"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time. ~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do Guns Equal Safety?: By Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington
CJ:  I'm reluctant to stoke the political fires creeping into the Vietnam blog, but Mr. Fox's entry today, A Worthy Rebuttal to Mr. Garrison, reminded me of yet another side to the 'guns equal safety' belief. 

For those who believe that gun ownership automatically equates with safety, I humbly offer this story. It is indeed anecdotal. But it may shed a bit of light on a volatile issue in society, the rights of gun owners vs those who demand saner licensing and oversight of weapons.

For the record, I count myself among the latter. Did this incident in Vietnam affect my belief that guns should be closely monitored? Perhaps. You decide. And when you do, try to put yourself in the place of those men building the bridge, or their families.

From Chapter 12 of  The Sky Behind Me, a Memoir of Flying and Life.

The friendly fire incident is a reality of war. Take a passel of scared, twitchy young men, add a dash of self preservation, a measure of loaded weapons, and a dose of official sanction to go forth and kill something, and the table is set for a tragic mis-identification accident.
Vietnam had its share of those sad events. One of them almost had my name scribbled in the After Action Report. It happened close to home base, and in a reasonably secure location, which likely factored into the episode. 

My guard was down, but all the ingredients were in place: the frightened young soldier, the instinct to preserve his own life, a loaded weapon, and the sanction floating in his nervous brain to shoot first and question later.

It was late October 1970. I took off that morning with Gil, a new-in-country Peter Pilot I’d not flown with and a rookie door gunner, a fellow I’d just met that morning. I’ll call the new gunner Ken to protect his ‘exotic’ behavior. 

Byron and his Huey
The mission was a simple resupply of a nearby firebase named Brick. Firebase Brick was within spitting distance of Camp Eagle. 

As the morning wore on, I flew in several loads of beans and bullets, mail, and assorted other items of ash and trash to the GIs on the firebase. 

Approaching Brick from the north for the first time, I saw a squad of American troops below. They were building a bridge across a stream a quarter mile from the firebase. 

On every subsequent approach to the base I flew directly over those men. It became a routine: my Huey rattled overhead a couple hundred feet above them; the bridge-builders waved; my crew waved back, and then I’d land at the firebase. The routine went on all morning, for perhaps six or eight landings.

On my last resupply drop before refuel, I cruised toward the firebase, angled lower, and set up my approach to Brick’s dusty helipad. I called the pathfinder on Brick to advise him by radio that we were inbound again, to see if his cannon cockers had any outgoing rounds. The tubes were cold, so I continued my approach. 

As I passed over the bridge builders below, for about the tenth time, I took no note of them. I was watching the fuel gauge, doing the mental math on how many loads of resupply there were before I had to dee-dee to the POL point. The radio was silent. Weather was benign. Wind was calm. Then fireworks.

As I passed over the bridge builders once again, my new door gunner’s .30 cal erupted, spraying deadly rounds downward into the jungle. Bullets snapped and crackled outward, bracking like a buzz saw. The hair on my arms prickled. My heart went ballistic. Out of instinct, I wrenched the controls hard left, and jerked in power. The Huey arced over like a scalded cat. The next few seconds were a blur.

Gil screamed at the gunner. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“They’re building a bridge down there!” Ken screamed, as his gun fell silent.

Gil scrambled across the cabin. He shoved Ken away from the gun, and jerked the belt out of the weapon’s magazine.“Those are friendlies!” Gil yelled.

My radio squealed the frantic voice of the pathfinder. “Bad guys out there?”
“No bad guys,” I said. My heart slammed, hoping no one was hurt. “Any casualties?”
The pause lasted maybe five seconds, the longest five seconds of my life, while the pathfinder checked with the bridge builders. To my everlasting relief he said, “Everybody’s okay...pretty shook up, though.”

I apologized for the incident, and made sure Gil had the new man’s weapon secured. Then I raced back to Camp Eagle with ‘Ken,’ and personally escorted him away from my Huey. He never flew again. I could only conclude that he’d been spooked, or had pot for breakfast, something.
For days afterward, I dissected the event, wondering what I could have done to avoid it. I shuddered, thinking of what might have happened. Dead men, grieving families, official inquiries, and the ongoing component of military operations for all time—bereavement calls, chaplains at front doors, flag-draped coffins. 

