April 1-2, 1995: Letter written by Jeffrey MacDonald re:
"Real Life Anecdote re: 'Fatal Justice'"
Note: I have redacted the name of the person the letter is written per request
(Spelling, punctuation and grammar preserved)
FROM: JEFFREY R. MACDONALD, M.D.
DATE: SAT. & SUN. - APRIL 1 & 2, 1995
SUBJECT: REAL LIFE ANECDOTE (Re: "Fatal Justice")
****, as you requested, here is a true story from my memories of happy times. Of several possible choices, this one seemed to be the most appropriate. I recall clearly the colors, the action, the mood and the tenor of the times. This is the good side of Ft. Bragg. The dark side - the undertoad, if you will, is later seen in more startling relief because of such an "All American" image as this. Jerry Potter and Fred Bost have many such anecdotes, but the editors at Norton's cut others like this from the final version of the book, so as to refute any charge of "advocacy".
FALL - 1969 - FT. BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
There is a huge open field with low scrubby grass - a "drop zone" on Ft. Bragg for huge parachute drops. The field is at least a mile long and 1/2 mile wide. On one side, a large stand of pine trees. A reviewing stand is set at this edge of the open field. It has a "VIP" center area, and the football-style open bleachers extend maybe 100-200 feet on either side of the VIP central area. Weather is balmy - early fall in North Carolina, bright sunshine, fairly hot, and dusty when trucks/cars drive to/from parking area behind reviewing stands. A doughnut/coffee/cold drinks stand (free - no charge) is set up at one end behind the bleachers and lines of soldiers and families queue up for refreshments.
The pine trees go on endlessly in the direction away from the drop zone. Cars are arriving at the parking area and disgorging families, soldiers, airmen, occasional VIPs in army jeeps with general's flags/stars on the front, kids running around ( a specific play area set off is very busy with children).
In the central VIP area, the commanding General of XVIII Airborne Corps (all of Ft. Bragg, plus) - Lt. General John Tolson - is holding court with an Israeli General, 2 South American Generals (in their overdecorated uniforms), a Thai General, and 2 Vietnamese Generals. Aides to each general, and an obvious VIP diplomat and his wife all chat and hang about the generals. Just to either side of the generals are 5 to 10 colonels - Air Force and Army, some with wives nearby, or on their arms.
The stands are filling up with spectators - many uniformed, all sorts of uniforms but lots of dress greens, some khaki, lots of Green Berets, mainly in jungle fatigue uniforms. (No camouflage uniforms were in use in 1969.) MP's are evident in starched fatigues and their shiny helmets with the black and white stripes on them (mainly for traffic control). Families, wives, kids, sweethearts, parents - all are mixed in with soldiers and airmen. The sound is joyous, sort of loud and exuberant, except in the VIP area, where everyone looks, and tries to look, stately and important.
In that VIP area, at the end of the front row of important generals, is a thin, short, intense one-star general, General Flanagan, Commander of the Green Berets. He is the only VIP (generals) in a Beret. Immediately next to General Flanagan is his wife, a thin, elegant, as-tall-as-the-General brunette. Just behind General Flanagan, there are three Green Beret Colonels, one of them Col. Robert Kingston, Commanding Officer of Jeffrey's unit - Third Special Forces Group (Airborne), or 3rd SFG(A) [ Jeffrey is "Group Surgeon" of the 3rd SFG(A).] The Group consists of men with extremely short haircuts, very military, no moustaches, etc.. Col. Kingston is 5'9"- 5'10", muscular, very masculine, brown hair, sort of an intense "physical" look to him type of guy. Next to him is his wife, an aristocratic British blonde named Josephine. Her hair is piled up on her head, she is well-dressed and extremely attractive. Obviously "Jo" doesn't take the scene as seriously as most of the others. She chatters with attentive officers all around her, and Col. Kingston just looks amused at her casualness. Jo obviously cares not a whit for General Flanagan, who always has a "prissy" look on his thin lips, as does his wife. Their demeanor is like, "Oh, it's dusty here."
