Good Soldier

Warning, Skip sections in red and italics if your are easily upset.  They contain very graphic and upsetting descriptions of combat.

4 NOV 1968

Stand to the next morning was cold, damp, and very lonely. We had heard movement in the valley and fired artillery the night before, but had no contact. By 10:00am the heat was oppressive again. I sent a patrol to the valley to find a stream and fill all the empty canteens. We began improving our defenses and I had each squad dig an additional foxhole for the incoming company troops. The digging was real hard, in the red clay with baseball sized rocks in it. The clay stuck to your entrenching tool like glue and you had to take a stick and scrape it off. Digging a 2' x 6' fighting trench, two feet deep was an all out effort for three or four men to complete in a couple of hours, especially in this heat. We broke for lunch around noon. I told everyone to relax, only the OP's on full alert. I had each squad leader assign a team to take the empty canteens of one of the incoming platoons and refill them from the valley. I also told them to share their own canteens, keeping only enough to get them down to the valley floor. The company made a wrong turn when they reached the ridge line and traveled over an hour before they realized their mistake. It was nearly 15:00 hours by the time they arrived. The water crew had to really move fast and reckless to make it to the stream and back before dark. The company was exhausted from the march and very thankful for the fighting positions we had dug for them and for the water. Captain Brennan had some explosives flown in and we blew all the trees in the perimeter and setup an LZ. He also has more sandbags and some concertina wire brought out. It looked like we were going to be here for awhile. We started sending out three or four squad sized ambush and recon patrols each day. There were daily contacts made, usually only sightings or hearing movement and the application of artillery. The third day he sent my platoon minus the weapons squad, out on a recon in force. As we moved rapidly down the ridge we made contact just minutes after passing through the OP. The point man and slack man were hit in the initial burst of gunfire. After the initial bursts of AK-47 fire, we all opened up for a couple of minutes before I realized that we were not receiving any return fire. I called for a cease fire and after a few seconds, began to move forward. I found Doc bent over the slack man. He had turned to motion to the others to get down, when he had been hit in the lower back by an AK-47 round.

The bullet had blown a ten inch hole out his navel region. He was in serious pain. Doc was plunging the second morphine syringe into him as I arrived. The soldier was clawing at his intestines, desperately attempting to stuff them back into his abdomen. I took his steel helmet and placed it over the wound, telling him to hold it there to keep flys from infecting the wound. The morphine was not handling his pain, so I asked Doc to give him another dose of morphine. Doc said that another would probably be fatal. I looked Doc in the eye and asked him whether he thought he would survive the 30 minutes it would take to get a chopper in and fly him back to the evacuation hospital. He looked into my eyes and just gave me the syringe. I told him to check on the others, I would stay with this man. As he left, I waited for another minute or two before I administered the final syringe. He had turned chalky white from blood loss by now and his skin was very cold to the touch. Within seconds of administering the third syringe, he finally began to calm down.

He said he couldn't see. I told him to just lie still, the chopper was on the way. After a few seconds, he whispered something, but I didn't hear what it was. I leaned over and asked him to repeat it and he said," Was I a good soldier?" I told him that his people back home would be real proud of him, he was a true hero. He then asked if he was going to die. I told him that I thought he might. He then said he was afraid. I told him not to worry, where he was going, things were much better and he was a good person, so he had nothing to worry about. He smiled, exhaled loudly, but without any real force, just a deflating of his lungs, and the light of life in his eyes faded. I reached up and closed his eye lids with my fingers just as Doc came back to report that the point man had bad shoulder and leg wounds, but would make it. My platoon sergeant said that there were blood trails leading away down the ridge and wanted to pursue them. I told my RTO to tell the CO what had happened and had everyone else setup a perimeter. The platoon sergeant, my RTO, a machine gunner, and I took off following the blood trails. There were half inch thick dark red worms of congealed blood, every 8-10 feet. Someone was hit real bad and judging from the quantity of blood was dying. After about thirty yards we lost the trail, so we turned back and rejoined the rest of the platoon. I had the RTO call the CO and get a Medevac for the point man, then we headed back to the company perimeter carrying our "Good Soldier" with us. The chopper arrived a few minutes later. We were put on perimeter security and another platoon sent out a squad sized ambush in the same direction as our contact, after the CO had done a road runner artillery mission from the OP outward along the ridge line and also in the valley on both sides, just in case.  We spent the next few days on perimeter guard for the company CP as other platoons sent out ambush.  I guess we deserved a rest after the last two days.

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