Children Will Not Throw Rocks At Aircraft.”  

This directive was sternly handed down to us when we lived at Fort Bragg by our mother, her hard eyes glittering and her lips tightly pursed in a twisted frown. We were in the kitchen of our military quarters (apartment to you civilian folks); supper was being prepared in preparation for my father’s arrival from work.

My brother and I just stared at her wide eyed confusion, not that we allowed our confusion to show. When my mom demanded something, you didn’t act confused about the demand. That would just lead to a frenzied and perhaps extremely violent outburst. You simply obeyed as best you could – no questions asked, no protests made. Question and answer sessions in our household worked quite simply: they would ask the questions, and you would answer. Never the other way around. NEVER. And the other thing: no matter what happened in the outside world – if it was local, and it involved kids: we were suspected of being involved. (I’ll never forget her accusing me of getting a girl pregnant when I was 15 – a girl I’d never heard of who lived almost a mile away. And we weren’t even allowed to date at that age!)

“Some kids were throwing rocks at a helicopter yesterday,” she said, turning back to the stove. “They brought the helicopter down, killing all the G.I.’s on board.” She wheeled, her eyes hard and suspicious. “They were at a playground. You weren’t there, were you?”

My brother and I looked at each other in amazement. Rocks? Bringing a military chopper down? I actually felt a swelling sense of pride mixing with my horror and amazement. We lived on a military base; this was during the Vietnam war – and choppers were military machines, therefore invulnerable. The thought that some kids – mere children like us! – could bring one of those massive machines down armed with nothing but rocks! – astounded me.

“No ma’am,” we dutifully replied. Her eyes darted back and forth between us, like a sweeping switch seeking a victim as she checked our faces for a lie.

“Good.” She said, turning back to the stove. “They came out with a directive. It’s posted on all the bulletin boards. Children Will Not Throw Rocks At Aircraft. And that means you.”

“Yes ma’am,” we dutifully replied again, nodding. We Would Not Throw Rocks At Aircraft. It was forbidden. The Army had said so. And the Army was god. (Thank you, Boomer, for that reminder!)

And so the story came out.

The helicopter had been flying over a playground. The kids below began throwing rocks at it. It brought the aircraft down. The soldiers inside were killed. (Just how LOW were they flying, I wondered at the time – and still wonder – and WHY so low over a PLAYGROUND? Were they going to rappel down to the monkey bars? Take a ride on the swings? It made no sense to me; no more sense than the fact that a child, throwing a rock, could bring down such a machine. In today’s society the Army would be held to blame. But this was the Vietnam era: the military could do as it desired – as long as it was on the Base.)

The Army was hunting the children responsible for the crash. “Hunting.”  That was the word that was used.  I could almost envision soldiers stealthily creeping around the huge apartment buildings, lurking in the bushes, rifles in their hands.   Their fathers would be severely punished. That’s how it works on a military base: the father is punished for the sins of the children. And that guarantees the father WILL punish the child. But not before the father is stripped of rank (perhaps), prestige, money, and the family thrown off the base. I don’t know too many fathers who wouldn’t pound their child’s butt over that! I know I would.  Or at least would want to.

 

Children Will Not Throw Rocks At Aircraft.

It is kind of funny in a ridiculous sort of way when you think about it (ignoring the tragedy which spawned the directive). Children will throw rocks. Children will throw rocks at things that fly. And here’s the funniest thing: the Army, dictating policy to children – and expecting them to obey it.  Like the children were soldiers, too.

 

You would’ve thought they knew better.  After all: they were the ones who trained us, raised us: little warrior’s sons.

 

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