THE COWARDLY LION,
The words “stay with us” burned their way into my consciousness, as I fought to comprehend the awful condition of my body and even my state of existence on the planet. The words kept repeating, as I tried to see through a distorted return of fuzzy imagery hot poker penetrating pain that rifled into the very center of my being. The pain came in waves that I rode as an unwilling surfer, each wave coming at me intolerably and inexorably, my stuttering breaths fighting to somehow survive by willing the troughs of those brutal waves to be something less than outrageous unsurvivable pain.
“Look at me, Junior, and stay with us,” a face said, the being’s beady eyes trying to bore their way into and then right through my own.
I tried to mouth the single word “okay” back, but nothing would come out. My breathing was only capable of riding the waves of red hot pain to bring me to seconds of minutely relieving but never-ending pain.
“Your hit bad through and through and you’ve got to fight it,” the moving mouth inches from my face said. “You are going out on the Huey right now. You’ll never make it waiting for the big bird.”
Some sort of consciousness, that thinking now foreign to me as the pain attempted to occupy every shred of every bit of any kind of rational thoughts I might otherwise have. I knew I was hit. I’d seen the NVA soldier rise from his spider hole not ten feet from my position. I’d been moving to the center of the company in order to figure out what so much fire had seemed to be concentrated and coming from there when all the company Marines were stationed in a great perimeter set up to defend against outside intrusion and attack.
In that instant, when the soldier had opened up with his AK-47, I knew the enemy was coming out of the earth. They’d been waiting, after digging like fiends to prepare, since we’d sheltered down in the same position prior to coming down the face of the wall almost a month before, and they’d been ready. The fire I was trying to find the source of was their fire, as they killed my Marines from the rear while the unit fought against what it believed was fire coming in from outside the perimeter.
The yellow and white blasts from the AK had been like a string of Christmas tree lights coming at me, much slower than bullets were supposed to go. I’d turned a tiny bit to begin attempting to evade the string, but I’d only made that turn with my upper body before running out of time. The bullets hit my side and then were gone. The soldier disappeared to somewhere as I went down, not knocked down like I’d seen in the movies or even over backward, but slowly, like a damaged building collapsing from the bottom up.
“I know the pain’s bad, really bad,” the small moving mouth with beady black eyes that wouldn’t leave my own said, “but I can’t give you morphine. Your system will simply shut down and let you die. The pain’s keeping you alive. We’re going to have you on the chopper and out of here in minutes.”
I thought of the morphine in my pocket, the pocket that still held the letter home to my wife I hadn’t been able to get aboard any helicopter since coming to the end of the valley. As the face moved back and away from my shortened visual field of view I managed to get one hoarsely whispered word out. I had to speak. I had to get the face to understand and then take action. I could not access the morphine the face would not give me without being able to use both hands and in my right hand, I held tightly, uncontrollably to something that prevented that hand’s use for anything other than what it was doing. I had to have the morphine and I didn’t care one whit about whether I died or not. I could not take the pain. I would not take the pain.
“Grenade,” I hissed across the short distance to the face.
The Marine stopped his retreat and leaned back down.
“Grenade?” he asked, his wetly smooth forehead furrowed with a deep frown.
“Right hand,” I got out, trying to gesture by nodding my head to the side and down toward my uncontrollably clutching hand, but my head would not move, any more than my hand could or would let go of the M33 grenade I’d pulled out of my right front pocket as I’d gone down from the effect of the bullets striking my torso. Once the hits registered right into the central core of my being, however, my ability to do anything other than pull and discard the pin had been taken from me.
The face disappeared and I went back to trying to ride the scorching awful waves radiating into and out of my shattered body. I was hemmed in. The bullets had to have gone in on one side of my torso and out the other because the waves of pain came from those sides into my interior and then seemed to reflect and bounce back to those sides. Time after time, with milliseconds between them.
“Jesus Christ,” a voice I recognized but could not place breathed out. “The pin’s pulled. Easy, easy, use the K-Bar to pry his fingers loose. He’s not going to give a damn about losing fingers at this point.”
I wanted to shout that I did give damn, that I wanted all my fingers, but I couldn’t say anything as the waves stole my voice, my breath, and even most of my ability to see.
I knew my hand hurt but also knew that the hurt there didn’t matter one bit. The waves racking their way back and forth through my body like those of a shaken bottle of coke absorbed that hurt like it was a remote matter too inconsequential to be anything more than noticed in a minor way.
“Fire in the hole,” a loud voice screamed.
Through the waves of white-hot heated pain, I felt and heard a loud explosion. I couldn’t remember hearing the explosions that had to have been occurring when the bullets came out of the AK and on into me, but the sound of the grenade going off was unmistakable.
