After the incident
with the booby trap, and the injury to Pvt. --- , I did not have to
go back out when the company returned to the field. By now, I only
had a few days left on my tour of duty. The morning the company was
to go back out, I watched as my squad lifted their heavy rucksacks
onto their backs and headed down to the chopper pad. I followed
along as the guys told me to "Take care of myself and good luck,"
and all of the usual good byes. I remember shaking everyone's hand
and telling them to keep their heads down.
The choppers finally
arrived and they all climbed aboard like we had done so many times
together. The engines revved and the choppers lifted off with
everyone waving goodbye. Some gave the peace sign. I stood there
until they were completely out of sight. Then I looked around and
realized that I was all alone. I thought, "I will never see them
again" All of a sudden guilt swept over me like a tidal wave. How
could I let them go into battle and not be with them? At that
moment, I wanted to grab my gear and go with them.
They were, and still
are, my brothers in arms, but I knew that it was my time to go home.
I had served my country; I was alive and in one piece. I had cheated
death and won. It was time to get out. I returned to the company
area and started the usual paperwork to go home. By this time, I
think I had three days left before going home. On the last morning I
was to be in the company, I was packing my bags and getting ready to
head down to the chopper pad for my ride to Da Nang to Cam Ranh Bay
to catch that "Freedom Bird" home, when all of a sudden the screen
door to the hooch flew open and someone yelled, "The company has
been hit and they are bringing in the wounded to the Aid Station." I
yelled back, "Who was hit?" But he did not know. I dropped what I
was doing, and ran as fast as I could down to the Aid Station.
When I got there,
choppers were landing with the wounded. I could not tell who they
were because medics rushed them inside. I told a medic that this was
my company and he told me that he would get back to me. I waited
around for what seemed like a long time, when a medic finally came
and got me and led me inside to see the guys. I recognized one of
the guys as being in my platoon, and when he saw me he called out
and I went over to him. I have tried a million times to remember who
he was, but to this day, I still cannot remember his name. I know I
sat down on a stool by his bed. He had an IV hooked up to him and he
began to tell me what happened. A booby trap had exploded, wounding
several people. I think he had been hit in the legs and I think it
was serious. I tried to console him and hope I gave him some
comfort. The medic only let me stay a few minutes and said that I
would have to leave because they were taking him away for surgery. I
left with tears in my eyes and feeling somewhat responsible. I felt
that if I had been there, this would not have happened.
Once again, I felt
guilty for going home and leaving him and the others behind. There
was nothing more I could do there, so I headed back to my hooch. I
had missed my ride to Da Nang so I spent one more night in the
company area. The next morning, I asked our company clerk if he had
heard anything about our guys and he said, "No." I said, "Goodbye,"
and headed down to the chopper pad. As I left Vietnam for good, I
prayed that he would recover from his wounds as well as the rest of