The Vet - Part One
This is not any kind of fanfiction. It is an original story, but it has its roots in the first Rambo movie - an Army veteran home from the Viet Nam war trying to fit in somehow. Rated PG
After Matt's discharge from the Army, in May, 1970, he arrived back in the U.S. at San Francisco. At the airport he realized that he didn't know what to do. There was no one back home. But he didn't know anywhere else to go. So as much as he disliked doing so, he bought a train ticket home, to Maitland. A small central Florida town just north of Orlando. He tried visiting some distant relatives, but either he couldn't locate them, or they were too busy, or too disinterested for him to stay for long.
He got a room with a kitchenette at the Maitland Motel for $45 per week. He had a few bucks he'd saved while in Nam, so he didn't have to worry about that for a while. There wasn't much to be had in the way of work in Maitland, so he tried Sanford and Orlando. After a couple of weeks he got a job at night at an XYZ Liquors warehouse for $6 an hour. It wasn't much but it paid the rent, bought groceries, and he could catch the bus to and from work without having too far to walk.
Less than a week had passed and Matt knew this job wasn't for him. The work wasn't hard, but he didn't really care for the people he worked with. They played too much, drank on the job, and expected Matt to do the same. When he wouldn't join in, he was left alone. And he ended up doing most of the work.
After a few weeks, Matt was contacted by someone from Veteran's Affairs. He reminded Matt that he had his G.I. Bill college benefits to use if he desired. Matt didn't know anything about the college program. After the Rep explained that he could go to college and Uncle Sam would pay for it, Matt's interest was piqued; the first thing that had interested him since he left Nam. The Veteran Rep helped him fill out the necessary papers, and had Matt go to the office in Orlando to decide which college he wanted to attend. He only had two weeks to get enrolled in the upcoming term.
Three weeks later Matt checked into another motel, temporarily, until he could find more permanent lodgings, while he attended Webster State University near Bolton, Texas. It wasn't a particularly large college. It only had 5,000 students, but it had all the amenities of larger universities: male and female dormitories (which were already full by the time Matt got enrolled), fraternities and sororities, an ROTC program; all the sports programs: football, baseball, basketball, track, wrestling; a large selection of subjects, and small classes. It also had some of the not-so-good imports as well: hippie-types, political demonstrators, social demonstrators, and the usual self-important BMOC types -- the sports jocks, the cheerleaders, the well-to-do cliques. But Matt wasn't much interested in the social aspects of college life. All he wanted to do was take his classes, get the best grades he could, get some kind of degree, and end up with a career he could live with and earn a living at.
His first few weeks on campus were as confusing and as frustrating for him as they were for all freshmen. But being three or four years older than most of them, who were right out of high school, and being much more mature, Matt was more easily able to cope and not feel completely lost.
All freshman were required to visit the Student Advisor several times during the first term. At first he had trouble understanding why Matt had no interest in joining some fraternity, or going out for a sport, any sport. Matt probably could have told him that after almost 3 years of combat in Viet Nam that fraternities and sports held no excitement for him, but he didn't. Matt only said he wasn't interested. Later, Matt's high school transcripts and service record arrived at the college, and after realizing Matt wasn't a kid right out of high school, the S.A. never bothered him about it again.
Matt was lucky enough to find a small apartment, about a half mile from the campus, that he could afford. And he didn't mind the walk, even after the weather turned cold. After the heat and humidity of Viet Nam he welcomed the dry cold.
Matt, after being a little apprehensive, found that he really enjoyed being in a classroom again. His first classes were those he was most interested in. He could take the required courses later. He took beginning algebra, an English writing class, and an Oriental history class. He could have taken four classes, but he wasn't sure if he could handle more than three to begin with. He got A's in the algebra; A's and B's in English and Oriental History. He thought everything was going really great. He was getting good grades, he met a few people to talk to and study with, and for the first time in a long time he could sleep all night long without waking up at every little noise. A noise that used to mean a VC was trying to sneak up on him.
His problems started with one of the campus Big Men, a football hero who decided that since Matt was only a freshman he should be more respectful to the Seniors, and to him personally. It was a tradition that Freshmen walk around the center courtyard rather than through it, but since Matt had classes on opposite sides of the courtyard, he chose not to walk the extra 20 or 30 yards to go around. Since he wasn't a member of any fraternity, he wasn't wearing the scarf, or hat, or other outward sign of a Pledge (a first year Frat man). So he was taken for a Sophomore, or maybe a Junior -- he did look older than those just out of high school.
