When a replacement arrived at the platoon, the platoon members’ evaluation started right away. One of the veterans’ first topics of discussion was what to call the new guy. We seldom used first names in the army, so addressed everyone by their last names, which was not as much fun as assigning a nickname. There was one exception, Maurice Harrington; we called him by his first name, Maurice. I kept secret the nickname of my school days, Little Haynie, given because of my size compared to my brother Wayne’s size. He was Big Haynie. Honestly, a nickname tells just a little about the individual and seldom is derogatory. Let me give you a few examples:
A soldier from Nebraska reported to the platoon in early March 1969, and when asked his name he responded “Rhoades.” Of course his nickname became “Dusty.” Dusty served with the platoon until wounded July 14, 1969.
In April 1969 an older, balding replacement by the name of Chuck Council reported to the platoon. Chuck was from Oregon, and at the age of 23 had a college degree. Because of his advanced age and college education Chuck became “Pops.” Pops served in the platoon until he got a rear job as, fittingly, the Education NCO. (Administer GED test and provided information about college.)
The last example was a tall, lanky replacement who reported in early June. His name is John DeLoach. Now when I say John was tall, I mean tall. He was six foot two, seven inches taller than me. John had an easygoing manner, a distinctly southern drawl and was from Mississippi. Ronald Owens gave John the name “Mississippi”. John served in the platoon until he moved to an artillery unit.
These odd but often obvious nicknames made platoon members more personable and more like brothers and family. They served to help soften the reality that we were not at home, though we cared about each other and looked out for each other.