“…Our new CO had us doing short recon patrols. We were supposedly supported by a platoon of airborne infantry, but we never saw them. We were told the army wanted to hit hard at any enemy we encountered. According to rumor, after we gave up Khe Sahn, the NVA grew so confident, they wanted to destroy the SF camps that were raiding the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was the life’s blood of the NVA, and it ran just inside Laos, as it came south.
There was an awful traffic jam on the trail when it reached the tri border area, thanks to us. Our camps were there, but the NVA knew we could be knocked out if they moved fast, and in strength. Our camp was first in their path. We were making preparations for their arrival by sending out patrols, and fortifying where we could. Since reinforcements never came up from the large valley camps, we thought the danger more imaginary, than real. Even though recons were doubled, a few days earlier, and we were being forced to march around and make a lot of noise when in camp, only the most naïve bought into the rumor ‘the gooks were coming’. After three or four days, every one of us was convinced the NVA movement rumor was just another bullshit story the Army spread around to keep us on our toes. The rumor proved to be right. A large number of regiments were heading our way, with murder in their hearts. All hell was about to break loose…”
“…We moved at a crawl for another two hours, before our problems began. The guys were north of me and had passed a clearing that was a notch between hills. It took them an hour. They were moving very slow because their wounds were stiffening their muscles. While they were hobbling along that half open ground, I climbed onto some rocks for a bird’s eye view of the valley adjacent to the forest I’d been moving through. From those few boulders, the panorama took my breath away. There were at least two regiments of NVA troops concentrating there. As I looked over the valley, troop movement was everywhere. It didn’t take long for me to become so afraid I couldn’t watch, fearing some psychic trooper would sense my presence and spot me. My nerves failed and forced me to catch up with the team. It was a great mistake, because my concentration lapsed in the urgency, and I made a couple of mistakes. The headcount for my CO was very inaccurate, and purely an estimate. I struggled for the correct military terminology that said thousands and thousands of the little mothers. I finally settled on two regiments. My conclusion was simple. It was time to run. I decided to run up to their hill, before trying to make contact. We had to let the army know a large number of NVA was in the area. There were two to three thousand men assembling in that valley. We had moved through the nearby forest, without noticing.
I climbed down and started after the team. The clearing I had to cross was considerably smaller than theirs, and I did so without trouble. Half way up the hill to where they should be, a hissing, fluttering, whispering snap hit the tree trunk I was passing. Dirt and tree bark stung my face and filled my eyes, but they were minor discomforts, compared to the heart stopping sound of the Kalishnikoff rifle bolt ringing in my ears. That fucking AK47, it came in dozens of models, all of them deadly, and some bastard had just fired one at me. I threw myself backwards into an out of control back roll, down the jungle-covered slope. On the border of panic, knowing the motherfucker was close, I tumbled wildly for fifty feet, before the heavy undergrowth stopped my fall. There I remained motionless, taking inventory of myself, and my weapons. Our sniper was back, and he was between the team and me….”
“…In strolled Henry, a rosy cheeked wide-eyed innocent; sashaying about with both hands in his trouser pockets, projecting a calm confidence that made me smile. I instantly thought of a fawn caught in the headlights. That first impression was quickly replaced by memories of my little brother and his toy guns, posing to look tough for my mother’s camera. Henry was struggling to look tough by burying his hands in his pockets, pretending he was John Wayne and sauntering toward us. I was struggling to keep a straight face, seeing this idiot swagger. It was obvious the only thing he had ever been worried about was finishing High School, or finding a date for the prom. But we all start out as virgins, and I think everyone of us found the sight of a cherry intriguing for the same reason.
While walking through camp, he heard our cynical raucousness, mistook our noises for laughter, and came in uninvited. Doing that surprised us; we’d grown accustomed to being avoided by the regulars. Our compound was not a place to visit, but Henry didn’t know that. He was new, and it was Sunday afternoon. Everyone had light duty, so he went exploring and found us. Evidently, he assumed because we were in the same army, we were all buddies. Grinning just like Gomer, he introduced himself. It was evident to us he was afflicted with hero worship for anyone who had survived a patrol, and there was at least two years patrol time in our bunker. A common feeling for the uninitiated, even though I can’t understand it, I remember it. The most ridiculous thing was he wanted us to talk about it. That was the last thing we wanted, so we did what all soldiers do, we lied. We lied to the cherry about how heroic we all were. Someone handed him a beer and allowed him to sit. He probably hadn’t drunk more than a six-pack in his life. Beaming at being accepted by what he thought were heroes, he immediately thickened his worldly tough guy act.”