He didn’t offer, and I didn’t ask. For details, that is; details about his 13 months in Vietnam during 1965 and ’66. My Old Man never talked about his time in Southeast Asia. Oh, he might say a word here and there, maybe after a handful of 55-cent drafts at Johnny Shafer’s Tavern. But not much. No pictures. No stories. No conversations.
And no trophies—no souvenirs, save one. In a dark corner of the closest, in an olive-drab soft case stenciled with his name—Michael Johnson—rank, I/LT, and serial number, was a rifle.
It wasn't something one would necessarily associate with the Vietnam Conflict; at least not based on what was being televised on the networks each evening back at home. This was a Mauser Model 98; German in origin. The rifle itself was a mystery. For me, when I was still in my teens, it was a matter of how.
How did it get to this sleepy little village in northeast Ohio? What was a WWII-era German rifle doing in Vietnam in the first place? For the Old Man, the question then, as it is today, centered more on what. What was the Mauser doing in a cave in Southeast Asia? But I’m getting ahead of myself.