All because some young, scared, rookie kid with a lethal weapon, a bolus of testosterone, and orders to kill something saw the ‘enemy’ “building a bridge.”

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog and it depends upon YOU.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Worthy Rebuttal to Mr. Garrison: by Frank Fox

Frank Fox
I am shocked and appalled at Mr. Garrison's dissertation, "America: A Constitutional Republic". A bigger tub of venomous slop I have never read. 

He takes the very thread of our Democracy, (I know he is like many others and hates the term), throws it on the floor, and weaves his own caustic fabric of untruths. 

He takes many quotes from the early age of this great Democracy and bends them into a nest of snarling and gnashing teeth against our Freedoms.

I remember when Democracy and God were used in the framework of our country to describe what we believed and what we stood for. Now days, Democracy and God are being taken away by those like Mr. Garrison, who say, "We need to kill anyone who tries to take away our guns." 

Why does anyone have to die? We have to have law and order.

Mr. Garrison is supporting status quo. Do nothing and we will continue to lead the world in senseless killings, but we will be able to continue to leave guns unlocked and loaded? We will buy weapons that have no place, except on a battlefield, and say they are for sport.

He twists what the Constitution means with regards to "Our Right to Bear Arms". When that portion of the Constitution was written, it applied to folks who had black powder muskets behind their back doors for providing food for the table and the militia (family men who may band together in the absence of law enforcement and a military force to protect property and their families).

Now we have an organized police force and trained military. He doesn't trust you, or me. He wants to shoot and kill anyone who doesn't vote his way. He is right though, but it's closer to say that 90% of Americans want gun legislation, not 99%.

Guns are as safe as hammers, if in the hands of the right people. Mr. Garrison wants the status quo of anybody who can pick one up can have one. It is the people who are bad, not the gun. So, what we need is legislation to prevent them (the bad ones) from having them.

We also need legislation to restrict the high kill rate weapons from getting into the wrong hands. The government doesn't mind anyone having a hunting weapon, like many available in various calibers, or the shotguns. However, they should be in a safe place, not leaning against the wall loaded for children to pick up.

We need legislation to have serious consequences for violation of guns laws. We must not let a small group dictate to the majority what is good for all of us. Mr. Garrison tries to make it sound noble, but he is far, far from it. If I were his neighbor and we disagreed on the subject, he may decide I am someone who needs to be killed some night during one of his rants.

We need to preserve Democracy and God in our everyday life.

Garrison doesn't give us a chance to explore how Franklin, Washington, or others, might feel today about gun ownership, since they are not here. To suppose he can, would be to say he is as smart as they are, and I don't see that. He is just afraid someone will take his toys, something that makes him feel equal to others. People like Jefferson, Washington, Franklin were armed with intelligence, hence the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

Please don't confuse real American contributors with lobbyist and PAC's. I would ask that, if you were a Conservative, you would deny it and say you are a libertarian, or worse yet, a member of the T-Party. To follow you and your ilk would be to take us to a path of slavery over and again. Then who do we kill?

I'm sorry, but his rant is just too offensive. I own a 9mm weapon. It is legal, locked up and unloaded, at this time. The government is not opposed to people like me owning a weapon. However, it does have an issue with folks who sell guns to drug cartels, and will have to find another legal way of making a living. It also has an issue with guns being able to get into the wrong hands.

To do it your way, Garrison, would only insure that American will lead the world in violent deaths from illegal guns held by illegal owners ...

Frank Fox
Combat Medic
Sea/Air Rescue
US Navy with USMC
August 1964 – August 1970 (6 years 1 month)

More Articles by Frank Fox:

The Marine and the Cure
More Thoughts on War and Youth
Opinions, Thoughts and Feelings
A Different Perspective

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog and it needs YOU.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

America: A Constitutional Republic: by Dean Garrison

The Constitution of The United States
Dean Garrison (born 1955) is a contemporary American author and crime fiction novelist. 

