Monday, September 11, 2006

Revenge

Actually this is my Vietnam story written right after 9-11-01

Revenge

As some of you know, when I was a kid, eighteen years old, I was sent off to Vietnam as a combat medic where I came to be the medic on a five person advisory team.

This team’s job was to teach Vietnamese home guard, called popular forces, how to be soldiers.

And my job was to pretend that I knew more than my 10 week ‘medic training’ had taught me.

To make a long story short, one day the 30 home guard peasants we were living with were walking along the river several miles behind the village and stumbled on a Viet Cong battalion and proceeded to get all shot up.

As the medic, part of my job description was to swim across this really foul smelling stagnate canal, slip and stumble through a muddy rice paddy, and try to patch up the wounded home guard soldiers. There were several of them.

One of the kids, I mean soldiers, shot, was a particularly good friend of mine. I don’t remember his real name but his nickname was Dinky, or crazy. And he was shot in the leg.

It was the kind of wound, though, that my 10 week medic training had prepared me for.

I quickly pulled out a pressure dressing, pressed it against the wound until the bleeding stopped. And then, since it looked to me like the bone was also broken, I took out my handy air splint, wrapped it around his leg and blew it up.

Neat.

The only problem was that now he couldn’t walk on his own, and all this time, with the two of us laying in the middle of that rice paddy, bullets were zipping overhead and splashing in the mud around us.

It seemed advisable that we get to some place a little less conspicuous.

So I dragged Dinky through all of that mud and then down over the bank of the canal where we lay half submerged in the nasty swamp water.

Now, at that time, my team leader was a Lieutenant named John Smith (I kid you not). Lieutenant Smith was not a very brave man. The truth being, Smith was a coward. A fact the other team members often commented on. I think it was the general opinion that Smith would kill off every one of the men (and boys) in his command if it meant helping his career or saving his sorry, sorry ass.

And that, in this particular situation, is what he tried to do.

At this time our brave Lieutenant was several miles to the rear of where the shooting was going on, sitting in his jeep. Listening to the field radio. Talking to someone in the distant American base camp. And occasionally giving orders.

And somehow he got the idea into his head, from this vantage point, that the rifles firing and mortars exploding were a direct threat to him. In short, Smith thought that the shooting going on several miles away was a danger to his life.

So what he did to protect himself and his jeep was to tell the American artillery unit on the other end of the radio to drop artillery shells right on top of me and Dinky and the dozen other soldiers who were making a stand on the bank of that stangnant canal.

105 shells.

In minutes the explosives started landing in groups of four. Ear splitting explosions. Throwing up mud and swamp water, and pieces of shrapnel.

And one of the pieces of shrapnel hit my friend. Dinky took a piece of shrapnel right in his rear. Going deep, and coming out the other side.

It wasn’t a very big piece of shrapnel. But there sure was an awful lot of blood. And after I pulled Dinky up higher on the bank and got his pants off, I realized that this was the kind of wound that my ten weeks of training hadn’t prepared me for.

No pressure dressing was going to stop that bleeding.

I tried, though, I tried holding the dressing to the wound. And still the bleeding just kept on, soak through the bandage, and the next bandage on top of that one.

I looked at Dinky and smiled, gave him the thumbs up and told him in my best pigeon Vietnamese that ‘everything was going to be just fine’.

And then I crawled down the edge of the canal to where another advisory team member, Jim, was crouching, and screaming into the field radio. Yelling at Smith to stop the artillery.

When Jim stopped yelling into the radio I told him what I wanted. I told him that we needed a helicopter to come in and get Dinky (there were four other Vietnamese soldiers who had been hit by the artillery shells, but three of them were dead and the fourth had only a minor wound).

“We really need to get him out of here, now.”

Jim relayed my message to Smith. I couldn’t hear Smith’s response. But Jim turned to me and shook his head.

“Smith says he won’t do it. American helicopters don’t evacuate Vietnamese.”

That wasn’t all that Jim said, he had several choice observations about Smith and what he intended to do to him if and when he got the chance, but I didn’t wait around. I crawled back to Dinky and did the only thing I could think to do.

I put him over my shoulder, waded across the canal, stumbled up the bank and started walking down the trail toward where my brave team leader sat in his jeep.

I don’t remember about the shooting, or the artillery, whether it kept on or stopped. What I do remember is walking.

And walking, and all the time Dinky’s blood dripped down my back and all the time worrying that he was going to die like in one of those war movies I’d seen as a kid.

I remember putting him down several times and changing the bandage and then picking him up again.

And then I remember being so worried that he was going to die from loss of blood that I kneeled down. The trail had turned into a cart path, and there were several thatched huts along the side, and I put Dinky on the ground in front of one of the huts and I thought that I better hit him up with an IV or he wasn’t going to make it and so I cut the tape holding the IV bottle of saline to my aide bag and I got out the needle and tubing and tied off his arm.

Except, by then his veins had collapsed and I couldn’t hit it, I couldn’t stick the needle into his vein. I remember being so upset. I knew he was going to die, and I knew it was all my fault because I didn’t know how to do what I needed to do.

And right then I looked up.

And a Vietnamese woman had come out of her hut.

And she was laughing.

Laughing.

And I looked at her, and I looked at Dinky dying and then I looked at her again and I thought she was laughing at him, at me. And I wanted revenge.

I mean he was dying.

And, you know, my rifle was right there.

And I reached for it.

I think I even started to point it at her.

And then, just by accident, I saw.

She wasn’t laughing at us at all. Her child, her baby (Vietnamese peasant children didn’t own diapers) had made a mess in the yard and I had sat Dinky down right next to it. And she wasn’t laughing at us at all. Her laugh was a nervous laugh. She thought I would be upset at her, about her baby. Her baby had messed right next to my comrade, my brother. And she saw me reaching for my rifle and she gave a scream and ran out into her little bare dirt yard and scooped up her baby and quickly turned and ran back into the hut.

And I looked at Dinky one more time. His eyes were open but I could see his life just slipping away. And I told him that everything was going to be just fine. “Everything is OK. Number one.”

And I carefully sat my friend up and as gently as I could, I put him over my shoulder and continued walking down the road toward where my team commander sat in his jeep.

Leigh Hauter

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