As I prepare to leave for Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for a month or so, I pulled a couple of pictures out of the archives. Other than me, the one common thing about the pictures is the Randall knife. This blade with the Indian stag handle was given to me by my late parents when I deployed to Vietnam in 1970 and it is engraved with my name.
One morning late that year, I led my platoon out of our night defensive position north of Bien Hoa near Nui Be mountain. We moved a couple of thousand meters when I reached down and patted my knife’s sheath, a habit which ensured the presence of that valued item.
To my horror, the knife was gone. I suddenly remembered I had left it where I made my “breakfast” of coffee and cocoa that morning. I stopped the platoon and took a patrol back to recover the knife. I was glad I found it before some North Vietnamese soldier stumbled upon it.
When I was preparing to leave for Iraq, I took the weathered knife to the Randall company in Orlando and asked them to re-furbish the blade. They did a beautiful job and made it look brand new. I carried it with me throughout our convoys and our travels in the war zone.
The first picture was taken in a jungle landing zone just before Christmas, 1970. Standing next to me is Captain Oakland Adams, a Ranger who was an outstanding company commander.
The second picture was taken in the Green Zone in Baghdad in October, 2004. Lieutenant Clarke Cooper was kind enough to re-enact the older photo, a copy of which I just happened to have on hand.
It is an interesting comparison, but a sobering one for an old soldier. Soldiers are much like knives; they both age over time, but they work just fine as long as you keep the edge as sharp as possible.
SFC Chuck Grist