EXCERPT FROM “HEIRS OF HONOR” – ‘MY FRIEND, JOHN’


“…That morning, we were headed down to the nearest LZ, in single file.  The sun had come up, but we could not feel its warmth, being wet from the heavy dew of last night.  Most of us were in a pretty good mood, knowing we would soon be in a dry, warm chopper, so it was not easy to keep our voices down.  We had moved down the hill, far enough to get into the routine of moving as a group.  John was directly in front of me.  I heard someone grunt, as if punched in the stomach.  John turned back to look at me, with a surprised look on his face, so I paused.  Then I noticed the blood.  It was all over his chest and flowing in a quantity that was spreading around his waist.  He looked down at himself, and I knew he was going to fall, so I rushed forward and caught him.  He smiled at me, and said “Oh, oh”….”

“….I dragged him under the branches of the nearest tree, looking for a place to lay him down.  His eyelids were fluttering, and had rolled back into his head, showing only white.  He was deathly pale, and I swear, growing lighter in my arms.  I had no idea one person had so much blood.  He was drenched from waist to neck, and it was now running down his thighs.  I was struggling to hide my tears from him, as I noticed I was also coated in red.  He convulsed a couple of times.  Then his eyes opened and looked into mine.  He whispered softly, “Good night, Mom.”  With those words, he was gone.  I had no idea what to do, so I was happy to move out of the sergeant’s way and did not hesitate to jump up, before he pushed me aside….”

“….John’s death was never explained; there was no fire fight that followed, no troops chasing us back the way we came, no troops charging down the path after us.  Not one of us even heard a shot.  It was a stray round, coming our way from another place, and John stepped in front of it.  His death bothered me and most of the others.  After it happened, our patrol stopped making noise, as we quietly carried our dead down to the LZ…”

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