He was born in Michigan, grew up in the Indiana, Illinois, and Texas, and received his B.A. degree from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Garrison is now a Crime Scene Technician in West Michigan. His research in the fields of Crime Scene Investigation and Shooting Reconstruction are widely published in forensic journals under the name of D.H. Garrison, Jr.

“I feel a tremendous responsibility to write this article, though I am a little apprehensive. Thinking about the possibility of anyone rising up against our government is a frightening thing for many of us. I am not Johnny Rambo and I will be the first to admit that I do not want to die.

The reason I feel compelled to write this, however, is simply because I don’t think the average American is equipped with the facts. I feel that a lot of American citizens feel like they have no choice but to surrender their guns, if the government comes for them.

I blame traditional media sources for this mass brainwash and I carry the responsibility of all small independent bloggers to tell the truth. So my focus today is to lay out your constitutional rights as an American and let you decide what to do with those rights.

About a month ago, I let the “democracy” word slip out in a discussion with a fellow blogger. I knew better. Americans have been conditioned to use this term. It’s not an accurate term and it never has been a correct term to describe our form of government.

The truth is that the United States of America is a constitutional republic. This is similar to a democracy, because our representatives are selected by democratic elections, but ultimately, our representatives are required to work within the framework of our Constitution. In other words, even if 90% of Americans want something that goes against our founding principles, they have no right to call for a violation of our constitutional rights.

If you are religious, you might choose to think of it this way:  say that members of your congregation decide that mass fornication is a good thing. Do they have the right to change the teachings of your God? The truth is the truth. It doesn’t matter how many people try to stray from it.

Did I just compare our founders to God? In a way I did, but please note that I am not trying to insult anyone. For the purpose of the American Government, our Constitution and the founders who wrote it are much like God is to believers. It is the law. It is indisputable.

Our founders did not want a “democracy”, for they feared a true democracy was just as dangerous as a monarchy. The founders were highly educated people experienced in defending themselves against tyranny. They understood that the Constitution could protect the people by limiting the power of anyone to work outside of it much better than a pure system of popularity.

A system of checks and balances was set up to help limit corruption of government and also the potential for an “immoral majority” developing within the American People. We have forgotten in this country that we are ultimately ruled by a Constitution.

Why is a democracy potentially just as dangerous as a monarchy? Let’s look at something that Benjamin Franklin said because it answers that question more fully and succinctly than I can.
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” --Benjamin Franklin
Even 230+ years ago, our founders were perceptive enough to realize that democracy was a dangerous form of government. How so? Because the citizens of a country can become just as corrupt as any government. We have seen evidence of this throughout history. Ask Native Americans and African-Americans if this population can become corrupt.

I think today, we are seeing evidence of what Franklin was trying to tell us. Just because a majority of people may support certain ideas, it does not mean that those ideas are just. In simple terms, just because most Americans love our president and voted for him does not mean that he has the power to go against our constitutional rights.

Next I’d like to review the text of the Second Amendment. It is very clear. This is the law of this land. So when Senator Feinstein or President Obama talk about taking your guns, you need to think about something. Are they honoring their sworn oath to uphold the Constitution?

Second Amendment
This is a pretty clear statement. The fact is that it took 232 years for the Supreme Court to even rule on this amendment because it has never been successfully challenged. 

In 2008 a case of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court ruled that a handgun ban in Washington D.C. was unconstitutional. One also has to take this into consideration. 

The Supreme Court supports your right to own guns. If you want to research this decision further you can start there.

Those who try to debate the spirit of the 2nd Amendment are truly no different than people who will try to take Biblical quotes out of context to try and support their immoral decisions.

The founders were very clear on the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Let me share a few quick quotes here:
“The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” --Thomas Jefferson 
“Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable . . . the very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.” --George Washington 
“The Constitution shall never be construed….to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” --Samuel Adams

I could find hundreds of quotes like these. This country was built on The Right to Bear Arms. It was built on the rights of an individual to bear arms, regardless of what his government, or neighbor, happened to think. This is crystal clear.

