Remember the Amnesty box down in Bien Hoa? I was leaving...going home...was I ever feeling lucky. The night before I had been in the EM club at Long Binh playing the slot machines and had actually hit the jack pot. I think I won a hundred dollars...and to me, I was rich. I was rich, I had survived my year in Nam, I was going home...and there I was, in the terminal in Bien Hoa, waiting on my Freedom Bird to land...and up in the front of this room was a big old red box...about 4' high, maybe 6' by 6' inside...painted Red.

A Lt. came in and began talking in a nice voice, which was a real change. For a year, nearly every officer I had met was looking at me like I was dirt and either yelling orders or talking to me like I was an idiot. This guy was talking respectfully and being real nice.

He told us he understood that we wanted to take souvenirs home with us, but taking anything that could explode or shoot was illegal. A lot of other stuff was also...and he explained all that...and asked us kindly if we would come up and put all that stuff in the Red Amnesty box...please. Well, a few of the guys got in their packs and took stuff up.

He waited patiently and then said, "Fellows, I know some of you still have items that are illegal...and I don't want to see you have to go to, I'm going to go get a cup of coffee and when I come back, all of you that still have items that you shouldn't be taking home, come up here and put them in the box...." and with that he left.

Well, half the guys then got up and started to fill the box in earnest. Man, I couldn't believe the stuff they were taking home. You name it...automatic weapons, frags, C-4, Claymores, ammo, all kinds of gook guns and ammo, and this time they nearly filled the box....

We had all sat down again....and we heard the freedom bird land...our ride home had landed. The Lt. came back in...and this time he looked at the box, then at us, then at the box, then at us, and then he looked at us with this venomous scow on his face, which was beginning to turn red.

"Ok you assholes...I'll make this fucking clear!!! We're gonna search every one of you before you get on the plane....if you have weapons on you, you get to go to Long Binh Jail!" (a place we all knew about...and none of us ever wanted to see the inside of....) "The war is over for you guys, " he continued in a rage at the top of his voice, "Leave your weapons here or go to jail here...and if you should be sneaky enough to get by us here, you'll be searched again in California...and you'll go to jail there! Now, I'm gonna give you just five minutes and then I'm putting you in formation and searching every bag and person here!" he screamed and walked out again.

I knew we had all been good kids and put our weapons in the box...but sure enough, there were some guys walking forward again...and then some more...and then some more...and then some more...and finally, you couldn't even see the frigging box!!!!

The Lt. came back in, called us to attention, and marched us out to the door to the plane...and just before he let us out of the room he stopped us, looked at the box, and then said, "That's about right guys...when I can't see the box, I got most of them....", then smiled and said, "Have a good flight home."

I knew he'd done this before....



Originally posted on 1st Cavalry Association Guest Book
by, and included here with permission from Steve Richey.

ęSteve Richey, 2003-2009, All Rights Reserved.

E-Mail to Steve Richey: