I followed the Buck Sergeant down through the dark muddy aisle of the Da Nang Hilton. The aisle was strewn with back packs and other field equipment I could not help running into. My flight bag was tucked under the bunk, for whatever security that might provide.
Once again, backed into the open-sided ‘lean-to’ my ‘scout’ team had made for me, I took out my writing materials to send another letter home. It was getting too dark to write so I did the best I could since using the flashlight under a hunched over poncho cover was out of the question in the heat….
“Love child, never meant to be. Love child, always second best.” Brother John presaged the lyrics in his deep baritone voice. A different voice introduced John without actually introducing him. Was John really in Na Trang, spinning a platter with the latest Supremes’ song on it?
I sat in my hooch, waiting for the sound of choppers distant in the air. I thought about all of what had gone before, since I’d arrived. It felt terrible to know I would have to sit and wait for orders to move from Hill 110, which we would not be taking, in direct violation of orders.
It wasn’t morning yet because it wasn’t light. There was no moon under the broken bamboo and soggy brush that cascaded down and over almost everything under it. I lay there, disturbed by the fact that I had lost the ability to determine if I was asleep or away……
Hill 110 lay quiet in the distance. I realized for the first time that I lacked a forward observer’s most important tool. A pair of binoculars. The Army had Leica German range-estimating binoculars back at Fort Sill but any pair at all would be better than bare eyes…….
The sun was low enough to allow for some cooler air to flow among the bamboo and cypress jammed jungle around me. Low enough to allow the mosquitos to begin to form their more than annoying small clouds, as if they possessed group minds in search of evilly-conceived targets….
My scout team took apart my hooch and packed me out while I went forward to the perimeter to lay in the defensive fire up and down the area of our travel. The sun was fast rising over the jungle when I laid down on a poncho cover provided by one of the Marines on the line….
The rolling artillery barrage I’d designed, and the battery had applied so effectively, was of exactly no use in doing anything to damage or disable booby traps that were not constructed with detonators or explosives subject to sympathetic detonation. The machine gun had caused significant casualties ……..
The rain came and the smell came with it, but it was no longer hot. The altitude had taken the steam heat and reduced it to an oily cloying mass of moving air, feeling like spider webs so intensely that I constantly brushed my hands across my face…..
Fusner whispered into my left ear before first light. I blinked rapidly, once again not aware of having slept, but nothing could explain the passage of time from one waking moment to the next. I shook my head. Maybe I was sleeping…
I had no idea how the attack into the tree line on the other side of the Agent Orange clearing would go down. Once more, as with each day’s move since I’d been in country, things just seemed to happen without a lot of..
“Crimson and clover, over and over” The song played over Fusner’s tactically stupid, but achingly home-calling radio. The lyrics just repeated. There was no real meaning, like the days and nights of my life in Vietnam.
Dawn would not come. Again. A slight change in the dead blackness of lower jungle life was the only clue that dawn was in the offing. I looked at my combat watch only to realize that I could barely read it anymore.
I finished my letter home, the light of dawn sufficient to allow me to see the paper almost as well as the lousy black ink from my cheap government ballpoint.
I stared up at the unlikely and ungainly monster of a loud propeller-driven airship. The Skyraider didn’t look like it could stay in the air, but there it was, orbiting dependably..