’s barracks. I depended on the Base Chaplain for a few bucks a week to eat with. Since I has 6 months to kill, I wandered around the base until I found the hobby shop. There, I found things to do to pass the time.

It was there that I met a fighter combat pilot. He would come in every few days to work on his project: A remote control model helicopter he was building from scratch. We became friends and would work on his helicopter together when he came in.

While he was building his model, it occurred to me that I could build a helicopter, too. So I designed and built a single blade free-flight helicopter. This machine had a small engine on one end of the blade and an airfoil on the other end. I never could get it to fly, though. I was getting short on time, so I packed it up and shipped it home.

About two weeks before I was due to return to the states, I was in the hobby shop when my friend the fighter pilot came in and was very angry. He told me that he had a ticket for a big rock concert in Japan, but he said that he had to go on a mission over Viet Nam. He gave me the ticket and just said “have fun”.

It was easy to get a hop in a C-130 cargo plane to Tokyo. The concert hall was just a short walk from the base in Japan. The concert was featuring a rock & roll band called Deep Purple. The ticket was for a seat in the fifth row dead center.

WOW, what a concert. I had never been to a concert before, so I was thrilled to be there. It turns out that the band was recording an album featuring this concert. Before one of the many songs that the band played, the lead singer asked the engineer beside the stage: “Can I get a bit more monitor”. The guy next to me hollered out: “Can I have everything louder than everything else”. And the singer repeated it for the audience. You can still hear that quote on the album: Deep Purple, made in Japan.

I shipped out a couple weeks later. When I got back to my home base, I got a paycheck for the 6 months I spent in Thailand, and combat pay for being close to Viet Nam.  I even got a service medal for being in a combat zone, but I never did wear it because I didn’t think it was justified.

With the extra money, I was able to buy my first new car: a new 1974 Honda Civic. I’ve had nothing but Honda’s ever since.

It wasn’t until 2 years later that I went back home to Louisiana, and my mother asked me about that package with the model helicopter I had sent home. I had forgotten all about it.

I brought it back with me and started tinkering with it, trying to get it to fly, without success. While visiting a friend in his lapidary shop (a place that shapes and polishes jewelry) I came across a substance that is used to hold jewelry stones while they are being shaped. I used this blob on the end of a 1 ft stick to counterbalance the model helicopter and amazingly…it flew!!!

It just went straight up for about 100 feet. I kept saying “when is this thing going to run out of gas?” When it did run out of gas, it auto-rotated softly to the ground, just like a real helicopter.  I still take it out and fly it now and then.

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