The face leaned back in for a few seconds, “Got any more surprises, Junior? By God, you were a piece of work in your time,” and then was gone.
My ears rang, but I was used to that.
The face’s words; “You were a piece of work in your time,” ate their way through the pain, and on into some still open recess of my fractured mind. My time was over? I felt a familiar, yet alien, bolt of fear rush its way to the top of my roiling and shattered being.
The face was gone, the explosion far back in my somehow time-slowed existence. I was alone.
I worked my left hand over and down with impossible effort, the surging power of its goal overcoming iron strength of attempted life-stopping power of the surf-riding, nearly overwhelming, force of the pain.
The morphine. I clutched the small box containing the styrettes. The face had said that administering morphine would kill me.
I felt the plastic bag next to the morphine box, as I worked to get the box out of my wet pocket with difficulty. My letter home. I could not die. What would my wife and new daughter do without me? There was no money on her side of the family and my side of the family wasn’t likely to share a thin dime. My wife had worked three times in her life during college to help pay tuition. Once in a potato factory, once in a pet store and once as a recess director at a summer park. She had done remarkably well at those foundational and terrible paying jobs. There was little hope that she might find something to support herself and our daughter without me. I could not die, but I could not take the pain. It was simply too awful, and, in spite of what the face had said, I knew in what was left of my rationality that the morphine was very likely the only thing that might keep me alive.
I fumbled the package out, shredding the cardboard box as I did so while bringing my freed-up right hand over atop my agonized torso to grasp the tiny styrette. I breathed, and then breathed deeply again to get to a near-instantly passing trough between the giant waves of unbearable pain. I flicked the plastic cover off the top of the tube and then, as gently as my forced and shaking fingers could do it, I got the tiny metal stopper out of the end of the needle, wondering at the same time about the fingers I couldn’t see that had to still be there if I was able to do what I was doing.
I punched the needle of the tube into my stomach. There was no way I could bend my torso to get the drug into my thigh. I knew from long experience with the company in combat that one syrette wasn’t going to be enough. I pawed with my left hand and found another stuck in the mud covering my stomach. I punched a second syrette into nearly the same place the first one had gone. I knew that three syrettes were death for someone of my size. If I was to die from taking the two then it was a death meant to be. I would not do the three. My letter home to my wife still had to be posted, and I was duty-bound to get it in the mail. She, and my daughter, were all I had to hold onto and I wasn’t about to let them go.
The waves of fire-hardened pain began to come down from their vaulting heights as the morphine began to do its job. My breathing began to change from the sucked and vacated packets of spewing jungle air it had been to a level where my torso no longer beat itself up and down against the jungle floor.
The run across whatever compound the chopper had landed on was harder than the bumpy life-threatening ride from the edge of the A Shau. I couldn’t remember where on the base any medical facility was located, but I’d only breezed right on through, thanks to my lipping off to the division general officer only a month before. I saw the lights. Thousands of lights, and then I heard jet engines, many of them, all spooling up and getting ready for a pre-dawn liftoff. I realized I wasn’t in Ah Hoa. The chopper had taken the extra risk of bringing me straight into the First Medical Battalion. I was in Da Nang. If I was to receive care then that trauma center would be about the best I, or anyone else, could get.
“Get him to triage,” a female voice yelled.
“There’s no triage because there are no other patients,” a man’s voice overpowered hers. “Get him straight to surgery, no prep except blood, lots of blood”.
I felt as good as I could under the circumstance. I would only find out later triage was the place where patients were evaluated to see who might be the best candidates to survive because surgeons were very limited in number and on time.
“That’s a great Colt you’re wearing there, pardner,” one of the Marines dragging my poncho said. “Mind if I help myself?”
I couldn’t frame a reply. I felt my .45 lifted from the holster, surprised that it was still there. I had no use for any kind of gun, and I hoped then and there that I never would.
“What about that watch?” another Marine asked, glancing down. “Wow, who is this guy, anyway. Great Colt and even greater watch. He won’t need it where he’s going.”
I felt my watch being stripped away. I wanted the watch. Where was I going that I wouldn’t need a watch? But, once again, I could not get any words out.
A face appeared very close to my own, big sparkling eyes like those of Nguyen shining down upon me. It wasn’t Nguyen. I hadn’t seen him get off the chopper and instantly regretted not even thinking about him. Was he hit too, but too tough to show it? No, the man had said that there were no other patients. Not yet, I thought. If Nguyen and I had made it then there had to be others and they might be in as bad a shape as I was in, or maybe not so bad. Suddenly, I wanted to be in surgery as quickly as possible. I didn’t know what triage meant but I wasn’t stupid either. I wanted to be in surgery, but all I got was I.V.s being run into both my arms, my right thigh, and then the left side of my neck. I’d never heard of anyone getting four I.V.s at the same time. And then there was the face, whispering to me.
