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A job we all remember - the shit detail


We all have some “burning” memories of our service in Vietnam.   Practically all of us particularly remember the “sh**-burning” detail.  As many a Nam vet has stated: “I can never forget smell of burning sh**.  

We also likely remember that there were no “facilities” in Nam whatsoever; we had to do the same as the familiar saying about “bears” who sh** in the woods.  In some cases, there was time enough to dig a “slit trench”.   Other times, you might find a board, stabilize both ends,  and sit over the edge of it, rather than do a "standing squat" or some other awkward position in order to relieve yourself.  At the more developed positions, you might find an outhouse with a roof overhead.  The size of the unit might result in building a “two-holer ” {see photo} or “three holer” to accommodate more troops in a single sh**ting…or make that “sitting”.  

But(t), we can all agree on one thing…it was never comfortable!!    

Hah!  I set out to change all that!  As I was returning from R&R in Hong Kong, I had to go through the usual Customs screening.  I was coming through with a rather large box.  The British Customs Agent asked me if I had anything to “declare”.  I told him: “Yeah…four toilet seats.”  

He didn’t think that was one damn bit funny!  His face got red and he said in a rather perturbed manner: “You damned Yanks!!  You’re always causing problems for us!  Now…I’m going to ask you again…what’s in the box?”  

I replied once again: “Four toilet seats”.  That did it.  He now demands that I open the  box and show him the contents.  I guess I was supposed to be in trouble here.  So, I opened the box,   There they were: FOUR TOILET SEATS!  

The Customs Agent now had a new attitude.  He calls over to another agent and says: “Hey, come look, mate.  This guy has four toilet seats!”  My guess is that they were much more accustomed to seeing visitors returning with silk ties, tailor-made suits, reel-to-reel tape recorders, Ming vases and the like.  Me?  I got toilet seats.  

Little did these Custom Agents know about the “realities” of doing doo-doo in the war zone…there weren’t any toilet seats, to say nothing of the absence of toilets.  

I returned to my unit as a “hero” of sorts; I brought a vital “creature comfort” from the “real world” and into the jungle.  

They said I should get the “Brown Star” for my efforts; I was thinking more like the “Distinguished Sh***er Medal.

 Lt Don M. Keith