I stood with my right-hand flat, the dirty index finger of that hand slightly glued to my head by a light bond of drying mud. I stared into Clews’ eyes, waiting for an answer. Was I going to live, or die with him? Was I going to do something terrible to everyone inside the cave in order to allow me to live just a bit longer?

“Are all the supplies aboard the 46 or you want us to unload the 47s?” the Gunny asked, the tone of his voice matter-of-fact, like all of us jammed into the cave were sitting at some warehouse desk instead of tensely standing and closely facing one another.

“We’ve got our own stuff,” Clews replied, looking away from me. “We’re going to drop onto the top of Hill 975 just up from Highway 548. This ragtag bunch of whatever the hell you are can make the hike in two days…maybe. Use the 46 to get your dead and wounded back to the rear. We’re done here. When you make it to the hill, get ready for inspection. A lot of the problems I’ve heard about, now that I’ve been here myself, are the result of piss poor leadership and slovenly-looking conduct. This is the fucking United States Marine Corps and you’re damned well going to look and act the part when we meet again.”