I listened closely to the whispering coming out of the mouth of the person whose face was way too close to my own: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”
I was receiving the last rites, and the whispering face belonged to a Catholic priest.
Terror all but overcame me as a clear plastic mask replaced the priest’s face. The last rites, administered to those that were dying but not dead yet. Gas pumped into the mask, and I tried to fight the numbing feel of it. I didn’t want to die. I had to get home. I had a letter to my wife in my pocket and that had to be mailed. I wasn’t done yet. And then everything went away. Not blackness but simply lost foggy awareness until that blackness finally crept in.
My first awareness of consciousness was light. Bright light. Too bright. I gagged, which is the only sound I could make. I wanted anyone there to turn down the lights.
“I’m Doctor North, your surgeon”, a deep voice from nearby said.
The man sounded exactly like Brother John from the Armed Forces Radio Network.
I slanted my eyes back and forth, unable to move my head which was taped down.
I saw him and was surprised. He was black. He had a pencil mustache and very short black hair, with some gray in it.
“We’re shipping you out of here to Yokosuka, Japan. You’ll get the best care there. You have a really good chance of making it. You have, what we call here, a survivor’s body. You should have died before you got here. You lost too much blood to live, but here you are. I did multiple resections and knitted the bone of your hip back together. Any more than that is going to have to wait for other surgeons along the way. Your file…someone wrote Junior next to your name. I marked that out with a magic marker. There’s no reason for any of this to follow you. You need medical help, not criticism.”
I had not been that kind to my black Marines. I’d been close to Zippo but always distant from Sugar Daddy and the rest of my black Marines. I’d killed some before things had settled down. Here was a black surgeon saving my life. I wondered about the priest and if they were somehow linked. Would God forgive me that easily from the punishments I most justly deserved? Would the prayer of the priest to release me from all punishments in this life have a full effect?
“This will get you through, for most of the flight,” a female voice said, only her hands visible enough for me to see. She injected something into one of my I.V. tubes.
I felt the gentle tugging grace of morphine, its effect so sinuously warm yet apparent in every way. My mind wandered almost immediately. What was going to get me through the rest of the five- or six-hour plane trip to Japan? But the morphine won all battles over such interior and groundless arguments. I went under again, although I was desperate to stay awake. Every time I went to sleep I just knew I had a really great chance of never waking up.
“Letter in my pocket to my wife, “ I got out to the injecting nurse. I tried to look at where my watch was supposed to be. I really wanted that watch.
“Well, okay, I’ll see to that,” the nurse replied, and then she was gone and everything else went with her.
I awoke again and listened intently for the sound of whirling turbines, but there was nothing.
A woman with a chart stood over me, as I was wheeled along. I wondered why hospitals didn’t put some sort of scenery on the ceilings in the hallways, as it was about all patients, like me, on gurneys, got to see. The woman spoke.
“We don’t get many doctors in here, especially not Air Force doctors.”
“Okay,” was all I could think to say.
“Where’d he come out of?” a male voice nearby asked.
“Da Nang,” it says here, originally.
“Holy crap, did you read this?” the woman said, obviously passing something I couldn’t see to the man, who I couldn’t quite make out either although he had to be standing very near to the gurney I’d never been offloaded from.
“He’s not medical corps at all,” the man said, awe in his voice. “The file’s stamped ‘M.C.’ but it means the Marine Corps, not medical corps. This guy is a Marine Officer fresh out of combat. We stabilize and ship to Yokosuka immediately, or immediately as we can. He’s just had surgery and no doubt needs more.”
“How far?” I finally croaked out, fearing the two medical personnel were about to leave.
“Thirty-Three miles,” the woman said.
“About an hour,” the man followed up.
“Morphine?” I tried to ask, but the word came out all broken and hushed.
“You better believe it,” the woman said. “It’s taken about half an hour to arrange a Jeep to get you there. I’ll medicate when you’re ready to go. You are on 4 Q.H. so that’ll be a little bit short of the rule but what the hell, it wasn’t your mistake so why should you pay?”
They left and I laid there, trying not to see a nearby patient who was missing half his face. His one good eye kept looking at and into me, like somehow, I was to blame for his awful condition. What, in combat, I wondered, could take off half, but not all, of a person’s face, and how would that happen to someone in the Air Force? The fact that the man might have been flying an airplane that got hit only occurred to me when I was in the Jeep, flying across a crummy half-decayed highway toward the Naval Hospital that was supposed to take care of whatever was left of me.
The ride wasn’t that bad. My gurney was strapped from the front of the Jeep’s lowered windshield to the rear seat. The gurney was angled up in the rear where my head was. I could see everything along the highway as we traveled, and with a fresh hit of the morphine, the trip, taking less than an hour, wasn’t bad at all.