1. A flight of (F-4 Phantom Jets? I'll check with Fred Bost) roar overhead. The sound retreatsand then repeats, as the jets roar the other way. The loudspeaker begins droning on about the "Thunderbirds". The Air Force Precision Jet Team now demonstrating "snap rolls" etc. to the "oooh and aaaaah" crowd, heads craned upwards to watch. General Tolson busily whispers in the ear of the Israeli general, and one of the Vietnamese generals, as they watch the demonstration. The jets then peel off and climb, and the stands applaud.
2. From the dusty parking area, lines of people are still hurrying towards the viewing stands.
Army photographers and city newsmen from town also mill about the reviewing VIP area, taking "snaps" of the VIP area and the passing jets. The generals and VIP guests talk importantly.
3. Rushing from the parking area in a small group: Colette in a fashionable but conservative dress, low heels, sort of sophisticated looking without appearing formal; Kimberly, 5 1/2 years old, laughing, long brown hair, in a pants and sweater outfit, she's "active" but more feminine than tomboyish. She's attentive to what's going on, stays close to Colette. Kristen, 2 1/2 years old, very blonde, shorter hair than Kim's long locks. Kris runs about with more energy than Kim, and Colette is clearly more intent on watching Kris, than Kim.
"Kimberly, please get your sister", when Kris runs off, and Kim runs off after her, replying, "OK, Mom!"
4. With Colette are two adults, also - Lt. Richard (Rick) Thoesen in jungle fatigues and Beret, and his wife, Lt. Judy Thoesen, in her nurse's uniform from Womack, obviously having come from hospital duty. Rick is open-faced, All-American looking, sort of "Gung Ho" attitude, not a nerd, but very polite and protective of Colette and the kids.
"This way, Mrs. MacDonald", as he guides them towards the stands. He is obviously shepherding them in JRM's absence.
"Oh, for goodness sake, Lieutenant, please call me Colette."
Rick replies: "Begging your pardon, ma'am. Do you see that Green Beret Colonel? That's Colonel Bob Kingston. He's sort of a legend in the Berets, and he is my C.O., as well the C.O. of Captain MacDonald. If he heard a new lieutenant call a Captain's wife by her first name, he'd kick my butt...Mrs. MacDonald", and the whole group laughs. He went on with a smile "So for now, you're Mrs. MacDonald, and I'm Lt. Thoesen, but you can call me Rick."
5. With them is Lt. Judy Thoesen, a W.A.C. Nurse. She is redheaded, attractive, competent and calm appearing. She is clearly very comfortable at this drop-zone demo , even with all the brass, and the activity going on. "Colette, get used to it. Rick's correct. Your hubby is Rick's boss. This is the Army, dear girl. Officers - and their wives - play by a certain rule book. You'll get used to it." Colette laughs and says, "I don't know..."
6. Colette and everyone stop and look up, as the loudspeakers call everyone's attention to the sky. (The blue sky appears empty.) Rick says: "Colette, see that tiny dot way up there?"
After searching, Colette stammers: "I think so." Rick points to a black dot, very high. Watch " LT. Thoesen says, and suddenly 4 streamers of white smoke begin spiraling down from the tiny black do "Those are H.A.L.O. jumpers. They're jumping free-fall from 12,000 feet - over 2 miles - and they will open their parachutes close to the ground, and aim for that target in front of the reviewing stand."
Colette stares up and says, "I don't understand. Why?"
Rick replies: "The jumpers are so high you can't see them. The black spot is the plane. You'll never hear it. For this demo, the jumpers wear smoke bombs on their ankle so you can follow them from the ground. But for guerrilla fighting, or intelligence gathering, a HALO jumper - that's High Altitude Low Opening - can exit an aircraft at night and parachute to a destination essentially unseen by the enemy. Remember, this is a demo to impress brass from other countries.
Colette asks: "Is Jeffrey - Cpt. MacDonald, I mean - doing that?"
Rick: "No, he's too new. I suspect he'd like to, but he will be jumping shortly from a helicopter - a regular jump, or a static line jump we call it - not HALO. Come on. Let's get some seats. I think the helicopter jump is next."
7. As they move towards the seats, the smoke jumpers - HALO - land within a few feet of the target circle in front of the reviewing stand. One jumper lands dead center in the bull's eye,and the stands give him a big round of applause as the loudspeaker drones on about U.S. Army Special Operation capabilities, etc. etc. "all over the world".
