EXCERPT FROM “HEIRS OF HONOR” – ‘PAINFUL COMPASSION’


 

“…The Huey was slowly rising.  The steady rhythmic thump of its engines smothered the screaming chaos below.  Looking down, I recognized pieces of men, wrapped in olive drab.  Moments ago, those things were legs, arms, and heads.  Mortar rounds were dropping everywhere.  Rounds were clattering against the bottom of the Huey.  It was so loaded with men, its’ engines were straining.  One of our abandoned dead moved and waved to us.  His legs were missing.  He waved frantically.  There was no chance of rescue.  Enemy ground movement was visible at the tree line.  No one was firing on them because we were trying to get out before we lost more men.  The Gooks had kicked the shit out of us on the ground, and destroyed three choppers unloading men.  I think our LTs were afraid to fire.  I heard, or thought I did, the legless soldier’s scream in my ear.  His motions became hysterical, as he tried to stand and realized why he could not.  The only thing in reach was my M-16, and even though it was empty and I was required to keep it that way, I could not help myself.  My motion was fast and automatic, as I took a full clip and reloaded my weapon.  Before anyone noticed, I was locked and loaded and hanging half out of the chopper.  I used it.  In that millisecond after my weapon jumped a couple times, I saw the man’s eyes glare into mine.  His face, locked in an unending scream, vanished into the swirling dust of his death.

I did not know the guy.  To this day, I can see his terrified eyes glaring their raging betrayal at me.  I hope he did not know me.  The warrant officer looked at me, and I knew he just watched me kill an American.  When he looked away, and would not meet my eyes, my shame multiplied, ten-fold.  He never mentioned the incident in his reports and I have remained silently grateful, ever since.  Jim was lying on the deck next to me.  His eyes caught mine, for a second, and he looked horrified at what I’d done, but he understood the why of it.  My eyes suddenly filled with tears at my act of kindness.  It was a violation of Army regulations and I could be in real trouble, since two men witnessed it.  This was insane.  I felt shame for doing it and knew I would do it again, no matter who was watching.  I ended his pain by taking the last few moments of his lost life.  I couldn’t stop my tears, so I hid them by taking a few shots at the victorious gooks running out of the trees.  I watched the dust and smoke drift over that unknown, unnamed place of death, until it was out of my range.”

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