The Lone Ranger in Vietnam

Medic first met Dave Bianchini at a VA clinic vets group in Gloucester, MA in 2005. Seated at the large round table in the small cramped room were a couple of grunts–among them, an original member of Tiger Force–a few remfs, the middle aged female therapist. Sessions lasted ninety minutes. I’d been lured by my vets group experience in Jersey, run by a man who’d lost a leg and gut shot at Hamburger Hill. But in Gloucester these blue collar, modestly educated men–grounded in work, sports, beer, spoke in simple direct terms, and shied away from facing Vietnam. Too often, in my opinion, the talk drifted to sports, local news, incessant trivia. I grew restless, wanted to leave.

One day a new man showed up. Modest, well-spoken, self-assured, without trying he seemed to re-orient the group to its original purpose. And had the rare gift of revealing yet not revealing his true self. Who was this Dave Bianchini with his large truck parked outside and who lived near by?

We became friends; over the years I have learned a bit more about him. Growing up, a demanding father made him tough. Later, he had fun with girls. As an Army Ranger in Vietnam he excelled at walking point, or crawling down dark tunnels, armed only with a K bar and flash light. Known for his quick reflexes, they called him”Rabbit.” In two hair raising tours, wounded several times, Dave acquitted himself nicely.

After the war, Dave worked with wood, married a singer, managed her career. The pair toured the world, occasionally rubbed shoulders with rock’s high and mighty. They broke up, and Dave risked making fast money on the wrong side of the law. Caught–ratted out he told me–ten years later he started over, the road back at times unpleasant. He struggled, learned to build houses, built a thriving business. Got re-married–his third wife the lucky charm. He works hard. In his spare time–what little there is, he plays golf, reads, paints (he is an excellent painter and sculptor), loves his wife, his daughter, his Australian sheep dog Bandit. A good man, as they say.

I attended the vets group for two more years, then dropped out. From then till now Dave and I have remained friends. Occasionally we talk about Vietnam, or his life outside the law. I can honestly say that knowing him all this time I hardly know him.

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