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World At War
Alex grabbed my hand and we began to hump through the thick razor sharp elephant grass that surrounded us and our squad. The sound of VC gunshots and bomb shells constantly rang in the horizon as Alex and I popped the metal trigger for the red smoke grenade that hopefully led to a safe trip home on a Huey. Behind us we heard gunshots whistle by our heads and mortars striking the ground no more than twenty feet from us. It was a direct hit on the smoke; we weren’t getting out of this nightmare for a while.
It felt like we were stuck in that bloody hellish battlefield for a lifetime. We never knew when that lifetime may end so we always fought with our loved ones on our mind. In this violent death match we were sentenced to, our battalion began with thirty… then there were just the two of us forced to fight our way to safety. Vietnam was a new place to us. We had no idea what to expect from the vast span of jungle and swamp.
After some time, Alex and I sprinted our way out of the elephant grass and into a dark grubby forest away from the mortars. As we ran, the sound of screaming from our comrades, who were bleeding out in the grass, caught our attention. We couldn’t turn back to help them. The VC were ambushing that area and the possibility they would be alive by the time we got there was slim to none. We had to continue on. By the time the screaming stopped, we were knee deep in a mushy bog like forest, stepping over broken logs and tree roots. Alex, with his M-4 S-System Combine with AEG Scope, continued to pick off VC left and right as they popped up from behind the trees. I followed behind him with my M-14 Assault rifle and my 50 Cal. PSG-1 Sniper on my back covering his every move.
Suddenly the only sound we heard was silence and the sound of a “click.” It was a trip wire. The thin metal wire ran just along the surface of the muck and up to the pair of trees to the left and right of him. Simultaneously we dropped into the swamp, under the mucky water, and avoided the wood shrapnel splintering out from the trees above us. It was a call that was too close for comfort. Though our ears were bleeding and ringing we had no choice but to move out.
About 20 meters away through the twisty knotted trees, we found a safe zone. It was a small area that was made up of dry mud that looked as though it had collected in between two thick logs from a flash flood. This area was a perfect cover zone thanks to its “L” shape that the logs made. Both of us went prone and began to contain our wounds. We looked around our safe zone to see just how “safe” it really was. The forest was dense. There was a roar of thunder from above the canopy and droplets of water trickling off the leaves as the dark forest began to grow even darker, night time. In Vietnam, when the sun goes down, the snipers come out. It was a waiting game.
There was a nice little nook in one of the two logs that was a perfect spot for me to rest the barrel of the sniper on. As Alex slept, I stayed awake doing whatever I could not to doze off. Chewing coffee beans and constantly scoping the surrounding forest for any sign of life. After a few hours of simple waiting, I couldn’t help but to look up for some view of the sky. There was a small opening in the canopy, no more than three feet by three feet, which opened a small window to the starry sky. I couldn’t help but think about what was going on in the outside world; was my girlfriend happy? Did my parents miss me? I quickly jumped back to reality as soon as I saw a slight glow about sixty degrees to my left. My Dad always said, “Cigarettes can kill ya.” For this person it was true. He didn’t stand a chance. The soft glow from the bud was a clean shot to his head. I took it.
The forest regained its lighter but still dull color and the morning was there. It was a long night, and we were in a relatively safe area, but we both knew it was time to move out. We were searching for a clear area, open enough for a Huey to at least be able to drop a wire into. It seemed like a simple enough objective. We began to trudge through the sludgy forest until the land became dry. Alex and I were both incredibly happy that we weren’t dealing with that slow moving pace through the water. It was finally time to stretch our legs and move at a faster pace. We carefully jogged through the trees, over broken rotted logs, and around trip wires and other explosives until the single most earth-shattering sound echoed through the trees. It was a sound that no solder wanted to hear, the cracking sound of the shot, followed by the sound of a body hitting the floor. Alex was shot in the head by a sniper.
You don’t realize how alone you are until you really are simply… alone. It doesn’t matter if you are five thousand miles away from home, or just simply driving in your car on the way to work. Sometimes pain and dependence hits you at the most random times. Alex has been there for me for years. And when you loose someone in the blink of an eye you don’t always know what to do. I felt like my parents just told me my goldfish, Sunflower, had died.