But somehow "Bull" Johnson, a big 200 pound tackle, found out that Matt was, indeed, a Freshman, and was violating the Code by walking where he wasn't supposed to. So one Monday morning, after a really hard drinking weekend, and feeling especially hung over, and mean, Bull stood in Matt's way as he was crossing the Forbidden Courtyard. As Matt went to walk around him, Bull pushed Matt back, his books falling, and asked Matt, "What the fuck you think you're doing? FRESHMAN!"
"Just trying to get to class." Matt answered, really not wanting a confrontation.
"Don't you know you FRESHMEN aren't allowed to walk here?" Bull asked, getting into Matt's face.
Matt backed up a couple of steps, mainly to get away from Bull's bad breath, and said, "Why should I walk around when it's so much closer to go straight through?"
"I told you!" Bull yelled. "You fuckin', pussy FRESHMEN aren't allowed!"
"Too bad." Matt answered. "I go where I want, when I want."
Matt picked up his books and walked around Bull, hoping it was over. But it wasn't, not for Bull, because he grabbed Matt by the back of his collar and started jerking him backward. Bull started to make more threats, but Matt, who'd had enough, used the momentum Bull had started and caught Bull across the mouth with his elbow. As Bull stepped back, trying to keep his balance, Matt drove the heel of his hand under Bull's chin in an upper cut.
As soon as Bull hit the ground Matt was on him, turned him over and put his arms around Bull's neck in a strangle hold that could easily be used to break his neck. As Bull gurgled and flailed, Matt tightened the hold enough to cause Bull to stop fighting and said in his ear. "Man, if you EVER fuck with me again, I will make you DEAD. You got that? Make you fuckin' DEAD!"
Before Bull could answer Matt let him go with just enough of a parting squeeze to cause Bull to start gagging. Oblivious of the crowd that had gathered, Matt retrieved his books and walked to his next class. About twenty minutes after the English class started Campus Security came to get Matt and took him to the Dean's office. Bull was already there.
Security had already questioned the eye witnesses, so they knew the fight had been started by Bull, but still wanted to talk to Matt and Bull together, hoping to end it before it got any farther. Bull kept insisting that he had had the right to keep Matt from walking across the courtyard since Matt was only a Freshman.
Finally, Matt, getting tired of it all, said, "Look, I'm only here for one thing, and that's to get an education. I don't give a fuck about all your little clubs and your bullshit rules. So don't think I'm going to be intimidated by this big dumb-ass sonofabitch trying to see how much weight he can throw around. I didn't spend 3 years killing Gooks just to put up with your bull shit games."
And Matt stormed out of the Dean's office to the student center, to wait for his third class. After a few moments of silence the Dean told Bull he could go, but if he wanted to play football, he'd better leave Matt alone. And he told the Security guard to keep an eye on Matt, just in case.
While eating lunch, waiting for his algebra class a few people asked Matt what had happened in the Dean's office. Since nothing much did, Matt didn't say much. After a while he was left alone.
Matt was pretty sure things had blown over and he wouldn't have any more trouble, but it was just beginning.
Bull, trying to save face, started spreading it around that Matt was some kind of Jungle Killer just back from Viet Nam. And that Matt's mind could go at any minute and he could become some kind of crazed murderer. Matt wasn't entirely unaware that he was being talked about, but he thought it was because of the fight he'd had with Bull, and it would die out pretty soon.
Matt's first class was Oriental History, and three days later, while starting the section on Southeast Asia, and Viet Nam in particular (since there was still a war going on there), Matt was confronted by several students who were against the war.
The instructor, hearing that Matt had been in Viet Nam, asked Matt to describe the land and people he'd seen. Somewhat reluctantly, and after a weak protest, Matt stood up to describe some of what he'd seem. But before he could get started one of the girls spoke out.
"Is it true that you kill babies over there?"
"What?" Matt asked, surprised at the question.
"You heard me. How many babies did You kill?"
Matt looked at her for almost half a minute, and before he answered she demanded impatiently, "Well? How many babies did you kill?"
Slowly, and deliberately Matt looked her in the eye and said,
"Not nearly enough of 'em."
And he sat back down, ignoring her ranting and protesting until the instructor, who'd lost control of the class, dismissed them for the rest of the hour. Matt was the last one out of the classroom, and by the time he got to the library, to wait for his English class, a crowd of ten or fifteen Viet Nam protesters had gathered, ready to do harm to this baby killer. As Matt got close to the library he saw what was happening, but before he could leave he was surrounded by the crowd.
"What's the matter, Baby-Killer?" one said. "You can't be afraid of us. Any one who can murder little babies has to be big and strong and brave."
"Come on, Baby-Killer, kill us."
"How many babies, Baby-Killer?"
"Come on, Baby-Killer."