8. Lt. Rick Thoesen offers to go get refreshments. Kim wants root beer, but Colette finds out that they have apple juice...and apple juice it is for the kids. He goes off to get 3 coffees and 2 apple juices. Kim is watching everything, and pipes up: "I want to see Daddy in his parachute!"
Colette and Judy laugh. "You will, Kimmie. I think they'll be jumping soon."
There is a huge jet roar and 2 jets thunder over, 50 feet off the ground, a (seemingly) few feet in front of the stands. Kids hold their ears at the sound, but everyone swings their head right to left as the jets zip by. In the sudden silence following the jets' roar, you gradually hear the "thumpy-thump" sound of Huey Helicopters. The noise crescendos as Rick returns with the refreshments and hands them out to the group.
9. Rick: "Colette, look way down there, to the right. Watch for the Huey's. Jeff - I mean Cpt. MacDonald - will be jumping off the first one. By the way, are you aware it is an honor for a new officer to be asked to be 'first out the door'?
That is, first man in the stick? Cpt. MacDonald was asked by the jumpmaster himself. Did your hubby tell you?"
"No" Colette answered with a wry look on her face. "Why? What does the honor mean? Is the jumpmaster a general?"
"Oh no!" Rick blurts out laughing.
His wife, Judy, then cuts in: "He's way more important than a general! He's a Master Sergeant. They are the men who actually run the Army. Believe it!"
Rick chimes in: "In this case, the Master Sergeant happens to be another of the many legendary figures among the Green Berets. And Cpt. MacDonald impressed the sergeant, and Col. Kingston, I might add, on a recent field maneuver in the mountains."
Colette looks at Rick: "What happened, Rick? Tell me. He never mentions those types of things."
10. The roar of the Huey helicopters has been escalating, and suddenly you're aware of it. People now have to lean towards each other to be heard. Rick leans toward Colette and shouts: "Later! Let's watch this jump. He'll be out of the lead helicopter."
Kim noisily wedges herself between Rick and Colette, saying, "Where is he, Mommy? Where is my Daddy?"
Before Colette can reply, Rick points out towards the lead helicopter, sweeping towards the reviewing stand right to left. "He's in that first helicopter, Kim. Watch carefully", he shouts in her ear, and she sights along Rick's outstretched arm.
11. The line of Huey's are sweeping across the vast field, right to left. The lead helicopter is closest to the reviewing stand, and each trailing Huey in turn is a few yards deeper into the field, away from the stand, as well as trailing the Huey in front of it. (So no jumper can be hit by a following helicopter - i.e., a staggered diagonal line of helicopters.)
12. As the lead helicopter is approaching the viewing stand, you gradually become aware that the doors of each helicopter are open, and 4 jumpers with helmets on, sit on the floor of the helicopter, feet dangling out (feet on the skid under each door - 4 jumpers each side of the helicopter, 8 per helicopter total). You can't really identify each soldier due to battle helmets and fatigues and gear.
13. Suddenly, the first man in lead helicopter gets a tap on the shoulder by a sergeant standing inside the helicopter, with a headset on. Rapidly, each of the 3 other men follow the first, each pushing off floor of the helicopter with their hands and hurtling out of the aircraft, so all 8 exit, in order 1 through 8. Jumpers begin to jettison themselves out of the following helicopters, with a rough estimate of 75 to 100 jumpers in the air at once, the lead jumpers just hitting the ground as the last ones exit the last helicopter and begins the float to earth.
It's quite a sight with around 75 troops swinging in a very gentle breeze, the large reviewing stand crowded with people, and the P.A. announcer intoning: "Now in a combat situation, the troops would collect their gear and parachutes, and head for pre-selected targets or hiding places."
14. Kim is squealing with delight. "I saw him, I saw Daddy." And she's trying to get Kristen to look. Kristen is too young and too busy looking around. Colette is watching intently, obviously pleased with the ceremony of it all, relieved everything seems to be going correctly. You can see individual soldiers in combat fatigues out on the field in front of the viewing area, collecting their parachutes and assembling in small groups, and moving towards one end of the reviewing stand. Sort of matter-of-factly, Rick says:
"All chutes opened." Colette spins around, seemingly distressed, saying, "Lieutenant!"
Rick stammers, "I meant...I only meant..."