I was on 4 Q.H. which meant that I got a 10-milligram shot of morphine every four hours. The first hour was an almost human experience. The second hour was an hour of uneasy endurance. The third hour was an hour of harsh endurance and the last hour could only be tolerated by a count down, minute by minute, second by second until another shot would be administered. The medical staff of all the trauma hospitals were very sensitive to getting that shot to the patients on nearly the very second, they were prescribed for. They’d learned early on in the war that the screaming that began when that fifth hour began wasn’t worth putting up with.
Yokosuka was a sprawling complex of one-story buildings, connected by narrow halls. The place looked, as I was driven slowly inside on one of the many nearly impassably narrow roads, like a warehouse series of dormitories for chickens. There were buildings all over the American Midwest used for exactly that purpose. The buildings were all made of wood with shake roofs. The wood was poorly painted in worn cream colors, while the window trim and doors were bright blue. One of the doors ahead opened up and the Jeep stopped.
“That’s our dirty surgery?” a man holding a file said.
I recognized the file that had accompanied me during my stay at Tachikawa Air Force Base, from where I’d departed half an hour ago by rapid Jeep travel.
I wondered what ‘dirty surgery’ meant but there was no time or anyone to ask about it as what little communication ability I had had been taken away by the generous shot of morphine the woman had administered, as promised, just before I left. The personnel at the Air Force Base had been polite, cheerful, and caring, but it had also been obvious that they wanted nothing to do with a combat Marine Officer just out of the valley.
I was not so gently shuffled off the Jeep mounted gurney onto a more portable model with rails and wheels, before being wheeled in through the blue door. From there it was a brief run down a hallway, passing closed door after closed door behind which I presumed other patients lay.
“X-ray, and then over to cardiac,” a male voice said. “If his hearts no good then this is an exercise in futility. He needs a room in dirty surgery and then more antibiotics and morphine. Those bullets took parts of his uniform and whatever else was laying around the jungle area, into the interior of his body. They can’t have found them all at First Med. The next big fight is going to be the infection if we make it that far.”
Music came from somewhere, and all I could do was think of Fusner, and his little bitty radio. How much it meant to him to turn it on down in the valley, and finally also coming to understand that he was playing it many times for me.
The song was Never My Love, a song that had played on the system that was part of the Basic School back so seemingly long ago. Never My Love, the lyrics played, and they had no meaning in my life as I was being wheeled into a surgery situation I wasn’t likely to survive. “What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends on you (on you)…never my love, never my love.”
But did those words have meaning, really? My wife, my daughter, my existence on the earth. “Never my love.” There was no plan to assign the words to, as I had so often done down in the valley. There was no ‘never my love’ mission, and there was no audience of very concerned and worried Marines to play to. Fusner’s music reached inside me, and I knew, at that moment, that the men, as he had so demonstrated, would never leave my consciousness or attention ever again. The litany of those gone rang through me like bells, syncopated with the passage of the lights on the ceiling below which I traveled. Sugar Daddy, the Gunny, Jurgens and so many more, apparently, or in reality, all dead and gone. I only knew Nguyen to be alive and I clung to that, although it wasn’t likely I’d ever see or hear from him again.
A face appeared in front of my own, as I traveled the light segmented road to surgery. The face seemed too close and too intent. The man’s mouth was speaking words but I could not understand them. I listened as closely as I could.
“Through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed,” the man said, his eyes peering intently into my own. And then it hit me, and the fear that had been eased back, along with much of the pain, by the morphine came crashing back into the center of my being.
The man saying the words was a Catholic priest. He was administering the last rites to me, and not just any last rites, but the one’s to be delivered to anyone about to die at any moment.
I entered the surgical room and the priest was brushed away. I had nowhere to take my awful fear of dying. A clear plastic mask was attached to my face and the world around me began to whirl.
“You ask me if there’ll come a time when I grow tired of you,” the words from the Association song played, as I went into unconsciousness. I tried to hang on, to interpret the words and their meaning but it was too late. I was gone.
NEVER MY LOVE
How do I get a copy of The Cowardly Lion book 1
Coming soon. You can send me a check for 30 bucks to 507 Broad Street, Lake Geneva, WI, 53147 and I will send you one
of the first autographed 1st editions as soon as the printer is done.
Semper fi, and thanks for asking.
Lt , yours is the kind of writing that if I had the book in hand I could not put down until I was done or simply passed out from lack of sleep.
This first chapter of the Cowardly Lion is more riveting than all the chapters of your combat. And those were such that I couldn’t wait for the next chapter!
I’m glad you made it. Its heart wrenching to find out the others didn’t.
Looking forward to the next and the rest of the Cowardly Lion.