Finally Matt had had enough, again. "You fucking people. You don't know what's going on. You have NO idea what it's like over there. You sit here in your air conditioning, you sleep good at night, no worries about being shot or mortars falling down around you. You've got it so good here and you think you know everything there is to know."
But the more Matt tried to talk, the louder the protesters got, not wanting to hear what he said. After a few minutes Matt started to push his way through the crowd. Out of the corner of his eye Matt saw a fist coming toward his head. It was too late to duck it. So he rolled as much as he could with it. At the same time he reached up to grab the arm as the fist connected. The crowd was too close for him to get the arm and he fell to one knee. As he tried to stand back up he was hit again, from behind. And again. And again. The surge of the crowd knocked him to the pavement and he felt himself being kicked in the back and the front.
Someone tried to step on his head.
Then his Viet Nam survival training kicked in, literally. He held one foot close to him as he kicked out, damaging the two nearest shins. He swept his leg back and forth, kicking when he could. When a little space cleared he kicked up at the man who's leg he was holding, hitting him in the chest. Letting go of the leg, the man fell, and Matt sprung to his feet, his elbows, fists, knees and feet striking hard and often. It didn't matter who got hit, men or women; they all were targets.
Suddenly Matt was standing alone. Eight of nine were on the ground holding various parts of their bodies and moaning. The rest of the crowd disappeared. Farther back another crowd had gathered, the amazed onlookers watching but not daring to help either side. As Matt stood there, turning slowly and watchfully for any more attackers several Security guards rushed up. Realizing that it was over, they began to administer to the fallen protesters, ignoring Matt even though he was cut and bleeding in several places. As Matt started to leave the Chief of Security asked him where he was going. When Matt told him he was going home, the Security Chief told him to stay where he was.
"You know where I live." Matt said. "If you want me that's where I'll be." And Matt walked away.
The Security man started to say something but there were too many injured students to tend to.
At eight next morning a deputy sheriff's car was at Matt's apartment to take him do the Dean's office. In the office was the Dean, Student Advisor, Chief of Security, two deputies, and Matt.
"...And while we know you didn't start it, we just can't have you going around getting into scrapes and hurting people. You hit girls, for Christ's sake." the Dean was saying.
"I was down on the ground and was being kicked by both girls and guys." Matt responded. "I was just trying to keep from getting hurt."
"I realize that..." the Dean started to say, but Matt continued..
"When I was in Nam it didn't matter about the sex. You defended yourself regardless."
"But this isn't Viet Nam." One of the deputies said. "And these kids aren't your enemy."
"These kids' parents haven't stopped calling me about their children getting beat up." Said the Dean.
"Doesn't matter to me," Matt said. "They attacked and I did what I had to do. And if it happens again I'll do the exact same thing again."
"That's what I was afraid of." The Dean said. "I, we, think it would be better if you just don't finish out this semester. Maybe if you come back next term, or maybe the one after that, things will be different, not so volatile. You see what I mean?"
"You mean you want me to quit." Matt answered
"Well, not really quit. Just wait a little while, maybe even a year or two. I'm sure all this will be forgotten by then."
"So what if refuse? Then what?"
"Then you leave me no other choice but to suspend you, and to bar you from coming on campus. I don't want it that way, but if you leave me no other choice...."
"So what do I do in the mean time? I was told by Veterans Affairs that I could...."
"We'll just talk to your Vet Rep and try to work things out," said the Student Advisor. "Look, Son, we all know how it is. We were in World War II, and Korea. We know it's not easy trying to cope with civilian life after being in the military."
When Matt didn't say anything, the S.A. went on. "You know college isn't the only avenue open for your G.I. Bill. There are vocational schools, apprenticeship programs. Lots of other choices. You can work and be trained at the same time.
"There are construction apprenticeship programs, you can learn to drive the big rigs, Civil Service jobs. There are hundreds alternatives to college. Why don't you check into them. Your Vet Rep can help. I'd be glad to do what I can. So, what do you say? Is it worth a shot?"
"I suppose." Matt answered, knowing he didn't have any other option.
A month later Matt found himself in Amarillo starting classes at a truck driving school. And he found out he kind of liked driving trucks. He did well at it, but discovered he wasn't too crazy about driving the really big rigs; the maneuvering in city traffic and having to back into narrow loading docks. But there would be plenty of driving to do just locally.
Matt graduated 2 months later, but decided that he'd rather go back to Florida rather than settle down in Texas. He went back to Maitland, but ended up working for a small trucking company based in Eustis, in Lake County. They only delivered to the surrounding counties, so he didn't have to drive the semis. And after a 3 month probationary period he was given a delivery route that took him into Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties.
Matt found a small apartment that wasn't too expensive that he liked and gradually settled down to a routine, but