Judy Thoesen cuts in, "Colette, what my not-so-delicate husband meant to say was, each jumper has wo parachutes. If the first one has a malfunction, hopefully the jumper can open his second chute before he hits. This was a perfect jump. No one seemed to be struggling for a 2nd chute to open. Believe me Colette, you'll get used to these gung-ho types, reveling in their war stories over beer."
And everyone chuckles, although Rick looks abashed.
15. A general buzz of conversation begins. Colette turns to Judy and says, somewhat sheepishly, "Jeff is always so excited about stuff like this. But I must admit, it's more fun being here and seeing it, than hearing about it from way up in New York."
Lt. Judy Thoesen nods in agreement. "Colette, these paratroopers are all volunteers. These aren't your run-of-the-mill draftees. There are a lot of very impressive people in the Berets, and the 82nd Airborne. These are the true believers. It took me a while, but their enthusiasm is infectious."
"I know..." Colette says evenly...(poignantly).
16. Colette looks away and spots Cpt. JRM and another captain walking towards them. The little group tumbles out of the reviewing stand and rushes to meet them. Both captains are sweat-stained, in jungle fatigues, Green Berets on, and each is carrying the battle helmet he had jumped in, and each looks pleased with himself (happily so).
17. Kim jumps into JRM's arms and she's squealing with pleasure. After Kim, Kris jumps up, until JRM is holding both girls, one is each arm. Colette is holding JRM's helmet so Jeffrey can hold both girls. Colette and JRM kiss quickly and Colette says, "That was pretty neat..." and slyly adds, "but you're sweating. Were you scared?"
JRM and the other captain, amused, look at each other and smile. "It's always like this, Frank. She doesn't understand how we have no fear, us warrior types."
This last spoken in obvious jest. Jeff turns toward Colette and says with mock seriousness, "It was 100 degrees in the helicopter, with a parachute strapped on our back, that's why we're sweating."
And then Jeff adds: "Honey, I want you to meet Frank. This is Captain James Frank Moore of Monterey, Tenn. he of white-lightning, or moonshine, fame. He's teaching me the ropes."
18. Colette says with a big grin on her face: "Hello, Captain Moore. So you're the one leading my man astray in the wilds of the No. Carolina and Tennessee mountains, and on these parachute jumps, yes?"
Frank replies with a big, soft, slow southern drawl: "No, ma'am...I mean...yes, ma'am...I mean: Yes, I'm Frank Moore, and no, I never led your husband astray, not over moonshine or jumps, despite what you may have heard about our training in the mountains last week. But it is sure a pleasure to meet y'all, and gosh, your kids are pretty."
[Frank Moore is slight, very southern, with an easy-going manner, very courteous, older than JRM, with a drawl that is pleasing to the ear, not harsh. Clearly he's been in the army all of his adult life.]
19. Colette turns back to Jeff and says, "Lt. Thoesen and I were very glad your parachute opened, dear", and she hugs Jeff again. She leans back, and says: "Boy, the jumps don't take long. You weren't in the air for more than a few seconds."
Jeffrey replies: "No. We jump here at 800 feet. In real combat, they do it at 500 feet, which is much less room for error, or a malfunction. But today - especially from a helicopter - the jump was perfect. Wasn't it terrific?"
His enthusiasm is palpable, and Kim is asking, "Can I jump with you, Daddy?"
JRM answers her, "Not yet, Kimmie. In a few years, maybe..."
Colette retorts. "Ha! I don't think so!"
And everyone is laughing and making comments.
20. Lt. Thoesen interrupts, "Cpt. MacDonald, the 82nd Airborne mass drop is in two or three minutes. Perhaps we should grab our seats?"
Everyone mumbles "OK" and they begin edging towards the stands again.
Lt. Thoesen is guiding Colette and Kris. Kim is still in JRM's arms, and they trail the group, chatting to each other about helicopters, and "I saw you, Daddy" from Kimberly. With Jeffrey and Kim somewhat behind, Frank Moore and Judy Thoesen are now with Colette and Lt. Rick Thoesen, as they begin taking their seats for the "main show", a massive air drop of about 1000 troops of the 82nd Airborne, from C-130 Hercules aircraft.
It is so big a drop that the air is literally darkened with bodies, equipment, parachutes - a huge spectacle.