In 69 when I was there- though as a medic in Mech Infantry in II Corps, we seemed to all think, If we thought or discussed it at all, was a concept that guys who got hit early and were dusted off were luckier, than guys who made it longer times and then got hit. Sucked… but you were alive. Survival of self. Guess in the end its critical. Guys who didn’t make it- it was just bad luck. Very random. Lots of pieces of things and shrap and rounds fly everywhere. I had about a month left when I got dusted. Lasted 10 months in the field. Not bad in retrospect. It Takes a lot of spiritual energy to tell people what happened. Putting it into words that make any sense. Mostly you just tell people about something Funny about the military. Harder to explain what combat is, or what insanity we faced. So some stories have just never been told. Dark memories. How do you explain the involuntary but eternal brothers you were serving with. and yet you might not know anything about them except maybe what others say because mostly we talked about pussy and back in the world. Or the time something happened to one of the guys. There were a few good moments- even some laughs. But mostly not. How do we tell people about that? We usually didn’t. When it was really bad someone might say “Don’t mean nothing”- and I would hear several other guys say.” Don’t mean nothing.” like a shield to just block out the pain of that moment. Those times I liked to forget about. But they will always be there- just got to think kindly of them. It was a long time ago. We survived to say that.
I like the new Book. Thanks- Doc Mike
That’s the best description of pain that I’ve ever read. This will stay with me…
LT, Sir, Jim:
An incredible first chapter of TCL.
Your loyal readership cadre are still with you…even on the plane heading to Japan.
My 8-month old laptop froze a few weeks ago. Resurrected my old, crippled laptop to use mouse device in order to access Internet but can only click and read…however, unable to type on busted keyboard.
Am using wife’s device to type this message and also used it tonight to also order two copies of the Last 10 Days.
Keep the chapters coming, LT…we so look forward to finding that next chapter of your captivating, eye opening story and all that evolves. Like Red Green said on The Red Green Show–“remember, we’re pulling for ya!”
Lt. Thank you for another riveting chapter in your journey. Your descriptive accounts in the field brought me into your world as no other account could. The intensity of each chapter is captivating. The first chapter of Cowardly Lion is beyond anything I have ever read. Your fragmented recollection of your surroundings and medical attention as you struggled to survive is beyond powerful. Your account of receiving your last rights is terrifying. I wish my cousin who was a medic could have read this before his sudden death. Thank you Lt for sharing your story. I anxiously await the three volume hard cover set of your work.
Thanks so much for that terrific comment Andrew. I have copied and pasted it to all my sites where the Cowardly Lion appears on Facebook.
Means a lot to me and I think it will to anyone else who reads it. Nicely said and wonderfully complimentary…
Semper fi, my friend and brother
Glad to see you once again put pen to paper with a captivating chapter Lt. I recall the med evac hospital at Da Nang in ’67, great caring people there.
Once again I must complement you on your memory and ability to put those events into print, and for one am very glad you are able to do that and share with us your personal thoughts and fears.
Keep them coming !!
My problems, over time,
SGtBob, have not been about forgetting.
They have been about not being able to forget…
Semper fi, and thanks for the comment.
Hey LT , been off the grid for a few, and just read chapter 1 of the Lion, wow , what a run you had going, please pass on the rest when you feel ready, sure it was not easy to write.My dad ,WWII USMC Guadalcanal spent 4 months state side in a VA hospital before he was discharged, his war was over too, and only lasted a short time, 3 days on the island before waking up totally deaf on a mercy ship in the Pacific
Welcome back, and with such power. Your dad at Guadalcanal. I wonder if he felt bad about going down on only the third day. It was tough for me for a long time to
know that I could only make it 30 days. Now, I understand so much better. No veteran has ever, on this site, held that short time against me and I have much enjoyed that fact.
Thanks for writing about your dad and yourself on here.
I spent a year and a half in-country. Not infantry. I had a few close calls. That said, if I add up all my experiences they don’t come close to one day of yours. Time in country doesn’t count for much.
Two short tours:
An acquaintance, infantry Army 4th Div, spent one week in-country training before going to the field. Two weeks later after an assault a short round from one of our 155s took his leg.
Marine new in country and before being assigned to a unit is doing fatigue duty. The job entailed moving 55 gal fuel drums from a raised rack. The drums were stored on their sides. They were to be rolled off the rack down a ramp. One drum got away from them. His hand was crushed amputating the first digit of his right index finger – his trigger finger. Medevaced back to the States.
We just play the hand we are dealt.
His hand was crushed. You then stated that “we must play the hand we are dealt.” Which hand?
A gallows humor kind of thing, I know. Thanks for the great subjective and personal comment.