Judging from the sound of the shot, it wasn’t too far away from where we had been. The bolt action sniper was without a doubt targeting me next, so I immediately dove for the ground and took cover behind a tree. I felt the impact from a constant hammering of M16 machine gun fire pelting against the other side of the tree. Every shot felt like my heart beating harder and harder. The beads of sweat were pouring off of my forehead when I checked my magazine on my M-14. It was empty. There was no chance in hell I would be able to take down these VC with only my sniper. The firing stopped for a couple seconds and I was able to stick my head around the corner. There were two of them, and Alex’s weapon was on the ground next to his body only a few feet from me. It was a risk that I had to take. The Charlie had a new clip in his weapon and continued fire on the tree. I waited until his magazine was empty to make my move. Adrenaline took over my shaking body and had complete control over my actions. As soon as the enemies’ firing stopped to reload a new clip, I took action. I dove behind Alex’s body from the tree and grabbed his weapon to open fire on the two helmets I saw poking over the bush. The deafening sounds of automatic weapon fire echoed through the forest like thunder rolling off the mountains. Silence crept over me once again.
I removed Alex’s blood covered dog tags from his neck and cautiously walked toward his murderers. The two twisted mangled bodies of young men were stacked side by side with their helmets a few feet away from their repulsive bodies. Bent at my knees I took a closer look at the two boys. They couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old. Both of them covered in mud, and nothing but skin, bones, and blood. One of the boy’s dark brown eyes were open. I fell to my knees and felt the strong feeling of guilt. Guilt from killing the people that killed my only friend, and realizing that this whole war only makes me as bad, if not worse, than them; a murderer.
Rain began to fall even harder than the slight mist before. The large blobs of water were coming down hard enough that I could see no more than twenty feet in front of me. It was coming down hard enough to wash the blood off the faces of the two little boys only to reveal their true faces. Their eyes told me that they were afraid. They had a fear from being lost in the jungle and hunted like an animal. I quickly regained my strength and stood back onto my feet. It was time for me to hunt once again.
I ran like I never ran before. I never looked back once.
A large grassy field was through a clearing in front of me. I was finally able to gaze upon the overcast sky. It was peaceful. It was calming to me knowing that the open space could mean my ticket out of there. The field was about hundred and fifty yards all around, and about knee high with dark green grass. In the horizon I heard the sound of a helicopter and my thoughts of being home with my family intensified even more. The red smoke from my smoke grenade filled the sky once again, and in no time the army green Huey Hawk was making its way over the tree line across the other side of the field. The sound of the metal blades chopping through the air was soothing to my ringing ears. Six other solders climbed out of the Huey and one of them began to yell toward me. “Run! Hurry! There is Charlie all over this…” That’s all I could make out. His voice was cut out mid-sentence by a round penetrating his neck, followed by more rounds being fired from the trees and a cloud of red blood mist where he once stood. The other five solders and I returned fire randomly into the trees. Our enemy was invisible in the thick surrounding jungle so our spray and pray method was useless on our sprint toward the Huey. I climbed safely aboard, and we took off.
I watched the grass get blown around by the force of the helicopter. I also remember seeing the VC running out from the trees, opening fire on us. The smaller machine gun fire didn’t affect us as much as a rocket would. The other men I was with were firing back at them. The VC scattered like ants on the grass below, falling lifeless one by one.
It was as if my heart stopped. A rocket was fired from the blackness of the jungle. God I hated this place. The slow motion gray smoke trail from the rocket was heading for a direct hit on the tail of the Huey. Before I knew it, smoke filled the cabin and the Huey was spiraling out of control. The inertia forced me out the door and into fresh open air. I was free falling from about one thousand feet. The Sun peaked its way through the overcast sky, lighting up the approaching ground below me. Time froze.
Slamming the plastic controller down onto the floor, my Mom called Alex and me from upstairs. “Boys?! Dinner is ready! Come and get it!” We both immediately ran upstairs to enjoy our delicious mouth-watering macaroni and cheese.