Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March the Sixth

Scott Bradley


This is a war story. I am writing it on March 6. In Vietnam, my tiny bit of Vietnam, we remembered days of significant 'contact' by the dates they began. The only one I remember by date, however, is this one.

Our company is making a 'CA' (combat assault by helicopter) into a tiny clearing in the jungle by successive gaggles aboard 6 helicopters and I am on the first bird, second gaggle, legs dangling in the wind. It seems we'll never get there; we've been going in circles. My sergeant taps me on the shoulder, "We're going in hot; get off fast." The first gaggle got the shit shot out of them.

There it is, the clearing. The grass caught fire. A blackened, headless torso is all I see before the ash fills the air. All hell breaks loose; door gunners, those already on the ground, the 'bad' guys — everyone is firing into the black. My sergeant gives me a nudge, "Go!" I jump. We are still well above ground and moving. I hit hard, tumble, fall into a bomb crater. Of the 6 birds, I alone have jumped. Where am I? Rounds are cooking off in nearby backpacks.

I am an RTO, so I call, but no one answers. Finally some lieutenant answers and tells me to stick my head up so they can tell where I am. "Get back down! You'd better just stay where you are!" But later, "You need to crawl to the tree line; we need your radio." So, I do. It hurts; I'm scraped up. A guy behind a tree watches me, eyes wide with fear — for me. I decide to run for it, even though he motions for me to stay on the ground. I leap past a guy with a head wound, still in the open, and find safety behind a tree.

The wounded guy, though unconscious, is messing with his field dressing. I decide to help him and step from behind my tree. "Crack, crack, crack..." A sniper was waiting for me. He's pissed. He should've had me. 'Charlie' doesn't waste rounds, but this guy unloads at least a dozen rounds, sawing at the tree just in front of my nose. I point this out to the guy who watched me come in and laugh. He is not amused. I'm an FNG, a 'fucking new guy', and have yet to learn fear. This was short-lived.

Sporadic fire. Napalm. Medevacs. Literally dodging door-gunner bullets as they slap the ground around me. A long exposed night. All six helicopters had to be grounded for gunshot damage. Only one guy was hit, in the bird behind mine. I forget the numbers. Maybe 6 dead (including the guy with the head wound) and more than a dozen wounded. For the rest of us, a couple more weeks in the bush. Same old shit.

How close did those first rounds come? How'd he miss? Where was he when I made the twenty yard journey across open ground? I'll never know. I was a Christian at the time, so I had an answer then. But not now. You dodge ‘em until one gets you; that’s about all.

What does this have to do with the Dao? Not a goddamn thing, as far as I know, but some of you have expressed a desire for a change of pace.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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