21. Colette turns to Captain Moore and says "Frank, Jeffrey speaks very highly of you. How is he doing?"
Kind of protectively asked, by Colette, to which Frank replies: "Ma'am, Doc is a regular good ol' boy. Mainly, I just tell him who to salute to, and who must salute him first."
"That's not how I hear it, Captain.", Colette says nicely. "The way I hear it, you're giving Jeff a crash course in 200 years of army history, tactics, and how to be a good officer."
22. Frank Moore is obviously pleased, and Judy Thoesen is giving knowing "that's true" looks to her husband, Lt. Thoesen.
"Yes, ma'am..." Frank answers Colette... "He loves it, ma'am. And he's a natural. The men love him. It's not usual for a doctor to take so, to the weeds."
"The weeds?" Colette asks.
Frank continues: "Oh, pardon, ma'am. That's just U.S. Army slang for being in the field with troops, actually soldiering, as opposed to this b.s. - oops, pardon, ma'am - this routing garrison duty, with show jumps for VIP's. Did the Captain tell you about last week and why he's 1st in the door today?"
Judy Thoesen interjects, "No, but she'd love to hear about it."
Colette turns toward Frank and clearly waits, expectantly, for the explanation.
23. Frank Moore begins: "Well, Ma'am...we was...oops...we were, pardon - we were on a very difficult training mission in the mountains. Your hubby had arrived 10 days earlier to Ft. Bragg, and really didn't even know how to wear his beret yet.
We had a bad accident way out in the weeds. 2 troopers fell 100 feet into a ravine, one with serious injuries. Captain MacDonald and his 1st Sergeant rappelled into the ravine, set a broken leg, started IV fluids, gave medicines, and medi-evacued the injured trooper. It was getting late, almost nightfall, and fog was rolling in."
Moore's delivery is very deadpan, very understated.
"They had to winch the trooper up through the trees into a hovering helicopter."
Colette looks at him for a few seconds, measuring the man.
"Were you impressed, Captain Moore?"
She's serious, wondering, always inquisitive. Frank responds: "Yes, ma'am. Not many rookies...oops...excuse me, Mrs. MacDonald -not many new captains - doctor types, that is - would have been there. That was Green Beret paramedic rescue stuff, not medical school. He did real well, ma'am."
24. Judy Thoesen cuts in: "Tell the truth, Frank. Rick told me the sergeant-major said, 'Hey, boys, we got us a live one.' And Colonel Kingston mentioned it at the staff review of the exercise. Tell her, Frank, she's new to all of this!"
"Yes, ma'am", Frank says slowly, smiling. "The sergeant-major, he don't impress easily. And neither does Colonel Kingston, as I'm sure you've heard. They both fought in Korea and Vietnam.
They don't throw praise around like candy to the natives. They've been around the block once or twice."
25. JRM and Kim enter the group, Kim pointing way down the field, into the air. "I see airplanes!" All heads turn, and you can see this vast armada of C-130's (planes) droning towards the field, a crescendo of sound beginning. Lt. Rick Thoesen cuts in: "This is the main jump, Mrs. MacDonald. This simulates a mass force, blitz-krieg type of airdrop. We probably won't see many more like this in actual wartime, because helicopters are so much easier, and because these troops are too exposed to gunfire - but this sure is some sight. You'll see."
26. Colette is looking down the field at the approaching armada, as the air begins filling with 82nd Airborne troopers. The p.a. system is droning on about "....1000 of the best troops in the world, exiting the aircraft known as C-130 Hercules Aircraft, in 31/2 minutes, giving our forces the capability to react anywhere, at any time...blah, blah blah".
27. Colette is holding Kris, and Kim is squirming between Colette and Jeffrey. Colette turns turns to her husband, and she studies him, carefully and seriously.
"Jeffrey, you went over a cliff on a rope in the fog, and got a seriously injured trooper fixed up?" Clearly, Colette is proud, but concerned. JRM swings around and faces her and takes her hands, a big devilish/sheepish grin on his face: "Honey, don't mind that damn Frank! You can't trust a rebel! Please don't worry about it. It was neat! We were able to resuscitate him perfectly well, he arrived at the hospital several hours later, and he's now okay. Besides, my sergeant did all the work. I was window-dressing."