Awesome writing James…however you made it…we are all glad that you did…so you could tell your story, which is, in a way, the story of many vets on here. There is such intensity in your writing, such care, and just plain grit…to tell the truth of the matter. Like someone previously said, I am so caught up in the story I don’t even notice the typing errors. I have bought the first two books, but would like the three book set when available…and a hard cover version also…Thanks for getting this follow up out so quickly…
Your compliments and support are much appreciated on this end. The men and women who have written on this site over the past three
years (22,521) have provided me so much in life. It’s hard to describe and also it was impossible to predict when I began the
odyssey. I much enjoy reading and answering the comments myself. There’s some kind of therapy in that too.
Wowee James more good writing. I’m guessing from your time in combat you must be deaf as a stone lion?
Yes, my hearing is not the best, although I have not gotten the hearing aids yet. Soon. In combat, at least back then, there were no ear muffs or any of that.
I used to stuff my ears with stuff when I could but that was not always possible. The ringing would bother me more than the brief periods of total silence that
would come from being too close to an artillery round going off.
James, Thank you for writing this gripping account. I applaud your bravery and writing skill. I just purchased the three book set and will purchase this when done. Thank you for your service. I pray the rest of your years are lived in peace and comfort. God Bless, Allen
Thanks so much Allen. The purchase of the books means a whole lot to me, as you might imagine.
Working alone on this has not been a problem, because of the people like you on this site.
Thanks for not leaving me hanging. I thought I would just make up my own ending.
Well, that’s not necessarily a bad idea, although I am trying here to get it the way it went down.
Unbelievable work. So good one can see and feel what’s going on in each sentence.
Thanks most sincerely, Ed. I don’t think about sturcture or any of that when I write. It just comes.
Appreciate your compliment and that you are writing it in a public place…
Simply brilliant piece of writing. Thank you.
You are most welcome E!!! And thanks for writing that on here…
The amazing writing and story continue. Amazing you can remember these details in the condition you were in .
That’s when memory is amazing. We lose so many great experiences in part or total but this kind of stuff….never.
Thanks for the comment on here.
Jim did you ever see Nguyen later in life? I know that it’s very personal to ask. But that guy meant a lot to you. Hell he means a lot to me and I’m just a reader living vicariously in your world through your words.
Please understand that I can’t write about future events until I unfold them in The Cowardly Lion, or it screws everything up.
Thanks for asking though.
Fusner rest in peace good the gunny made it thr remaining young marines needed his leadership to survive.
Lt. your writing only gets better and better! I am so buried in the words that I never notice the typo’s. I am as in 30 days, hanging on to every word and waiting tensely on the next chapter! We’ve got your back LT!!!
Thanks Johnny. Yes, the compliments like your own do reach me and do effect me. Sometimes, without a ‘real’ publisher, it gets pretty lonely being the writer of such things.
Much appreciate the depth of your support too…and that helps me, as well.
I’m not sure how to start this comment. My first thought was “the saga continues” but that just seems to flippant, as that was before I read the whole chapter. Your new odyssey, starting with describing your physical pain, as well as your mental anguish, already seems it will be far worse than when you were in the A Shau (just guessing, as I have no military experience). I understand your pain and the (temporary) relief morphine brings when I was badly hurt in a truck wreck. But I cannot equate my experience with yours as my pain was just the body, not the body and soul as for you. I’ve been with you since the first chapter three or so years ago. You have really “open my eyes” to the reality of war as no other book has. I feel as if I am sitting on your shoulder, your writing is that good. Thank you and I will continue to wait for the next chapters.
Highly complimented Don, so much that I put your comment up on my other sites. Thank you so very much.
LT all I can say, as a non combat Vet is once again WOW!
Great praise in that simple word Jim, and much appreciated on this end.
I live with chronic pain but I could not image what you went through. Thank the Lord you survived to tell your story. Thank you Lt. and you sound like a leader that I would not have any problems following.
Thanks Doc, about the leader thing…I got better the longer I lived. Combat teaches by killing and I shall never ever forget that.
Yes, the survival was a trail of tears but also of discovery and bearing down to endure the seemingly unendurable…
Hey Lt. I have been following you through your journey. “Thirty Days” was an unbelievable read. But I have to say, this first chapter tops everything so far. I was lucky to miss Vietnam, got stationed stateside for my entire 2 years (72-74). I salute you and all of the men and women that “did their duty” in that horrific conflict. I am glad you made it and can share those horrors with us that missed it. Thank you sir, just thank you. And God bless you.
So glad you stayed stateside, so we can have this dialogue. I never go after anyone who was not there, except for those who go after those who did go when they did not.
I’m glad to have communications with so many living survivors and those who did not go. It is a one way dialogue to communicate with the dead so I try not to do much of that.
Glad you alive and very happy you are enjoying the work.
