MC was talking over dinner about John Lithgow: how he was in Upstate New York in August of 1969 and heard about the big concert happening at Woodstock and thought "That might be fun, I should drive over there"...then decided not to and kept on going wherever he was going. So he just missed being at Woodstock.
I didn't go to Woodstock, either. I told MC that of the half-a-million people who did go to Woodstock, about five million claim to have been there. It is one of those events that only happen once in a lifetime. It defined a generation, or part of one anyway. I was keeping the world free for democracy in Mannheim, Germany. The first time I even heard of Woodstock, at least where I paid attention to it, was on the German FM radio. I couldn't believe my ears as Country Joe MacDonald led the crowd in the "Fish Cheer"...only it wasn't "Fish"...but it was a four-letter word and it did start with an "F". Yep! That one. Over the next few days the German station treated us to hours of recordings from the event.
Then awhile later I found the three-record set from the concert and we were able to listen to all of the songs, announcements, comedy, and obscenity in the privacy of our own living room. Cool. Three days of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll...
Dave Bean didn't go to Woodstock, either. Dave had been my platoon sergeant when I was in the 513th Trans. He was the same rank as me, buck sergeants we, but he had been in the Army a lot longer than me so he was my boss. But he was also a good friend. He was an avid camper and spent every spare moment he could camped on the banks of the Rhine River near Worms. His wife, Dean, went to the hospital to deliver her second child from the tent next to the river. Dave was that avid.
Dave had lost the middle finger of his right hand in some silly accident. He enjoyed others' discomfort at his "handicap". He was fond of sticking the stump up to his nostril, appearing to all the world as if his whole finger was buried up to the knuckle in his nose. On numerous occasions he would hold his hand up to someone, back of his hand facing them, and wiggle his stump while telling them to "read between the lines".
Dave taught me a lot about being a leader. We argued about things sometimes, usually stemming from my tendency towards laziness. But there was never any doubt about who was the boss. We shared a lot of great times there. It was fun being in his platoon. But in May of '68 our unit was "stood down", meaning we ceased all task-related operations and began the mission of cleaning and repairing our ancient equipment so it could be stored in Germany while the unit was sent back to the States.
The 513th got kind of a raw deal. The unit was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington where another unit took the name and the designation and the "colors" of the 513th and the majority of our guys were sent to Vietnam...I told this story in an article about the original REFORGER. I was one of the few who didn't go back with the 513th because I hadn't been in Germany for a full year, yet. That isn't really what I was writing about; I was writing about Woodstock.
Dave wouldn't have liked Woodstock, anyway. He was country through and through. If Woodstock had been a country concert with acts like Buck Owens, Charlie Pride, and Merle Haggard, maybe he would have made an effort. But he didn't care for hippies or any of the "Free Love" stuff. He was a free spirit, and it caused him more than a little trouble on occasion. He had a tendancy to drink a bit too much and then anything could happen, like disappearing for three days and showing up at work still drunk and nearly naked. Happened more than once. But the "Make Love Not War" crowd angered him. He was a soldier, a patriot, and nad no patience for draft-dodgers, dope-smokers, and long-haired-freaky people.
We parted company in October 1968; he and most of the rest of the 513th were off to Fort Lewis to find out they were really just passing through on their way to Vietnam, and me to the 41st Trans in Turley Barracks. That was okay with me; I wanted to stay in Germany.
So when I think of Woodstock, I always think of Dave. While the Enlightened Generation was polluting Max's farm, bathing naked in the frog ponds, smoking dope, dropping acid, and "blowing their minds" on loud music (albeit some dang good music), the fellas from the 513th were over in the green place fighting for peace. Yep, it was a confusing time.
The official dates of the concert were 15-18 August. Dave was killed in an ambush on 14 August 1969. He was 29 years old. A few others, friends of mine, were killed or wounded in that same ambush. They didn't make it to Woodstock, either.
Memorial Day is the day we honor those who have fallen in defense of this nation. For a lot of people it is really an anonymous kind of holiday. "The Fallen" doesn't really mean anything if it doesn't have a face...it is too abstract. So if you don't have a friend or family member who gave all, you can borrow Dave this weekend. Remember him and honor what he and his family gave to this country. I will...my boss...my friend...my brother-in-arms...
David Elton Bean SSG, US Army 13 June 1940 - 14 August 1969.
He can be found on Panel 19w, line 036 of the Vietnam War Memorial.