*How To Use Water Four Times*
A call from the MP Station/front gate caused a certain young PFC to be told by an irate Platoon Sergeant to run down to the MP Station and if I was in trouble I best just not come back to the company. A Company, 4th Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division forward, West Germany about 1985. Boy, I had a lot to learn.
I was clueless and scared as to why the MPs wanted me. So I ran full throttle to the front gate. Taking off my headgear I walked in and reported to the Desk Sergeant. Heís out there, the Sergeant said. Feeling about two feet tall I walked out the front door to the MP Station not knowing what to expect. Standing in front of me was a gray haired old German man, my uncle.
Needless to say I was more than a bit surprised. Standing before me was my German Uncle who spoke no English. I quickly shook his hand and asked him in German what was wrong. He said, "Nothing, I am coming to visit you." Well sure, I said. It was almost noon so we decided to jump in his car and go into the neighboring village for lunch.
Lunch was fantastic and my Uncle Bertholt talked a mile a minute. He was so excited to see me he talked non-stop for hours. It was great to see him. We began talking about his time as a Soldier.
I served under Rommel in North Africa. Hot. Hot. Hot. So hot you could die in minutes. We never had enough food or water. He told me about capturing a pistol that you could shoot through a tank with. I never did figure that one out. But the dayís most important lesson was water.
We never had enough water he said. Do you know how to use the same water four times? He asked me with all seriousness. I shrugged my shoulder thinking this was some sort of riddle, so he went on.
First you drink all you can. Then you drink some more. Second, you wash with it. He said you had to be careful not to lose any of the water on the ground. The water, the water it would turn black like the night after washing your body in it. How could you use it again I asked. Simple, he said. You wait until the dirt in the water settles in the bottom of the bowl. Then you carefully pour the water out of the bowl into another bowl leaving the dirt behind. Then you wash your clothes. And when you still had more water, then you waited again until the dirt settled. Pouring the water into another container you could then use this to wash your equipment. And that my dear Nephew is how you can use the same water four times.
I asked him what they did when they didnít have any or enough water. He said we would get very thirsty and dirty. It was war, young man, and war is not pretty. I could see the years on his face and the unrelenting sadness in his eyes.
His sadness grew only deeper when we both realized that he fought against the same Infantry Division as I was now assigned to, The Big Red One. The ironies of life never cease to amaze me. Time passed and he had to go.
I was walking back to my company when I realized why he had come. He had come to try and teach his nephew. He was trying to teach his nephew how to survive. That was the reason for the trip. That was the reason for the story of how to use water four times.
The rain began to drizzle down as my thoughts wandered. I was supposed to see my other Uncle in a few weeks. He served on the Eastern Front. I found myself hurrying as the rain suddenly turned very cold.
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