On May 6, 1968, the 82nd Airborne gave my Dad a leadership award called the “Iron Duke”, even though he was JAG and the regulars should have disliked him. That ought to tell you as much as you need to know about him. I’ve still got the heavy trophy in my office.
We lived in Fort Bragg, North Carolina during the Viet Nam conflict. Our house faced woods separating us from the training ground for U.S. Special Forces. There was a training camp we could tour, demonstrating the dangers hidden under Vietnamese villages. But there were also things you weren’t allowed to see. They’d leave guys out in those woods and make them forage for weeks to hone survival skills.
My friends and I were allowed to play in the woods and watch drills and maneuvers on the other side. But there were some accommodations we had to make.
The way I remember it, I picked out my first dog (a wire haired fox terrier named Rob Roy – partly after the Scottish war hero, partly after my Grandfather’s favorite beverage) by selecting the only dog that did not run to the cage door when I stuck my hand in. As I remember it, Rob Roy was regal – ready to go, for sure – but patiently eyeing us as if to set himself apart from the other clamoring pups. Dad would always contradict my telling and say that he was throwing himself against the cage door with all the others. Anyway, we took him home. As for how it started, we agreed to disagree.
Rob Roy was allowed outside but not without supervision. He’d sit in the high grass and watch the base activity with a calm remove. We had to watch him, Dad said, because of the “snake-eaters”. He meant the special forces foraging in the woods across the way. He wasn’t kidding. He knew what they were capable of and, apparently, that was anything – including, eating our pet. So we watched Rob Roy play in the yard and let him back in. Every time.
On February 17, 1970, there was an 0340 emergency call on the base by Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. He reported a “stabbing” and when the military police arrived they found a slaughterhouse. The wife, children – all dead. The word is that MacDonald asked for my Father to represent him. My Dad would say that after going to the crime scene and realizing how badly the MP’s had screwed it up, he couldn’t do that and ended up working for the Army prosecution.
But that’s another story.