The Front


Erick W. Miller

I once saw an episode of MASH that really upset me. All the doctors were griping about some typical irritation that occurs in a MASH unit, or for that matter, anywhere the military has work which requires counting on another part of the organization. Their solution involved someone going against orders while seeking an immediate answer for an immediate problem. At this point, Hawkeye said, “What are they going to do, send us to the front? We’re already at the front. Maybe they’ll put us in front of the front.” I felt like puking in that REMF’s chow. All he had to do was go to the nearest hospital bed to get accurate directions to the real front.

The guys at the base camps liked to write home and declare that they were at the front.

The guys on the Fire Bases thought that they were definitely at the front. The engineers sweeping the roads could rationalize that they were surely at the front. Let this infantryman clue you in! (Can I have an Amen?) You weren’t at the front until the jungle swallowed you up. At this time you were surrounded by the front. You never knew where the enemy was. Rear security can be as frightening and dangerous as point. You know that you’re at the front when you’re being shot at by small arms and RPG’s and their are no bunkers to seek shelter in. You know that you’re at the front when you encounter a superior enemy force and they have bunkers and you forgot to bring yours. You are keenly aware of being at the front when you’re being over-run and you are completely aware of just where the hell you are when the jets roar in and the air is full of shrapnel like steel Frisbee’s screaming and whining everywhere while the ground moves like waves on the ocean. Just in case some Doubting Thomas still isn’t sure, when the Napalm is dropped and some of your own men are on fire, you can rest assured that you have most affirmably found the front.

I had some REMF ask me one time long after the war, “What could be scarier than 122 MM rockets going off outside your bunker?” My irrefutable reply was simply, “No bunkers!” And people question why so many of the infantry have PTSD.

Erick W. Miller 16 Nov 1997