I lay in the muck of oozing mud seeping slowly up through the packed, cracked, and broken debris of jungle and aging decay. The smell was of the damaged sort I’d come to know as my home away from home down inside the A Shau Valley expanse. I wondered if the smell would ever leave me, should I somehow have the good fortune to survive my experience in actual combat. I’d come late to discover that I, inadvertently, had built the confidence of the Marines around to such an extent that they had gone from being ‘dead men walking’ to believers that they might make it through the Vietnam war experience and one day go home without serious disfigurement or injury. I had, however, not built up that belief system inside myself. No matter what I did in the few moments of rest or reverie that I had it was impossible for me to believe that I could survive another year under such conditions.

The dawn came creeping up and over the far eastern wall of the canyon rim, with the first tendrils of light visible only like a faint glow across the clouded sky that had to signal a return to monsoon rains. The respite through the night had been too long and too good. The enemy would be able to use the monsoon rain during the next night to cloak another of its relentless attacks, and very likely a fully coordinated and successful one. I peered upward, toward the top of the western lip of that canyon wall but could see nothing. It was time to move from our position, I knew, and a plan was beginning to form in the back of my mind for our next survival attempt.