Fred Gordon Bertolino
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Gerald Smith on September 18, 2022:
I met Fred Cow year, the first day. We were assigned as roommates. It was a great year.
Neither Fred nor I knew how to play a musical instrument, but before long we had gotten with Ron Bowen and he got us started on guitar. Ron played guitar pretty darned well. This started our two-year connection singing and playing almost every night (Okay, maybe just 2 or 3 nights a week) in the barracks with others often coming by to join in. Our specialties were Elvis and Ian and Silvia. It was a great friendship for the three of us.
We got a bit bored Cow year and we decided in our great wisdom, to buy a monkey. Needless to say, we had not thought it through. It cost $19.95 post-paid arriving one day delivered to Ron's girlfriend Jean Fogelberg and brought to us by her one weekend.
Immediately, we knew this was a big mistake. (Why did it take us so long?) We saved fruit from our meals to feed him. He started pooping as soon as he ate the first banana. He pooped all over the place. Our room smelled like a latrine, a monkey latrine, three times worse.
We moved him to the top of the stairwell near the exit for the roof. He became known as "S___head". After two weeks, we could not hide the stink anymore. Our Tack Officer smelled him and found him. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. He said we had a week to get rid of him. Jean came and got him and was able to get a pet store to take him. Thus goes the tale of Fred, Gerry. Ron and S___head.
We had exceptional Cow and Firsty years playing, singing, dating, traveling, and hanging out. Fred was the guy who always gave encouragement to help us through every obstacle. He taught me that there is always something positive you can say in any situation. Some of the things we did were also crazy. Not as stupid as buying a monkey, but crazy.
The only argument of any consequence Fred and I had was when he selected Infantry as his branch and Vietnam as his first assignment. I reamed him out. We had decided to start out at another location and meet in Vietnam after that. Ron and I did that, but Fred changed his mind. I thought we all three wanted to get used to the real Army before we went to war. It was the only time I was truly angry with Fred.
I never saw Fred after graduation week. After the ceremonies, we went to Jean's house and Ron smashed the front of my new Corvette backing his new GTO. We never really said goodbye after that. I was scrambling to get the car fixed well enough for me to get home. A little over a year from that, I was in Germany and Fred was lying in a huge puddle of water in the Mekong Delta.
I still have dreams where Fred walks into a room carrying his guitar ordering us to play "That's When Your Heartaches Begin". Today, I cannot get through that song anymore.
God bless you, Fred. You were one of the very, very, very good ones. I loved you then and I love you still.
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