We were crossing a rice paddy in the demilitarized zone, up to our ankles and beyond in the goo that is a rice paddy when the officer I worked with turned and said I needed to camouflage when we got out of the paddy. I told him I was six foot six, had a ten foot antenna on my back and we were in the middle of an open field. I asked what difference a bunch of twigs stuck in my helmet would do to keep me from being less obvious than I already was.
He insisted and being an officer ordered me to camouflage anyway. On the other side of the paddy I passed by a large leafed tropical plant. The leaves were as large as I was. I cut one of the leafs off, cut eye holes and put the stalk in the rubber band around my helmet so the leaf hung down covering me completely. We used thick heavy rubber bands to secure our cigarettes and pencils and whatever we could carry on our helmets. I did all of this as we were continuing to go through the jungle with the officer still in front.
I pulled out my pistol and with it in one hand and my k bar (combat knife) in the other and began to act as if I were sneaking along behind the officer. I would suddenly turn to an imaginary enemy and make motions with the pistol and k bar from behind this large leaf to the sides of the trail. I waited for the moment when he would turn around. I believe he finally turned around because of the marines behind me were laughing so loudly. There was not a lot of laughter in the DMZ if any at all.
When he did turn we made eye contact immediately. His view of me was a pair of eyes behind a large leaf with a pistol in one hand and a k bar in the other. I could tell by his look that he wanted very much to burst out laughing, but he did not and said “Whiznuts I thought I told you to camouflage.” I screamed from behind the leaf looking him in his eyes and said “sir you mean you can see me sir, I am camouflaged.” He never broke into the laughter that I believe that he would, and turned back continuing on the trail. I walked several more yards behind him and finally grew tired of the leaf. I threw it beside the trail and continued on behind him. The officer whose name was Cory Hart never again asked me to camouflage. We served for another eight months as a forward observer team for artillery.
Illustration by Scott Whisenant