San Francisco in the early 1960's was a land of dreams and hope. As a war raged in a far off, virtually unknown former French colony, love and peace was the rule in the Bay Area. UC Berkley professors experimented with drugs designed to broaden the abilities of the mind, while college students were experimenting with the freedom brought about by the birth control pill.
The federal government was controlled by an Irish Catholic President who had so captured the imagination of the American people, that the center of executive power was called Camelot. His movie star personality and looks were only matched by the beauty of his wife and children. They were the American Royal Family. Oh, there was a brief scare over offensive weapons in a small Caribbean Island nation, but that only served to pull the country together. After all, Camelot had decreed that the nation was on course to land men on the moon. In America, all was well. It was America's Golden Time.
At least, all was well if you were white, Protestant, wealthy, and beautiful. If you were black, you sat in the back of the bus unless, of course, a white person wanted your seat. If you were poor, you ended up on what was called relief if you were lucky.
Soon, the far off war was not going well for the former French colony's Southern government. Bands of rebels who wanted the country united under their former leaders in the North, formed into paramilitary groups and began a vicious, clandestine, guerrilla war on their neighbors. The increasingly corrupt Southern government was rapidly losing control of the countryside. Violence moved into the previously peaceful government controlled cities.
America, at the beginning of the magic decade, was frugal and careful with her sons. She had lost many in wars gone by and now intended to fully enjoy the prosperity their loss had earned.
This was especially so, since the attack on that small Caribbean island nation in the beginning of the new President's term had been handled poorly, some said 'bungled'. The Royal Court no longer trusted those who offered such poor advice.
So, when a request for military assistance came from the Far East, the President at Camelot refused to send more than a paltry few advisors into harm's way in such a far off land. The advisors were a select mix drawn from an organization called the "Central Intelligence Agency" or better known as the CIA, a few civilian contractors, and elite Army Special Forces trained at the Special Warfare School named after the President, himself.
The CIA sent their best throughout the far off country to gather information on why the country was falling apart, and what the consequences would be to the American homeland if it did fall apart. As they reported, forces unknown to Camelot began to plan.
The Special Forces, known by their exclusive green head gear, were to be the real workhorses of the advisors. The Green Berets were so highly skilled and trained that they represented the top one half of one percent of the Army's infantry forces. They were trained for a myriad of duties ranging from delivering babies to training guerrilla warriors. They were trained and taught the skills to both create and destroy. Each "Beret" was given a specialty and taught a foreign language.
The Army Special Forces was pretty much the military side of the President's personal international policy tool. The other, the warmer, fuzzier, more socially conscious side was the civilian Peace Corp. (The peace Corp had just been instituted by the leader of Camelot to provide a soft and caring side of America to the rest of the world.)
Green Berets were capable of operating as a single operatives or as part of an 8 man "A" Team. Their world was one of independence and initiative behind enemy lines. While they moved unseen and in the shadows whenever and wherever they could, they were not spies. They wore their own uniforms, or at least enough of them to show who they were. Many were cross trained as medics. They could supply vaccine to a village if it were a friend, or ambush that village's elders if it were not. Their good works were the weapon of choice to win the minds of any populace, but they could also be the stern instrument of administrative doctrine. For all that, though, they were still, to many naïve American boys, innocent American heroes.
As Robert Brown stood in the cafeteria line, these thoughts surged through his mind. The Green Beret captain that had spoken to his senior ROTC class was inspiring. He eloquently explained how small bands of special brave men could change the face of warfare and save thousands of American lives. After the presentation, Bob sought out the Captain and absorbed an hour of stories about the Captain's adventures. The young Berkley student was hooked. He had to earn the Green Beret.
Later that night, Bob stood on the edge a party in the penthouse of a large apartment building in Oakland. One of his "hippie" classmates invited him after Bob had corrected a misstatement by a professor about a piece of music by Mozart.
While Bob was interested in practicing free love and dedicated in the pursuit of what his mother had called loose women, he was totally unsure of the drug scene that was permeating the campus. Both seemed inextricably entwined. Alcohol, now, that was something any foursquare young man in America was expected to deal with. (God knows Bob had done his bit to uphold the image.) However, the supermarket of drugs that Berkeley and indeed, the entire Bay Area, had become was a little unnerving. As a 'Stoner', Robert was a pharmacological virgin.
Although he certainly had his doubts, still he had always prided himself on being open-minded. How could he hold his self image of intellectual honesty if he condemned something he didn't know anything about? "If," he thought to himself, "I am ever to know anything about what all these people see in losing total control, I am going to have to get more involved."
Having made that decision he picked one of the sugar cubes off a tray that was on a small side table and was about to pop it in his mouth when he froze in astonishment.
Coming of Age /