3/23/2005


B.T. Collins Tribute
*Update

B.T.'s sister, Maureen Collins Baker, will be at the Sacramento Fair Oaks Blvd Borders on Wednesday, June 4th, at 7pm autographing her new book, Outrageous Hero, The B.T. Collins Story. See you there!

Here's info about the book

http://tinyurl.com/3jwaz6

My Friend in Need
The Green Beret had another baptism of fire
to go through, and he couldn't do it alone
By B. T. Collins
Condensed from "The Wall Street Journal"


The ambulance flight from the Philippines was exhausting. We stopped at Air Force bases in Japan, Alaska, Illinois, and finally Washington, D.C.
From there I phoned my folks in White Plains, N.Y. I knew I would be flown to Fort Kix, N.J., the next day and then, after that July Fourth weekend, 1967, sent to Valley Forge General Hospital outside Philadelphia.
Just before I hung up I said, "Ma, you'd better call Dickie." (Fifteen years later his wife would tell me, "You're the only one allowed to call him Dickie.") He would spread the word to my friends that I was home from Vietnam and had lost an arm and leg. He'd take charge.
We met in Cub Scouts, probably in fourth grade. We have never agreed on anything since. He still says it was sixth grade.
In the hospital at Fort Dix the following day, my mother and two sisters saw me for the first time in six months. I wasn't much to look at¡Âª102 pounds, big holes in my remaining leg, and my eyes sunk deep in their sockets. Tubes were everywhere. In short, I wasn't the six-foot-two, 180-pound Green Beret they had seen head off for his second tour in Vietnam. After my family left, the room filled with Dick Ehrlich and several other friends he had rounded up. If my appearance shocked him, he never let on. He told me a year later: "You looked like a ripple in the sheet. You looked so small." All I remember is that I burst into tears as he strode through the door, a six-pack under his arm.
As they were leaving, one of my friends. Judy, said, "You be ready Labor Day. We're taking you to the house on Song Island." To me that was years away. All I wanted was for the pain to stop.
Over the next two months, Dick made the 3 1/2-hour trip to the hospital whenever he could, as did the others. Not a week went by that he didn't phone. He had no idea what it meant to me to cry on his shoulder, after putting up a good front for my family and acquaintances. He was just there, and that's what meant the most.
As Labor Day Approached, my friends would not let up on the plans for me to spend the weekend with them. I was terrified. I had yet to leave the safety of the hospital. I started making excuses, but they came and got me anyway.
The weekend went fine. It looked as if life wasn't going to be half bad, after all. I even had the courage to ask Dick to change the dressing on my leg stump. He didn't flinch. I wonder if I could have done the same for him.
Dick drove me back to the hospital. After four hours in Labor Day traffic, he pulled up to a restaurant near the hospital. I stiffened. Dick pretended to ignore my paranoia. "Want to eat?, I'm starved, and I've got a long drive home."
"I'm not hungry," I replied. "I'll just wait in the car."
He put his hand on my shoulder, his eyes directly on mine. "Look, you're my friend and I'm proud of you, even though I hate that war. Now, let's try it. You hop in the wheelchair. I'll wheel you up to a booth. You hop out, and we'll eat. Okay? If it gets too bad, we'll just leave. I promise. I guarantee you it won't be half as bad as you think."
And it was not half bad at all. It was my baptism of fire all over again. The first parachute jump. The first firefight. I survived.
The following summer, while still in the hospital, I spent another weekend at the beach. Now I had a new hook and wooden leg, and I painfully negotiated my way to a spot in the sand.
Kick, remembering how much I loved the surf when we were teens, asked, "Ready to hit the waves?"
"No, I think I'll just read."
"Does it bother you?" he said. "Then, guess we'd better do it!"
Off went the leg and arm, and I held on to his shoulder and hopped down to the waves. I never looked back.
I moved to California that year to attend college, then law school. In the years that followed, whenever something "bothered" me, I simply had to do it. I learned to ski, parachuted again and went around the world for three summers.
From 1979 to 1981, I ran the California Conservation Corps, a work program for kids ages 18 to 23. At the end of "basic training," I would always ask the corps members if they had seen The Deer Hunter. Those who know the film invariably thought it was about Vietnam. "No, I would do anything for you¡Âªunquestioningly."
I met my deer hunter 37 years ago, though Dickie will insist when he reads this that it was 35. And I will point out that having him for a friend wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be.
Thanks, Dickie.


This article came from the AFN Viewer's Guide for Korea, which, according to their disclaimer is NOT an official AFN Korea / AFRTS homepage.
We are in NO way related to or affiliated with AFN Korea(American
Forces Network Korea) / AFRTS(Armed Forces Radio and Television Service). It does have many cool archives including No Greater Love and My Father's Greatest Gift. Check it out.