Lucky -- October 1970

by SGT Larry Carr (11B)



October 2, 1970 or there about was my DEROS date to leave Vietnam. About three weeks prior to this date we were once again out in the field. Charlie had been planting land mines along suspected tank trails and several thanks had been damaged by hitting these mines. I attended a briefing before our insertion on what was going to take place once we were inserted. We were told that A Company would be inserted by chopper the next morning and would remain in the field three days. During this time we would send out patrols and conduct ambushes at night. All of this would be just a decoy because on the morning of the fourth day, the company would be extracted; leaving behind one platoon and that would be first platoon. We were to give Charlie the impression that we had given up and gone back to base camp. The last night before we were to be extracted, First platoon slipped off into a wooded area that was nearby. We did this one squad at a time.

The next morning, the company went in, and we were left behind. We were hoping Charlie didn't count heads. We lay low most of the day and late in the evening, we moved out. We tried to stay hidden as much as we could but there were just not a lot of places to hide and observe. When it got too late to move anymore, we found a small wooded area to set up out NDP for the night. We were losing light fast. Our Platoon Leader at this time was, I think, LT Campos. He had a quick briefing with his squad leaders and told me to take one man and go and set out some sensors we had with us. These sensors were green in color and were sort of square shaped with a small antenna and had a wire coming from the sensor with a prong attached at the end. We had four of these devices and I was told that each one made a beeping sound if anything or anyone walked by. There was small headset used to listen to the beeps. It seemed like I asked for a volunteer and I believe Pvt. (?) [I won't mention his name to protect his privacy] volunteered to go with me. We were to set them out around our perimeter.

We headed out and soon came across a well-worn trail that looked like it had been used recently. At this time I only had 13 days left in Vietnam and I would be going home. That's when I got careless. I had been thinking of home and my family a lot in the past few days; more so than I ever had before, because my time was getting so short. We decided to step out onto the trail and follow it a short distance. We had not walked far and I was just a couple of steps in front of Pvt. (?) when all of a sudden I felt this tug at my boot. I thought I had hung my boot on a vine. By this time Pvt. (?)  had caught up with me. He asked me what was wrong and I told him that I was caught on a vine. We both looked down and wrapped around by boot laces was a trip wire. I remember him looking back at me and he looked like a ghost. He was as white as a sheet. As for myself, I felt my legs buckle and thought I was going to fall. As we stared at each other, I remember us looking into each other's eyes with a look that said "Goodbye!" We both knew we were dead. I don't know about others in a situation like this, but I do know for a fact that images of my home and my family flashed through my mind. I saw flashes of my childhood and my brothers and my sister. I saw my mother and my father. All of this took place in only a matter of a few seconds. It seemed like an eternity. When reality finally hit us, that this booby trap had not exploded, we turned and ran as fast as we could. When we were out of range we stopped and just stood there for a couple of minutes realizing how lucky we were. But there was something else that happened on that trail that night.

I was not a very religious person, but as I stood there for a brief moment, I felt the presence of something else. It was a very calming feeling. Was it the presence of God? I don't really know, but I would like to think so. I never really talked much about that experience, but all of these years I have wondered why we were allowed to live. Was it to marry and be the father of my two sons? Was it to meet my wife now, Sheila, after my first marriage ended in divorce?  Is there still something I am suppose to do in my life or was Pvt. (?) allowed to live to fulfill something in his life and I was just in the way? Anyway, at some point, we snapped out of it and I remember Pvt. (?) wanted to make sure the booby trap was completely disarmed. He thought it was the same type we set out; one where we used a flashlight battery. He said that if he could find the battery he could disarm the booby trap so none of our guys would walk by it and it go off. I really did not think it was a good idea, but he insisted. He told me to stay back and he would take care of it. No matter what I said, he would not listen. I really had a lot of respect for him because he was only thinking about our people. I thought he was pretty brave to do what he did.

After a few minutes, he found the wire with the battery taped to the end and removed the battery. At that point he thought it was safe to remove the blasting cap from the claymore mine. He said he did not want to leave anything for the gooks. As he removed the blasting cap and held it up it exploded in his hand. He screamed and I came running. He was holding his face and said he felt something go into his eyes. I pulled his hands down to take a look but could not tell exactly what his wounds were in the dark. I told him I would go for help. It would be faster for me to bring the medic to him. I laid him down by a log and ran for help. When I got to our CP I got the Doc, LT Campos and a few others and we ran back to Pvt. (?). LT Campos called for a Medivac while Doc treated Pvt. (?) for his wounds. It was still very hard to tell how serious his injuries were in the dark even though Doc had a flashlight. There was a small clearing nearby and we used flashlights to land the Medivac. We helped Pvt. (?) on the chopper and that was the last time I ever saw him.

The next morning we went in ourselves. I went to our orderly room, but no one knew about his condition. I then went down to the aid station and someone told me he had been sent to a hospital. At that point, I went and told Top I did not want to out again. I was still shaken up by the incident with the booby trap and the injury to Pvt. (?).  He told me that I did not have to go out again.

For the next several days, until I left to go home, I tried to find out what happened to Pvt. (?), but to no avail. For the past, almost 36 years, I have wondered how he made out. I hope he is doing fine today for he was a very brave man who was only thinking of his buddies in A Company.





Charles  Ames


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