Wow! Hard to imagine the sheer terror and pain as you are ambushed from within your perimeter and rendered incapable of functioning, but you have given a very articulate and clear picture of the horror that descended upon you and your men. You have given a very good description of your pain, your fears for yourself and your survivability odds, and also your concern and frustration for the fate of the men who fought alongside you. That obviously weighed heavily on you. Again, I finish another segment and find myself just sitting here, shaking my head, at a loss for words. Thank you, sir.
Thanks so much Marshall, and your comment does reach and effect me. Sometimes it is hard to go on, but I persevere and this comment section has been a lifeline to me.
Thanks to one and all who are reading this and making their own comments.
You remember more than I, I’m thankful I recall very little. I recall getting put in the chopper. Told I was in Japan and Edwards AFB CA. I came around at Walter Reed and told the specialist needed was at Andrews. At Andrews they started rotating different pain meds as I had too much morphine, that was their opinion. I recall part Last Rights only once. That was as frightening as a FF with gooks in the wire at night. Like you it was months in hospitals. From the 1st corpsman to the last doctor and all in between I had great care and was patched better than can be expected. I trust your care was great too. We still live with the pain, I gave up Oxy after 22 years for non – narc drugs. We still live with the demons. There are many like us, but fewer every day. At this point, God bless the VA as they have kept me as healthy as possible for decades. Glad you came home to write about our war for us and future generations. I think God will look upon Nam vets as we served our time in Hell and deserve some dispensation.
Yes, long term morphine, administered frequently, creates a withdrawal that is hard to explain to anyone who has not gone through the four day, day and night, horror of it.
Thanks for bringing that up and you will read more of it as The Cowardly Lion progresses.
Getting rapped up in your near or imminent death experience made me think of my own trip back to the world. There was not the physical horror but it seems like the mental fog was just as chaotic. One day we were watching tracers over the trail and then we were leaving all our brothers at war and going back to Kansas. I arrived home in NC and my daughter was now 2 1/2 and June reminded me we had a son Jimi who was 3mo….I wasn’t bleeding but I was in shock! Thank you S/F
The A-6 Intruder man. Whole Man. Thank you. For back then and for now. I like to imagine all the guys who so powerfully threw support to us back then, and lived, are like you.
Know that’s not true, but what the hell! You are a class act Colonel and I much appreciate your comments and you friendship. As you know, I don’t have many veteran friends, except on here, but then, I didn’t do very well
on the peer evaluations back at Quantico either!
In so many ways I am glad you were there in the air helping Jim and his company.
Great to hear your side of the story
James, Thanks for your service, awesome writing skills and memories. My Dad 5th Division Marine fought at Iwo Jima . He had a couple of stories but didn’t like to talk about the war. Can’t wait for the next chapter.
As I laid in the hospital in Japan after 2 weeks in Chu Lai I was beginning to become human again and realized I was going to live. My second night I was awakened by someone going through the cabinets that were next to each patient that held their personal belongings. I watched groggily as he went through 3 and then I hoarsely yelled Hey what are you doing? He immediately ran out of the area. Don’t know if he came back again later but it was maddening to see some low life stealing from severely wounded patients. Everything I had was left in the field so I had nothing to lose at that point. I wonder how the marines that lifted your 45 and watch feel abut their actions now? Do they have any kind of guilty conscience or have they made up a cover story that they now believe.
I, too, am awaiting the release of all 3 books. If it would help matters I am more than happy to pay in advance for them.
Hope to have the third book in print by late next week. Chuck says that the three book set will go for 79.95 which seems about right for autographed and unscripted, as the time and postage and packaging (not to mention trips too and from the post office)
takes a lot more than most people might think. I am Jim Strauss, 507 Broad Street, Lake Geneva, WI. 53147. You will be one of the first to get the full series when the third finally gets here from the printer.
Thanks so very much. The guys who ‘stole’ the watch and the Colt didn’t really steal them, if you think about it. They needed that stuff a helluva lot more than I did and I was okay with it then and even more okay with it now.
Happily my experience was much less dramatic than yours, but I was medevaced out of the Parrot’s Beak and woke up to someone saying “Come on, breathe, don’t quit on me now.” That part of your experience I can identify with. Very glad you survived to tell your remarkable story.
Yes, you had to go through something like this to hear words like that, or have people like us tell you.
Thanks for the support and for being a fellow combat brother in arms.
Great writing, Jim. I could feel your pain. The cowardly lion is yet to show its face.
“I did multiple resections and knit the bone of your hip back together.” Perhaps “knitted”
I homed in on “pardner,” but think most likely that is exactly what you meant as you remembered hearing it.
Thanks, Waynor on the ‘Knit’ catch.
