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A Stitch in Time Saves Nine
By baby huey
My long-departed four-foot eleven-inch Irish-American mother had a
proverb for just about every situation in life. If it wasn't an urging to
finish my meal because "there are starving kids in China," then it was to
stay out of the cookie jar before I was "caught red-handed." There seemed to
be a rich collection of animal phrases such as "it's raining cats and dogs,"
or may times, I was "barking up the wrong tree."
With all the running around I did as a child, many times, I would get
injured and just have to "bite the bullet" while crying "crocodile tears"
and hoping I didn't "kick the bucket." She'd lovingly, but sternly, tell me
to stop crying and "stick a sock in it."
One of the more odd or obscure proverbs were "a stitch in time saves
nine," which I didn't understand until much later in life. It seems she
meant it to mean to delay or put off doing something until a later time.
People use "a stitch in time saves nine" to express that it's better to
spend a little time and effort to deal with a problem right now than to wait
until later, when it may get worse and take longer to complete.
In early 1971 I was stationed at Mace Fire Support Base (FSB), where we
had a rash of overly critical classifications of wounds to soldiers
originating from one particular unit. The unit was conducting operations in
the old lighthouse area just north of the coastal town of Ham Tam. Flying to
this unit's location put us at the furthest north edge of our area of
My fear was we'd fly to this unit's location for a traumatic wound only
to find some soldier had a scratch on his knee. Being that far north would
leave us vulnerable to having multiple wounded soldiers, in the southern
part of our AO, almost 30 minutes away.
After several over classified patients, we started doing a lot of
"bitching in the hooch." A day later, we got a nine-line casualty report
that this unit had an urgent traumatic amputation of a soldier's arm. We
scrambled as fast as we could and were airborne in only minutes. About five
minutes into the flight, I let Doc Nose use the FM radio to talk directly to
the unit medic on the ground. It was then that I overheard the wound
downgraded and described as a traumatic amputation of the hand. Another five
minutes went by, and I put Doc Nose in contact with the unit medic again. We
found the patient's wound reclassified as an urgent traumatic amputation of
When we arrived over the unit's location, we were required to conduct a
hoist operation to extract the patient from the jungle. I slowed the
helicopter to a hover, and the medic lowered the hoist cable and forest
penetrator to the ground. A minute or two later, the medic reeled back up
the hoist cable, and the patient brought into the cargo compartment.
That's when I hear Doc Nose say over "hot mike" that the soldier only had
a small cut to the top of his hand. I was livid. I asked Doc Nose if he had
surgical thread for stitching a wound. He said yes, and I told him to lace
the injury with a single stitch and send the trooper back down to his unit
on the rescue hoist.
Arriving back at Mace FSB, I was greeted by an Infantry Colonel who
proceed to "dress me down" for what was probably only 90 seconds but seemed
like weeks. I was about to start my well-rehearsed (I got in trouble
frequently), "Yes Sir, yes Sir, never again, Sir" when I decided on another
I threw my shoulders back, looked him straight in the eyes, and told him
the Army Medical Department has the mantra "To conserve the fighting
strength" and that one could not have conserved the fighting strength any
fast than I had. Ahhhhhh, that didn't go over well with the Colonel, and to
this day, I can still see his red, vein-bulging face as he screamed at me
that my military career was finished.
Of course, I just stood there at attention and smiled, visualizing my
mother saying, "a stitch in time saves nine!"
Getting on the R&R Roster
By baby huey
I arrived in-country as Medevac Meadows drew to a close. Little Okie flew
down to Ben Hoa and snatched my young butt out of the Three Days Charm
School and off to Song Be we went. Not that I had a choice, but my hold
baggage went to Phouc Vinh, where I finally found it a little over a week
I was issued a room and dumped my stuff in it, and then decided to
take a walking tour of the area. The first folks I met were Ray Zepp and
Rich Leonard, who came to a stiff attention and saluted me.
They welcomed me and told me the R&R roster was a first-come-first-leave
list and that I should immediately go to the orderly room and sign up for my
R&R. Any delay may mean the difference of weeks and weeks, or not being able
to go at all. They also were kind enough to warn me that the orderly room
clerk hated lieutenants and would probably try to tell me one had to be
in-country for three months before being eligible for going on R&R. I was
assured that if I "locked his heals," I could get him to put me on the R&R
Off to the order room, I went, and sure enough, the clerk tried to hand me
crap, saying I didn't qualify since I wasn't in-country long enough. I
proceeded to have him come to attention and "ripped him a new one" only to
hear loud uncontrolled laughter coming from the doorway.
Yup, there were Zepp and Leonard on the ground laughing hysterically. That's
when I realized the clerk was telling me the truth and never listened to
Zepp or Leneord again.
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