Colette has to smile at his enthusiasm. She shakes her head and repeats, mainly to herself, "But a rope?"
Jeff bursts out with more.
"Oh, it was great! You put on this harness, see, and thread this rope through a snap-link, and then you bounce off the cliff, falling 10 or 20 feet each bounce. It's weird! To tell you the truth, the 1st time you do it, it's more difficult than the parachute jumps."
28. Scene shifts to the group now leaving the stands, moving towards the cars, as the demo is over. Everyone is buzzing,
"God, did you see how many troops were in the air?" and I saw two minor malfunctions, but nothing serious." And "What a gorgeous day!"
Kim, animated, is saying, "Daddy, I want to parachute jump with you!"
Colette is holding Jeff's arm. Captain Moore is on the other side of Jeff. Rick and Judy Thoesen walk nearby. The little group is intercepted at an angle by Colonel Robert Kingston, C.O. of 3rd SFG(A), and his wife, Josephine. He is in jungle fatigues and Green Beret, and Jo, a striking blonde, is in her 40's. Lt. Rick Thoesen saw them first and warned the group in a low urgent voice: "Colonel and his wife at 3 o'clock, Captain MacDonald."
The 4 military people (Cpts. Moore and MacDonald - Lts. Thoesen, Rick and Judy) come to attention and salute. Colonel Kingston returns a snappy salute, and stops and gazes at the entire group. He misses nothing. "Is this the medical contingent, Captain MacDonald?" He asks, stern but good-naturedly.
"Good morning, Sir. This is the 3rd Special Forces Group (airborne) Group Surgeon's office, reporting en masse, Sir! With an attached personnel, Sir!"
Everyone, especially the colonel, try to suppress smiles.
30. Colonel Kingston begins the introductions. "Captains MacDonald and Moore, Lieutenants Thoesen, I'd like you to meet my wife, Josephine."
Greetings go all around, with JRM proudly introducing his family. "...my 5 year old, Kimberly, and her assistant trooper, 2 year old Kris."
Josephine speaks in a clipped British accent, but is not at all "stuffy". She speaks out next: "So you're the new group surgeon, Captain, that Bob has spoken of. Will you be seduced into going Regular Army, Captain?"
Her remark was said with merriment in her voice. She adds, "I wouldn't recommend it."
"Regular Army, Mrs. Kingston?!" Jeff blurts out, as Colette's grip on Jeff's arm tightens. Then he smiles and says, enthusiastically: "I'm considering it. But we do have an appointment in Orthopedic Surgery at Yale, set to begin in two years. I hasten to add, the army has been a blast so far."
Any tension in Colette dissipates as she realizes Mrs. Kingston is baiting her husband and the colonel.
31. Jo turns to Colette: "I highly recommend Yale over Ft. Bragg!" She speaks with a devilish look on her face. "From Connecticut, you can zip into New York City to see the Broadway shows, after all..."trailing off, as if that was crucial, but she is smiling.
"We'll see, Mrs. Kingston." Colette replies neutrally.
32. Jo, enjoying the game, turns back to Captain MacDonald and says, "I suspect Bob has some inducements, Captain. Beware a colonel who praises the young captain. He wants something, I assure you. "
Everyone smiles, as expected, at the affront to Colonel Kingston, her husband.
He - Col. Kingston - retorts: "Pay no mind to Jo, Captain. Displaced British subjects are never happy."
But it is clear to all concerned Bob and Jo make a proud and happy pair. He turns to Colette and speaks.
"I certainly hope you've found Ft. Bragg welcoming you, Mrs. MacDonald. Are you settled in yet?"
33. Colette replies gracefully: "It's been quite nice, thank you, Colonel. Kimberly loves her new school, we enjoy the neighbors, and the post seems both lovely and safe, after we've lived in big cities for 5 years. Lt. Thoesen and his wife have been extremely helpful."
Colonel Kingston continues: "And your quarters?"
He's obviously please with Colette's report, as if it matters to him.
Colette, now beaming, accommodates the colonel's question: "Perfectly adequate. We enjoy that Kim and Kris each have their own bedroom. And after Jeffrey's schedule in surgery last year - 36 hours on and 12 off, for a year! - his new schedule here seems like a breeze to us."
