I had been at the battalion a couple of weeks and really didn't know what I was suppose to be doing. One day, I am standing around and some soldier walks up and says, "Sir, Captain Kerr wants to speak to you and he hands me what I guess was the hand set for the radio (PRC25). I say, "this is the Chaplain." Captain Kerr says, "Chaplain, where the fuck are you. My soldiers need to see you. You are not doing shit back at the rear. I will expect to see you before close of business today." Thus began this terrific relationship with the Company B Commander. He commanded respect and absolutely was leadership personified. He said to me one day, "Chaplain you don't know anything about what it means to be in combat but I am going to teach you." So, for the next couple of months I was his shadow. It was unbelievable. We would be in firefights, calling in artillery. Things that you did in Vietnam. We talked. He was like a master tactician, my mentor: "if this happens, we do this." It was a great continual "classroom in combat." One day he tells me, "you need to start carrying a weapon." Why? "Well, my soldiers will try to protect you and they need to be taking of themselves. If you have a weapon, my bet is they won't worry about you."
Captain Kerr ran a tight ship. He seemed to be on top of everything. I got to know the other commanders and troops but nobody like John. He was always after me to come to his Company. I had to tell him a couple of times, there are other companies. It was like he didn't hear me. "Where are you? When are you coming out?" I loved the guy. A typical example of how he was is that he despised the S3, Operations guy. He calls him up and says something like, "since you never leave your bunker, I want you to give the Chaplain that little Car15 you have." An argument ensued. I really don't know what happened but the next thing I know, the S3 finds me and hands over the weapon. In those days there were at best a few of these--they were a little cut down version of an M16. I loved that weapon and only fired it at the range in the "rear" a few times. But, John was right, it seemed that the attitude of soldiers changed when they didn't feel they had to protect me. I had my own weapon.
I was going on Rand R, meeting my wife in Hawaii. John came to the FSB to see me off. He said, "Chaplain, your mission is to bring me a fifth of "Chives Regal." (SCOTCH) You bring me one back or I am going to kick your ass." He laughed big. It was the last time I would see John. He got killed in a kind of freaky way. The headquarters element was walking through a ville when a VC popped up out of a spider hole and killed John and three others. I was devastated. I was so angry at God, the war. My grief overwhelmed me. It was like I had lost a part of myself. I sat in my tent literally for two days. Finally somehow I moved on but think of my good buddy John, often. I am always sad when I do. I kept the bottle of "Chives" for a long time.