There was nothing to be done but to sit with Keating’s body. I’d wanted to carry it myself but the guys would have none of it. Surprising me, Stevens said it all with a strange statement, coming from a noncom in a unit that hadn’t tolerated officers well, to say the least.

“He was our lieutenant, too,” Stevens said, as if the dead officer, so new he hadn’t had time to experience one resupply, had been shared by all.

That Keating hadn’t even been allowed to assume command of Fourth Platoon was, apparently, no longer a part of the company’s history. I sat among the smoldering ruins of the jungle I’d brought about by dropping tons of white phosphorus down from one end to the other. The Gunny hadn’t said how many men we’d lost in the NVA attack, but I knew the number was not good and I also guessed that a lot of the men had died because all artillery was indiscriminate when it came to killing, with its large flying chunks of twisted metal. The 105 rounds could generate shrapnel as small as the head of a needle and as large as grapefruit. The grapefruit-sized tumbling nightmares could travel more than a mile from the impact area.