She is clearly relaxing and now enjoying the colonel's aura.
34. Colonel Kingston quips: "Well, we'll see about those hours, Cpt. MacDonald!" His remark was made in mock seriousness.
The colonel then addresses Colette: "If you need anything, Mrs. MacDonald, please do not hesitate to call my wife, or have the captain call my office."
Colette murmurs her heartfelt thanks. She looks relaxed and relieved. [Kingston is quite a legend in the Green Berets. In the Korean War, as a captain, he spent 13 months in North Korea, gathering intelligence and sabotaging installations, and escaped to South Korea by pirating a Chinese junk, which turned out to be a smuggler's junk, loaded with some stolen gold bullion! He eventually went on to being a 3 Star Lieutenant General, Commander of the U.S. Quick Reaction Strike Force at McDill AFB in Florida - a major figure.]
35. Mrs. Kingston pipes up: "Colette, I'd really enjoy it if you'd join me next Friday afternoon for tea. I'm having the wives of all new officers in the 3rd Group over. You'll enjoy meeting them, and you may even meet new friends who can help you get settled."
Colette turns to Mrs. Kingston, "Are children allowed, Mrs. Kingston?"
Jo replies: "Unfortunately, no. We've found it's better to give the moms some relief at an occasional get-together than to bring the children along."
Colette says: "I'd love to, Mrs. Kingston. If I can get a baby-sitter, I'll be there..." and JRM cuts in,
"I'm sure, Mrs. Kingston, there won't be any trouble finding a sitter. Thank you for the kind invitation."
36. "We'll be off then,"
Col. Kingston says, bowing slightly to the ladies, and touching his beret in a semi-salute to the officers present. The 2 captains and 2 lieutenants come to attention and snap salutes.
"Really lovely to meet you, Colette, and I hope you do visit my wife next Friday."
Colette replies: "I'll do my best, Colonel, thank you, and it's been a pleasure meeting you."
37. The groups separate - Colonel and Mrs. Kingston going one way, and the rest turning another.
"So that's a colonel" Colette muses to Judy Thoesen. "He does have presence, as Jeffrey has been telling me."
Judy quips: "Colonels - those who command men and fight, often do. But don't underestimate Jo. Colonels' wives are major power players, too. And by the way - an invitation from the Colonel's wife is an order, not a regular invitation, as you know it!"
and she chuckles.
"You'll find out, but I recommend you make that tea next Friday."
"But I'm not in the army, Judy." Colette spouts, not angrily, but as though the idea that she, too, had "orders" is quite foreign to her.
"Not formally, no. But, believe me, Colette, you're in the army now, just as much as Jeffrey is. You two are attached to the U.S. Army by an umbilical cord. And when the Colonel - or the Colonel's wife - tugs on the cord, you go. But don't worry, the army takes care of its own."
38. Captain Moore cuts in with his smooth, soft, southern drawl: "Ma'am, it's all part of the program. My wife is like you. She isn't comfortable receiving official suggestions from important wives. But the Captain will go fast and far if you both pay attention. Obviously, we can all see the Colonel has his sights on your hubby. Men like Colonel Kingston find the gung-ho ones very quickly, believe me."
39. "Let me get this straight," Colette says, and the group stops and all turn to her. "My husband jumps off a cliff in the fog, with night approaching, winches an injured soldier up to a helicopter to resuscitate him, and his reward is, he gets to jump out of another helicopter first?"
Everyone smiles, and Lt. Judy Thoesen then adds: "And then, you find out, because your husband did those things, you're commanded to go to wives' teas at the Colonel's house, and it's an order."
Colette, smiling, says, "Right!"
And Frank Moore says, "But you're getting used to it, and you did find the Kingstons interesting!"
Everyone laughs at that, as Colette playfully punches Frank lightly on the arm, saying, "Captain Moore!"
As the group resumes walking, Colette comments to Judy Thoesen, "This is going to take some getting used to."
Judy Thoesen answers: "Amen. You're in the army now!"
The last is almost sung as the song.
Captain Moore and JRM, JRM holding Kris, trudge towards the cars. Kim is holding Colette's hand, walking with Judy and Rick Thoesen. They move towards a white Chevy convertible - a 1965 model with a black top - parked in the dwindling row of cars set among the pine trees.