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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
J. Wilborn
Posts: 32
(2/8/01 4:27:31 pm)

What is it that prompts a memory--a recollection. Something
‘tweeks’ and long forgotten events, places,
or people come flashing into a sense of reality that those
things happened only short moments before. It
is not only alarming at times, but confusing. The last
several days in the national news, there has been the
story about the young actor, Robert Downey Jr. being
arrested again for illicit drug use. Alarming
news--not really for he had done it numerous times before.
This time however, and for some reason, that
‘tweeking’ occurred. It happened in my sleep and I seemed
to be driven to get up and tell the story. I
attempted to place all the remembered events onto the
April of 2000, NBC has provided for the Vietnam War’s
veterans a place to tell their stories or whatever.
Tonite the story wouldn’t post, however I still felt
compelled to tell the story--I think it is about a killer--a

miltary person, who for whatever reason, enjoyed
killing--boasted about the lurid details of death
inflicted on another human being--went into painstaking
detail that would alarm or sicken any normal
person, even another fighting man that must face up to death
lot of times.
It was around Easter time 1968. About as far up north into
the divided half of South Vietnam as
American forces would go. Dong Ha was the name---QuangTri
Province and further described by those
American as the I Corp Area. I was a senior enlisted
navyman attached to a Naval Mobile Construction
Battalion--our mission was to provide construction support
for the U.S. Marine Corp division in that
assigned area. Most recently our battalion had provided
tactical as well as logistical support for
OPERATION PEGASUS. That unique undertaking was to relieve
the besieged Marines at Kha Sanh with
troops of the First Air Cavalry. I worked for Lt. Palmer
Sell in battalion S-2. That S-2 is intelligence and
training and a whole lot of other ‘catch-alls’. This
particular morning, Force Recon Niner was briefing us
on the locations of search and destroy opertions to be
conducted that evening near the river--we had to be
set up to provide illumination with our 81 mike-mike mortars
if ordered. The Marine Force Recon
Captain was accompanied by this person. He was introduced
to Lt. Sell and myself simply as
‘Sticker’--that’s it--no military rank or rate--just
‘Sticker’. The two officers departed to go brief our
and that left “Sticker’ and I alone in the S-2 office. We
plotted the wall maps with coordinates--made
notations on unit call signs in grease pencil--read and
confirmed in military fashion those details.
His uniform, if you want to call it that, was very
worn--clean but almost threadbare. No insigna or collar
devices --no hat devices--and working close to the man, I
noted his smell or lack of smell--most men smell
of after shave--hair tonic--cigarettes--bad breath; as near
as I could describe the man smelled like
nothing--wild grass maybe--a warm breeze--not unpleasant at
all--just strange--. The plotting was
finished and ‘Sticker’ set his grease pencil and coffee mug
His right hand suddenly flashed down toward his combat
boot--in a blurred like motion he withdrew
from his boot this thing--this long blade looking thing that
just for the slightest moment, reminded me of
a long silver icicle. I must have stopped breathing--I was
so very alarmed--it all had happened so quickly
and still I had sense of what it meant. I was soon to find
out--explanations to be offered up by this person
would actually frighten me. Not more than three feet
separated us as ‘Sticker’ started to speak.
“This is the pig-sticker”, he exclaimed proudly--”I made it
myself and that’s where I got my name--I made
this myself, just like old Jim Bowie made his blade he
called his ‘Iron Mistress’--he knew how to use his
and I sure kin use this’un”! He was holding that stange
looking weapon out in front of his face like he
was saluting it or something--no, maybe worshipping it. Not
even looking away from the ‘pig sticker’ he
continued, “this blade is from the bayonet off an SKS
rifle--killed it’s owner with my KAYBAR--he put up
one hell’va fight so I just decided to honor the little
@#%$-head--see there Senior Chief, you can still see the
blood-letting grooves on the blade--” I was still too
alarmed to look but I must have nodded my head for
he continued. “This handle if off my old Kaybar--good blade
but it’s too thick to slide ‘tween a rib easy
like I want it to--a metal buckle or a piece of web will
deflect it --can’t have that @#%$--gett’cha killed by
someone who can get inside your thrust and parry--like
little @#%$-for-brains who just about snagged me
with this SKS bayonet that time--”. I hadn’t spoken--was
I still nodding for he acted like I was ready for
more as he went on. “You sneak up back of a Gomer on sentry
duty--cut his throat and he’s like a damn
hog squeeling--don’t want any screaming--here’s what’cha do
now--you looky here Senior Chief---pay
attention--” I wouldn’t have taken my bulging eyes off this
man named ‘Sticker’ for all the tea in
China--”you’re back of the Gomer now--angle the sticker
