Thursday, June 23, 2016

Monkey Mountain

It seems a common finding that military veterans are reluctant to speak of their wartime service and especially combat, except when reminiscing with other vets about their battle stories. With older veterans dying off and their stories and war histories dying with them there has been a recent effort to get these stories recorded and preserved.
One of my grandsons interviewed me several years ago but the results never went any further.
This story as best as I can recall is true. The setting is a military camp called Money Mountain near Danang in Vietnam. I was serving with the Air Force rescue forces as a ground radio operator.
This story doesn't involve military combat and could probably merit a "G" rating except for the violence you will read about shortly.
Bordering the camp at the base of the mountain and almost to the beach in the Bay of Danang grows a huge tree maybe 40 feet tall but more like 50 feet across. Except for one week in the Spring it gets little notice. The birds nest there but they are quiet neighbors. During that one week, hundreds of monkeys invade the tree. I don't know what kind of tree it is but it produces some kind of fruit or food that the monkeys love. Day and night they play, fight and scream at one another from the branches. It is a jumble of jealous, vindictive juveniles all determined to satisfy their own appetite with the best and biggest morsels that always seem to belong to someone else.
I can't imagine how the tree can bear the weight of the monkeys at the very time it is already burdened heavy with fruit. It does though and when the week is over, the monkeys are gone. The tree is again forgotten as it prepares for next year's onslaught. Little can be learned from the monkey's frantic, haphazard chaos; perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the tree. The selfish will come and go. Those who are unselfish and sharing grow strong and bring joy if only for a brief moment.
While we are on the subject of monkeys, one day at the mess hall as we were in line for dinner, another soldier came past with a monkey on a leash. He stopped and talked with us because everyone wanted to play with the monkey. He explained that they are a lot of work with little benefit. They need constant care, are very demanding, often mean and not very clean. Another day someone came by with a pet sparrow. The bird would fly free but always come back for food or to rest on his benefactors hand or shoulder.

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