As a teenage boy in the Sunshine State in the 1960s, Ron Tucker was living the good life. An avid surfer who excelled at all high school sports, including girls, Ron spent his days and nights living a young man’s dream. But when he signed up for the draft in 1971, as expected, his life took a wide turn into the unknown future of a young soldier during the war in Vietnam.
From his senior year in high school, his relationship with his high school sweetheart to graduation day, basic training, and beyond, Ron sees the reality of adulthood coming at him at the speed of a giant wave. However, growing up proves to be the hardest wave to ride. It’s unpredictable and filled with all types of characters and experiences that prove there’s much more than just a lot of fish in the sea.
This story follows Ron on his journey from home, to basic training, to realizing his sweetheart may not be who he thought she was. Ron explores new friendships and a whole world beyond the beaches of Florida. One thing he learns fast; is that while riding that wave of life, sometimes, you’re going to wipe out, but once in a while, you ride that wave all the way to the beach.
Son of A Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield, 1968
Ron solemnly admitted, “I was fighting for my life in a country not many in the western or modern world had ever heard of until the 1960s, in a war, which one could say was less popular than ants or other insects and critters at a Sunday picnic. This was when he discovered that music could have the power to save his life. Ron began to learn how these mystical experiences could happen in his Basic Training class when he met a guy named Daryl R. Lynch. This cat was just another raw recruit from Detroit, Michigan, who had volunteered to be a part of Uncle Sam’s modern-day Army. But he would leave such an uncanny yet lively impression on Ron and several others that he would never forget.
Lynch was a formidable-looking young man, standing well over the six-foot-tall mark and weighing in at an impressive 250 pounds with skin as smooth and dark as day-old coffee. To say he was intimidating to look at would most definitely be an understatement. But inside that impressive NFL-caliber body beat a pure heart filled with righteous soul. You see, Lynch’s father was a Baptist Preacher and had wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. However, Daryl, the rebellious type, had other plans for his life. He had always wanted to be a Disc-Jockey—a DJ spinning those thirty-three and forty-five rpm vinyl records in some soulful radio station around or inside the heart of Motown. By the time Lynch had joined the Army, he already had his radio call name figured out. He would use his unique voice, which sounded like a cross between James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman, to become infamously known as Doctor Bop. Sometimes after lights out and all was quiet, Dr. Bop would sing a song or two. In a voice so controlled, one might have thought Ben E King or Barry White had stopped in for a visit, depending on the tune. Ron’s personal favorite was “Stand by Me.” You could hear a pin drop upstairs when he sang it. His singing could put you all the way back home, listening to the ole radio beside your bed if you let it. Lynch was gifted, an artist who could control his emotions and northern accent like a seasoned professional, whether talking or singing.
For Private Lynch, it was much more than just a job. Being a disc jockey was a calling, a passion that would ultimately be his chosen career path. It wasn’t enough for him to know every record’s name and who sang the songs. He wanted his new buddies to know where the artists were from and some of their backgrounds too. That is, if his prayers trumped his fathers.
One intriguing day, he sold his convictions to everyone when he explained that songs could mark a period in the history of a person’s life, such as where you were when a certain song was played and what you were doing at a particular moment. Time can be instantly recorded that way. For instance, the first time you were at a party and gave your first girl a real kiss, or when you got your first set of wheels, or maybe your first bonafide backseat fling. Ya Hoo! The guys bought into it then, and many song titles throughout this book are used to mark time in this manner. One example is “One Tin Soldier,” the theme song for the Billy Jack movies. A few say that Billy Jack inspired more guys to be better soldiers than will ever admit to it, especially the young man, who is the primary focus of this book.
Select recordings can evoke powerful memories by using the song titles, lyrics, or even the theme, including conjuring some of them back to life. Using the lyrics and/or rhythm of the music creates an authentic relationship to the time and place of each story throughout this book, which hopefully helps the reader find some foundation or insight into the thoughts and convictions of the book’s characters. All the songs chosen are relevant, but none more so than The Rolling Stones, “Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” in which retribution for the death of a buddy or the reasons and circumstances as to why they had perished could not be attained swiftly enough in the minds and hearts of those directly involved.
Music plays an integral part in everyone’s life, whether they agree with it or not. And Ronald L. Tucker shares many songs with you by way of his buddy Daryl Lynch at just the right moments in this book.
Lynch believed, like Jimi Hendrix, who once said, “Music is a Religion for me. They’ll be music in the hereafter, too.” As for me, I feel the same way.
“Be you round or be you square; you’ll have the sounds to rock a bear.” Many thanks to you, DR-Bop, for that rare insight of yours. You were one cool and righteous dude from back in the day! Wishing you well, my man, wherever you may be.
Paperback Writer – The Beatles, 1966
Once again, Tucker and the guys were out on a convoy as escorts. They had just finished rebuilding the guns on yet another M-42 track earlier that morning with little help, I might add, from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, also known as the ARVN Marvins. The twin 40mm cannons were loaded and ready for action if needed, as were the two machine guns perched on either side of the big guns turret. All four tracks that day were ones the trainers had rebuilt, but with little to almost no help from the ARVNs when and if they got it.