this’a way and shove it right up into the base of
his damn noggin--this corpman told me it was called the
medullae oblongatae--but what the hell, just
shove the blade up and gomer will wilt like a wet paper
bag--dead ‘afore he hits the ground”.
Since ‘Sticker’ had begun to tell me about his exploits, I
noticed his eyes--they litterly glistened--his
breathing was rapid, as if he had been running--white,
thread-looking spittle formed at the corners of his
spouting mouth--and now he began to smell--like the sweaty
smell around a working gymnasium. There
seemed to be no need for questions--even if I’d have wanted
to ask him something--what would it
be--what else would I even want to find out. I had never
knowingly killed anyone--perhaps sometime
when I had ordered the 81 mike mike to fire a mortar mission
using high explosive instead of the normal
illumination round, just perhaps--like I said, never
knowingly. I waited as ’Sticker’ fondled the blade
lovingly--gathering his thoughts. I pondered to myself if I
felt threatened by this strange person or just
alarmed at his delivery of information I didn’t even want to
hear about.
“If you can’t surprise Gomer--hit him fast and hard”--the
words come tumbling out---more loud and
forceful now--’Sticker’ moved around the S-2 office in a
catlike fashion--up on the balls of his feet--like a
ballet dancer--”hard and fast” he repeated--”no screams ever
to alarm the whole herd of Gomers--get the
sticker up under his chicken-boned little chest--into his
diaphram --then he can’t scream--only make
gurgling sounds--messy as hell though--into his heart is
like dumpin’ a bucket of slop--and that @#%$ dries
on you--it’s like your clothes been starched”! ‘Sticker’
giggled to himself.
“I don’t like to do it this way--’specially in the day
light--gotta look in Gomer’s eyes sometimes and I hate
that--” a far-off look rendered itself across ‘Stickers’
now glistening face--a conscience-twinge on this
brutal person I thought to myself. A slight shake of his
head like to jar himself back to the present, the
killer continued, “a low parry and then a high thrust with
the blade can get you right up to eye-ball level
with most fighters--even the Gomers who are little
shits--don’t aim for the eyes but an oblique into the
temple---bone is thin there--take ‘em out in a flash--no
screams--not even a gurgle this time”.
I found myself feeling exhausted listening to this person
rave on--I wanted to be someplace else--doing
something different, than listening to this horrible
diatribe about killing. Perhaps he sensed my feelings
because in a now rather moderate voice he told me that a
‘slick’ was due to pick the captain and him up
down by the hospital tent at 0930.
“I’m from Iowa” ‘Sticker’ volunteered --”Fort Madison,
Iowa---that’s where the State Penitentiary is
located--Grandpappy used to work there--in the 1940’s he was
the hangman--only time in American
history they ever hung a father and a son at the same
time--Grandpa said when you hang a fella, it
stretches their necks twice as long”----the man named
‘Sticker’ paused midsentence and tilted his head as
if listening--animal like--yes, I did finally detect the
tell-tale thumping sounds of the Huey slick he had
mentioned was going to be their transportation.
Around the S-2 office was various enemy weapons the Marines
had brought in to show the navy Senior
Chief --usually for a cup of coffee and a few kind words
about home--there were some 47’s, a couple of
SKS, some disarmed ChiCom grenades--pith-helmets and hard
hats, web gear--hell, there was even some
Montagnard Tribesman’s bows and arrows scattered amongst the
junk--those cought “Sticker’s’ attention
and when he looked at me inquiringly I told him that he
could have them. With that gesture of giving
him something come an open ended offer of bringing just
loads and loads of the captured junk in --he said
the only thing he couldn’t get was a 130 mike-mike field
artillery they had just knocked out up near the
Trail. I thanked him and told him no, my S-2 boss would
ride my ass worse than he had been doing if I
turned it into a Vietnamese armory and museum.
With the same blurring motion as when he had withdrawn the
stange knife, he thrust it back into it’s boot
sheath--thrust out his hand and pointedly remarked “never
take a knife to a firefight Senior Chief--it don’t
reach out there fur ‘nuff--you’ll get soiled”.
I never saw the man named ‘Sticker’ again--I have dreamed
about him--now with a face attached.
John H. Wilborn USN (Retired)

1,438 Posts
Chief, I don't think that Sticker and Bumgardner were the same guy. Bumgardner was from The Carolinas. At the time I met Bumgardner 1977 he was pretty close to 50 years old. Actually he was a kind of a father figure. There were rumors about him and what he did in Nam. He had been a Sargeant Major as rumored, was busted for the stuff he did. He was an E-6 Staff Sargeant in 77. We called him pop. I never heard talk about Nam, I considered him a good guy. I only learned about him in the books that I mentioned earlier, which I read last year.

Sticker sounds like a scary guy. That guy just liked to use a knife. You could take someone out a lot cleaner with a good old fashioned rear stangle take down.
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