It was sometime in 1967. We had been at a bridge repair site south of Chu Lai for several days - the Viet Cong had blown up a bridge along Highway 1 and we were part of the engineer crew that was repairing that bridge. Our portion of the work was finished, so now we were heading back to the battalion compound to get cleaned up and to get some much-needed rest.

After spending several days at the bridge site I could literally smell myself and the aroma was not pleasant - kind of like the smell of goats. So I was very much looking forward to scrubbing away the dirt and stink in our newly constructed battalion shower facility.

By the time we got back to the compound the temperature was a triple digit with high humidity - not unusual for Chu Lai. After a quick visit to my hooch it was routine in our battalion compound for us to walk to the shower tent wearing only a towel wrapped around our waists - of course we also had our boots, helmets, flak jackets, war belts and rifles with us as we trudged across the hundred yards or so to the large tented shower facility.

I entered the dressing area of the shower facility and saw several of my buddies that were with me at the bridge site already scrubbing away the three days of dirt. I picked out an empty spot on the bench in the dressing area to stow my gear and then gingerly walked into the area where the streaming showerheads were located. Needless to say the shower felt great and after giving myself a good scrubbing I took a few moments to simply enjoy the experience of the running water.

Feeling rejuvenated, I walked back to the dressing tent just in time to see my buddies leaving. I walked over to where I stowed my gear looking for my towel so I could dry off from the shower. It didn't take long to realize my towel was missing and nowhere to be found. So, here I am about a hundred yards away from my hooch and some S.O.B. stole my towel. What kind of scumbag would do such a thing?

After a minute or so of further searching I finally said to hell with it. Still dripping wet I put my boots and war belt on donned my flack jacket and helmet and grabbed my M-14 and exited the tent to begin the trek back to my hooch, only this time without a towel wrapped around my waist and with my very special appendage swinging freely in the wind.

After a few steps in the open I thought what the hell is the big deal about being naked anyhow? It's not that far to my hooch and there wasn't a lot of Marines around that time of day, everyone was at their work sites. That is until I looked up to my left and saw my battalion commander, LtCol Babe, about 40 yards away walking perpendicular to my path. I saw that his stare was straight forward and for a fleeting second thought he wasn't even going to see me but that all changed in a beat of my heart when he turned his head my way and immediately walked toward me. He closed the distance fast, so I stopped as he neared and snapped to attention.

Before he even got to where I was standing I heard him yell, "Where's your towel, Marine?" There he was - my battalion commander, standing directly in front of me impatiently waiting for my answer. I responded, "Some body stole it, sir." He said, "Someone stole your towel?" "Yes, sir," I responded. He then looked me over and said, "Well then, the next time you decide to take a shower you better bring two towels! This may be a combat zone but it isn't a nudist colony."

With that he turned smartly away and walked off. I too decided to kick it in high gear to get back to my hooch and out of the spotlight of the entire 9th Engineer Battalion. As I neared my hooch I saw my three buddies stick their heads out of the doorway. One of them was waving my towel as they laughed uncontrollably.