Saturday, May 01, 2010

Time marches on

I'm still skirting around this old army shit. Started a book - Borderline Insanity - written by a guy that was in my same Infantry Camp - 1SAI (aka 1 Canon Fodder Battalion). He got there a year after me but went through all the same shit. Even had the same Regimental Sergeant Major as me.

There've been a whole slew of  "bush war memoirs" in the past year in SA. But its probably only us dudes that were that are reading them :(

Anyway, I also did a lot of digging around on the web and have managed to put some of the jigsaw puzzle together regarding my war experience. At the time I had zero rank - I was a "Rifleman" which is about as low as you can go, so we weren't privy to what was actually going on at higher levels.

I have subsequently found out that the intake I went in on was always destined for one of the biggest operations in the War. Well, when I say biggest, not in numbers, or in successes but in number of South African soldiers killed. I volunteered to go up about 4 months prior to that with a few mates (just to get the fck out of that prison ground) and our little excursion, in retrospect, was really a preparatory operation. We were in small groups, driving combat vets from 6.1 Mech. There were also some recces & 3.2 Battalion.

When we arrived at our base in Angola - Xangongo - we (the small engineering corps that came with) were tasked with repairing the bridge there that crossed the Cunene River, one of the few crossing points between the SWA border and the Angolan hinterland. About 3 years earlier, on SA's first major assualt into Angola we had crossed the Cunene, wreaked havoc and then withdrew back to Xangongo. The Recces then blew up the bridge at Xangango, so that no enemy mechanised divisions could come our side. The river became the new border.

So our little expedition was to go patch up that bridge, and yes, cross it in armoured vehicles in little groups and go do some snooping around on the other side. All of this, because the Big Brass were planning the big crossing of Operation Askari in a few months time. Not that we knew anything back then - as I've said I've pieced it together after lots of research.

Heres the bridge at Xangongo:

You can see where it was blown in the middle and then how it was patched up again. Once it was patched, my little armoured vehicle - EyeSpy - was the second to cross North. My mate in front Barry was driving "Buffalo Soldier" (actually I have to do a whole notha post on Buffalo Soldier due to the schizophrenic irony that characterised those days) Where the locals are bathing on the right on the far bank in the pic, we spent many a sunny day swimming in the river. Up on the hillock above was where we slept in out trenches and where the G5 cannons used to blast their loads over the Northern horizon every sunset.

Lots of memories for me. One wonders whether to go back and dig them up, or just carry on marching forwards. A good friend of mine said he opened up his box of army memories recently and then decided it was a bad idea and just shut them back up in the box. Me, I'm not sure... Looking back at those days I often wish I was that young, borderline insanity dude again. We were clueless as to the greater political picture but we were super-fit. We were fearless, not in a courageous type of way, but in a totally reckless - couldnt give a fck- kind of way. Had we been thrown into the middle of a conventional battle I've got no clue what would have happened. Maybe I would have shat myself and climbed in a hole. Maybe I would have gone on some Amok type mission. One never really knows these things.When we got home we partied like nobody else could party. BiPolar Disorder wasn't even a term back then I don't think. "Manic Depression" maybe. Or the Afrikaans - "Bos- Bevoked" - basically "Fucked up from the Bush"  

But my romantic wanderings down memory lane were soon bought to a big Halt, when I went looking for more pictures of Xangongo Bridge. You see my whole internal narrative revolved around that bridge. It was my persoanl Bridge over Troubled Water and at night I used to listen to "Burning Bridges" by Naked Eyes. Yes, the same Naked Eyes that sang "Voices in my Head, my Head..." (which accompanied me to Aubrey Levine's Ward 24)

All of it smashed and thrown up on the forgotten shores of history. 

This was the pic I found. With the new 21st Millenium bridge zooting across the Cunene river, our own little Blown-Up and re-mended bridge nothing but a sinking memory.

Maybe I must build a new bridge too. I mean fuck the old one. Who needs it? The Cubans don't. The Russians don't. UNITA doesn't. SWAPO doesn't. The Buffalo Soldiers don't. The Apartheid Regime doesn't. And the peace-loving local dudes that live today on the banks, and in the old bombed out buildings of Xangongo certainly don't.  So why the fuck do I need to cling onto it???   

2 comments:

  1. WillBeFine02 May, 2010

    It is your past, it is part of who you are.

    1. Write, talk, draw, paint, or otherwise tap into your thoughts and memories. Letting go of your past means honoring your memories.

    2.Let go of the emotions and feelings of painful memories by letting them wash over you you'll feel horrible during, but relieved and peaceful afterwards. Let go of your past by reliving it.

    3.Go back and talk to the people involved, if possible. Letting go of your past can mean going back.

    4.Share your real feelings; confess if it's appropriate. Letting go of your past means expressing your emotions. If you have to deal with your mistakes, then own up to your shame or guilt.

    5.Apologize and ask forgiveness if you need to. Letting go of your past means being vulnerable.

    6.Get help with uncontrollable urges to overeat, get stoned or drunk, or otherwise hurt yourself. Letting go of your past means burying your pride.

    7.Letting go of loved ones – whether it's a divorced spouse, dead child, estranged brother, or euthanized pet, is difficult to do. Letting go of your past requires effort and energy, but your own strength and courage will kick in. You'll not only survive, you'll be wiser, more peaceful, and more centered than before if you learn to let go of your past.

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  2. Keep telling that history:

    Read the novel, Rescue at Pine Ridge, "RaPR", where Buffalo Bill Cody meets a Buffalo Soldier. A great story of black military history...the first generation of Buffalo Soldiers.

    How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

    The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry.

    Read the novel, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, 5 stars Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the youtube trailer commercial...and visit the website http://www.rescueatpineridge.com

    I hope you’ll enjoy the novel. I wrote it from my mini-series movie of the same title, “RaPR” to keep my story alive. Hollywood has had a lot of strikes and doesn't like telling our stories...its been “his-story” of history all along…until now. The movie so far has attached, Bill Duke directing, Hill Harper, Glynn Turman and a host of other major actors in which we are in talks with…see imdb.com at; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0925633/

    When you get a chance, also please visit our Alpha Wolf Production website at; http://www.alphawolfprods.com and see our other productions, like Stagecoach Mary, the first Black Woman to deliver mail for Wells Fargo in Montana, in the 1890's, “spread the word”.

    Peace.

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