This convoy was larger than most that they had been on before. It had two extra tracks, two additional Quad-50s (4 fifty caliber machine guns on a mount) mounted on the back of the staggered two and 1/2 (deuce and a half), and 5-ton trucks scattered throughout the convoy. There were also several jeeps with 50cal. machine guns mounted on them where the back seat should be (aka Rat Patrol style) like the ones that MPs patrolled around the bigger airports and problem areas within the country.
They were not much farther than ten miles out when the convoy started taking sniper fire, which wasn’t unusual. A few rounds here and a few rounds there was the norm for most trips. Around the next bend in the road, the preverbal shit started hitting the fan. The hillside began to erupt with small arms fire directed at the covered trucks in the convoy. The local NVA spies must have told someone that there would be ammunitions traveling by ground today instead of by air.
Depending on which pair of captains or convoy commanders were sent out might determine whether or not the casualty list was high or low on any given day. There was always one American and one ARVN designated to lead each convoy. The wrong ones were sent out on this day from both militaries.
The captains received reports of fire coming from the left flank but stopped to listen to the full report. In doing this, the convoy almost came to a complete halt. Instantly recognizing this, the NVA mortar crews started to lob in their direction, not taking much time zeroing in on any one particular truck at first.
Ron Tucker’s track was designated #2, and his track commander, Sgt. Lee, had been waiting for instructions to engage, except time had run out. The mortars began finding their targets, so he directed his track, which was covering the rear of the convoy at that time, to fire. Spec. 4 Ron Tucker, the track’s gunner, brought his guns around. Now aiming at the flashes coming from the ridge line to his left, he began to fire. He saw more flashes and fired again. Spec. 4 Brown, the driver, had now pulled entirely out of line and was gaining speed to climb a small foothill just off the side of the highway. Smithy had already fired several belts of ammo through the 30-Cal. on his side of the turret with much accuracy onto the small arms fire.
Then Sergeant Lee, track #2’s commander at the time, directed the counterattack while the captains finally took their heads out of their asses, got the convoy started around the next bend, and called for air support. The Quad-50s stayed with the convoy along with two Rat Patrol jeeps and the other tracks for their security.
The NVA were adamant this day that they would blow up at least one of the trucks carrying the ammo. They started firing small rockets along with their mortars and machine guns, which had joined in on their ambush. The trucks were being hit, but nothing had gone ablaze yet.
Dillon returned around the corner with track #1 with Wallace on the 40 mm’s and Taylor on the 50-Cal.., just in time to see two RPGs finding their mark, exploding a five-ton truck into a ball of fire. Even before these explosions started, there was no hope for the two men in the truck’s cab. Their TC (Track Commander) Staff Sergeant Holt was in contact with the TC from track #2 when the explosion happened, prompting him to say, “Holy Shit, what was that?” In a matter of seconds, the ammo that wasn’t destroyed in the initial blast instantly began to cook off like a 4th of July celebration.
Brown had almost reached the foothill when an RPG rocked their track. Suddenly a machine gun was also zeroing in on them. During this time, Tucker had been giving the ridge line hell. He fired as fast as the two ARVN soldiers could load the cannons. The entire ridge and surrounding forest were on fire from the high explosive rounds. He had been so busy engaging with the enemy forces that he hadn’t noticed their track slowing down and coming to a halt.
When a pair of Cobra Gunships arrived on the scene, Dillon had moved track#1 with its crew firing their weapons and closing in on the same targets that track #2 was hammering on. The sleek-looking choppers made several passes, finding the remaining forces retreating into the jungle behind the exposed ridgeline and peppering any and everything that moved. The two snakes added more than adequate firepower to suppress the NVA.
Dillon now moved alongside track #2 to see why Brown had stopped short of his objective when he noticed that Brown was all slumped over. He started yelling, and the sergeant, now the closest to Brown, stopped firing his rifle and looked over to see Dillon pointing at Brown. Immediately he knew that he was in trouble. At this point, Tucker, too, had looked at his buddy and jumped down to see a hole in his steel helmet with blood running down the side of the big guy’s face. Together, Tucker and his sergeant carefully pulled Brown from the driver’s seat and through the front door of the track. Dillon, quick to think, made sure a Dust-Off had been called for and was on the way. As some of the original 12 men assisted with Brown, others just looked on helplessly but hopeful that Brown would somehow be okay. Although they had all seen some combat before now, no one they knew personally had ever been wounded in their presence.
The Dust-Off came swooping in, with everyone helping and doing whatever they could and needed to do to lend their assistance, realizing the situation was critical. Spec-4 Brown was in a desperate struggle for his life, and everyone knew it. Then as the chopper was about to lift off, the medic said he would try to call back to give an update as soon as they arrived at the hospital.