It is corrected
Wow! That brought back vague and forgotten memories. I took the fast way down a 40 foot mountain side when I was stationed in Taiwan. They took out my spleen and sewed up my ruptured bladder. Sent me on to Yokosuka for further surgeries and broken bones. They didn’t expect me to live. None of my personal effects ever caught up with me. I went on to make 3 tours of Nam and am still hanging on at 75 years old.
That was one hell of a fall! Similar stuff though. I never went back, nor would have, for another tour, no matter who long or short.
You have more endurance than I had or do.
Thanks to adding to the developing story with stuff about you and what happened to you.
Good to see you taking up the keyboard again and looking for the rest of the story. A man once told me “The Lord works in mysterious ways” and I have found that to be very true. There is healing going on through your story not with just you but some of your readers. Thank you for sharing your story LT.
There is God’s guidance in this whole thing, but, as you intimate, its almost impossible to consider what the meaning of all of it is.
Thanks for bringing that up. The healing of all this has to be His thing as I had no clue when I started. I have been guided over the past three years
to personally answer almost everyone of the 22,504 comments that have been made to date.
Semper fi, and God bless you…
I hate trying to type with tears in my eyes and white hot anger for those who stole your possessions. The one true God, the God of the Bible has blessed you with the courage and focus to continue on with your journey. Thanks for sharing. You James are no cowardly lion.
Chuck Grigus, class act and I cannot thank you enough for this great comment. About the stuff…they needed it more than I did or was going to. I had no further use for the firearm and I had this big ticking clock on my hospital room wall!
Thanks for standing for me now, though. No, I’m not a cowardly lion, but it is very important for those of us who came with such applied violence burning into the very center of our souls, that we portray ourselves as such. The real capability,
knowledge and ability to inflict mortal damage will always be there…waiting…so there’s no need to give anybody any warning or cause to be afraid.
You are a lion sir but one hell of a long way from being a cowardly lion, but it’s your book. One hell of a journey, I’m amazed you made it !
thanks Willis, means a lot to me for you to say that. It is amazing that I made it and also that I have made it this far.
Now, I’m not cowardly, but it sure as hell pays to act that way in our culture…if you have the kind of PTSD and skill sets I brought home.
thanks for the neat comment,
Hey Lt…Just finished Chapter 1. Won’t tarry long as I can not imagine any one going through what you endured during the time you gave us glimpses of. The fear I felt with the first time I watched and heard incoming marching up the hill toward my small communications bunker rose up and smacked me. I got off scott free other than the mental anguish afterward, when I discovered I had earned my first, but not last, set of Tiger Stripes. That you are even able to write about it is amazing to me. Am so grateful that you survived to give those of us following your escapades this slight insight into what we can only imagine. Thanks again for allowing me to tag along. Take care Lt.
Thanks a ton Charles. Great comment and I am always happy as hell to hear from other combat vets. Thanks for the compliments
and the attentive support.
Jim, Thank you for sharing your, as you put it, your odyssey. Your personal odyssey that began over 50 years ago in a place far away. A time and place that, I believe, that most Americans don’t remember, don’t want to remember, don’t want to be bothered with. And those that do are on the downside of the bell curve. But there are those that are experiencing a part of that time & distant place, the suffering of those on both sides, the wondering of “why”. And that is good for the soul. Thanks, Doug
Thanks Doug. Means a lot to me that so many vets on here put so much thought into responding. Your own beliefs about the culture’s response
to that war are pretty spot on.
I can’t even begin to imagine the pain. And my guess is that it will continue for a long time. We’ll be with you.
Bummer about the watch – but military hospitals are like that.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
My letter home. I could no die.
Maybe “not” instead of “no”
My letter home. I could not die.
I fumbled the package out, shredding the cardboard box as I did so while bring my freed up right hand
Maybe “bringing” instead of “bring”
I fumbled the package out, shredding the cardboard box as I did so while bringing my freed up right hand
I got the tine metal stopper out
Maybe “tiny” instead of “tine”
I got the tiny metal stopper out
“There’s no triage because there no other patients,”
Maybe “are” after “there”
“There’s no triage because there are no other patients,”
“There’s no triage because there’s no other patients,”
one fo the Marines dragging my poncho said.
“of” instead of “fo”
one of the Marines dragging my poncho said.
I was receiving the last rights
“rites” instead of “rights”
I was receiving the last rites
Your 4 Q.H. so that’ll be a little
“Your” or “You’re”
You’re 4 Q.H. so that’ll be a little
I recognized the file that had accompanied during my stay at Tachikawa Air Force Base, half an hour by rapid Jeep travel, from where we’d taken off.
I’m just not quite getting this. Maybe:
I recognized the file that had accompanied me during my stay at Tachikawa Air Force Base, from where we’d departed half an hour ago by rapid Jeep travel.
I like the Lion image. With his paw across his face he appears to have a headache. Someone or something is just too much.
Blessings & Be Well