A little reassurance can go long way

For those of you who don’t know my background, it is important for this story that I share some of it with you.

My first job as a journalist was with the United States Army. After basic training and a few months of training at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, I was shipped off to the Republic of South Vietnam to ultimately become a combat correspondent.

I didn’t know that when I first landed in country.

I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, which was located in “I Corps” (pronounced “eye core”). That area of operation was as far north in South Vietnam as you could go.

Even though in 1971, the war was winding down, there was still a bit of action to be found that close to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and The Ho Chi Minh trail (a major supply route for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army).

My commanding officer saw fit to assign me to a P.I.D., a Public Information Detachment. I was “detached,” alright!

I guess it was the Army’s way of turning me loose to find my own way.

I was sort of a freelancer because there was no one around to assign me to cover particular stories. I had to find my own. Really, that part of the job wasn’t so bad.

I had my Combat Correspondent hat, Press ID, a “Get out of jail free” card, a couple of government-issue pencils and a reporter’s notebook. I was fully equipped, sort of.

What I didn’t have was a clue.

None of my training back in the states prepared me for humping through the boonies with a ruck sack, nine quarts of water, a camera and a tape recorder.

With all that stuff, I really didn’t have room for the M-16 I was assigned, but I lugged it along as well.

I was a 19-year-old newbie, scared and didn’t know a soul anywhere. I felt very alone and unprepared.

On my first trip out, we were airlifted by Huey helicopters and dropped off at a landing zone at the edge of the jungle. The elephant grass and other such jungle growth was so thick I could not see more than 10 feet in front of me.

I took a moment to re-evaluate the word “scared.” It wasn’t sufficient.

Suddenly, the soldier behind me said four words that forever changed my war experience and gave me the courage to carry on.

“I’ve got your back!”

Those weren’t idle words. He meant it. Every soldier that said that to me again, and I was fortunate to hear it often, uttered those words with the same commitment and determination. It wasn’t an empty promise. It meant the guy behind me would give his life to protect mine, if it came to that.

It wasn’t long until my experience, confidence and knowledge of life in the boonies meant I was uttering the same words to the guy in front of me.

It was a solemn pledge, not to be given or taken lightly.

They were the most reassuring words offered at just the right time: “I’ve got your back!”

Now flash-forward 40-some years. Wouldn’t you like to hear someone say that to you? A co-worker, a boss, a friend or even a stranger on the street?

“I’ve got your back!”

These are trying times. There isn’t any such thing as job security any more. The hammer can fall at any given moment, and the next thing you know you are scanning the want ads.

It is somewhat scary out there, too. Our world is becoming less comfortable, less predictable and more of an unknown as evil spreads as fast as the jungle undergrowth in Southeast Asia.

Wouldn’t you like to hear it now and again and know the speaker means it?

“I’ve got your back!”

Never mind me. I’m just grumpy — but I’ve got your back!

Tim Renshaw formerly taught broadcasting at Greenfield-Central High School. He lives in New Palestine and can be reached at tim_renshaw@msn.com.