Sunday, April 14, 2024

A tale of a truck, adrenaline and a forklift

by ROGER GREGORY / Contributing Writer
| March 27, 2024 1:00 AM

Here is a Vietnam story that I recall; a memory brought back from an explosion in a movie that I had watched.

In Vietnam, I did not do anything heroic, I just did my job, just like anyone else. Did I get shot at? Well, yes, but most people in infantry divisions did as their camps were out in the boondocks. Fortunately, none of the bullets hit me. In fact, we were sort of stupid as the Viet Cong were not very good shots, and we laughed about getting shot at. But, unfortunately, some did hit their mark and killed about 1,000 in our division during my tour.

Anyway, other than missed bullets, probably the other most dangerous thing that happened to me was not a firefight with a Viet Cong. Instead, it was a fight with one of our rough-terrain forklifts — one that can go over rough terrain. One had broken down and it was a gas engine, not a diesel. They had drained the gas right onto the ground, which was unknown to me. I was there when they started it up again, and whoosh, the exhaust caught the gas on the ground on fire. 

I yelled, everyone got back and backed that truck up to the forklift. The forklift engine also had gas on it. Now the forklift and the ground were ablaze. In a millisecond, I figured if that thing burned up, I would have to pay the $17,000 for a replacement as I was responsible for it, so it had to be pulled out. I was not going to order anyone to risk their life and do it, so I told them to get back and I proceeded to crawl halfway under the forklift, hook, up the chain and the driver pulled it out. 

Of course, the gas tank could have exploded and blown me all to heck, but with all the adrenaline flowing in me, I didn't even think of that. As it turned out, it was a stupid thing to do, but it all worked out in the end.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran and business owner in Priest River.