I am Howard Watson.
Glad you can join me again. After my last post I received quite a few queries on how I met John Mason.
For those of you who didn’t read The Gordian Knot my best friend and colleague John Mason and I met in Vietnam. I remember it like it was yesterday.
When I stepped off the transport plane in Vietnam a blast of hot air hit my face. The place felt like a furnace. The country was not at all like I thought it would be. Vietnam was beautiful, true, but it was not a paradise. The greenery was the greenest I’d ever seen – glistening, but somehow threatening. I remembered what really scared me was the strange smell in the air. I later found out that it was the stench of death.
I had, six months prior, graduated from West Point Academy as a Second Lieutenant. After receiving my instructions and meeting other officers in the camp I arrived at the tent where I would be quartered for the next seven months. Inside were two other lieutenants unpacking their belongings. One man was Latino, Louis Castro, and the other was a Black man who had just graduated from the University of Illinois five months earlier. Like me he had enlisted for Vietnam so he could qualify as a candidate for the FBI Academy. I felt an immediate affinity for him. He was John Mason.
Five weeks before I was to be shipped out of ‘Nam and back to the States our compound was attacked. John and I were returning to our tent one evening when Louis Castro motioned to us to “Get down!” In a flash the shells were falling all around us. Louis had been hit. John began to work his way toward the tent which had collapsed on top of the wounded Castro, inching his way across the ground on his belly.
John saved Louis’ life but Louis could not save his own legs. I knew then that John and I would be buddies for life. I just didn’t know that his wouldn’t be a long life.
Talk to you soon.