Ironically, the people who voice their opinions against this right have their free speech protected by your guns. Without guns in this country, all other amendments become null and void, simply because “We the People” will lose our power of enforcement.

We need to keep this in mind as our “representatives” try to push gun bans. I don’t care if 99% of people are in support of gun bans (which is far from the case), it is a violation of our constitutional rights, plain and simple.

A constitutional republic protects the rights of the individual, even when their ideas are very much in the minority. If I were the only person in America who believed in the 2nd Amendment, I would still be within my rights to call upon it. You would all think I was insane and possibly celebrate if I was gunned down, but in the end I would be the only true American among us.

Our framers were very clear on this. If my government comes to take my guns, they are violating one of my constitutional rights that is covered by the 2nd Amendment.

It is not my right, at that point, but my responsibility, to respond in the name of liberty. What I am telling you is something that many are trying to soft sell, and many others have tried to avoid putting into print, but I am going to say it. The time for speaking in code is over.

If they come for our guns, then it is our constitutional right to put them six feet under. You have the right to kill any representative of this government who tries to tread on your liberty. I am thinking about self-defense, not talking about inciting a revolution.

Re-read Jefferson ’s quote. He talks about a “last resort.” I am not trying to start a Revolt, I am talking about self-defense. If the day for Revolution comes, when no peaceful options exist, we may have to talk about that as well. None of us wants to think about that, but please understand that a majority cannot take away your rights as an American citizen. Only you can choose to give up your rights.

Congress could pass gun ban legislation by a 90%+ margin and it just would not matter. I think some people are very unclear on this. This is the reason we have a Supreme Court, and though I do not doubt that the Supreme Court can also become corrupt, in 2008 they got it right. They supported the Constitution.

It does not matter what the majority supports, because America is not a democracy. A constitutional republic protects the rights of every single citizen, no matter what their “elected servants” say. A majority in America only matters when the Constitution is not in play.

I just wrote what every believer in the Constitution wants to say, and what every constitutional blogger needs to write. The truth of the matter is that this type of speech is viewed as dangerous and radical or even subversive, and it could gain me a world of trouble that I do not want. But it is also the truth.

To make myself clear, I will tell you again. If they come for your guns, it is your right to use those guns against them and to kill them, if you must. You are protected by our Constitution.

Most of the articles I am reading on the subject are trying to give you clues without just coming out and saying it. I understand that because certain things in this country will get you on a list that you don’t want to be on. I may well be on that list. This blog is small and growing so I may not be there yet, but I have dreams. I also have my own list of subversives and anyone who attempts to deny my constitutional rights is on that list.

I am not the “subversive” here.  It is the political representatives who are threatening to take away my inalienable rights that are. If they come to take my guns and I leave a few of them wounded or dead, and I somehow survive, I have zero doubt that I will spend a long time in prison and may face an execution. But I would much rather be a political prisoner than a slave.

If I go down fighting, then I was not fighting to harm these human beings. I was simply defending my liberty and yours. It is self-defense and it is what our country was built on. We won our freedom in self-defense. We would not be ruled by a tyrannical government in the 1770′s and we will not be ruled in 2014 by a tyrannical government. There is no difference.

This is a case of right and wrong. As of now, the 2nd Amendment stands. It has never been repealed. If Feinstein or Barack have a problem with the Constitution, then they should be removed from office. They are not defending the Constitution which they have sworn an oath to protect. It is treasonous to say the least. They would likely say the same about me, but I have the Constitution, the founders, and the Supreme Court on my side. They only have their inflated egos.

I am not writing this to incite people. I am writing this in hopes that somehow I can make a tiny difference. I have no idea how many of my neighbors have the will to defend their constitutional rights. 2%? 20%? I am afraid that 20% is a high number, unfortunately. When push comes to shove, many people may give up and submit to being ruled. I believe that our government is banking on this.

I would hope that our officials come to realize that, regardless of our numbers, we still exist because they are calling Patriotic Americans to action. They are making us decide if we want to die free, or submit to their rule.

I cannot tell you where you should stand on that. I do know that it may make the difference between living a life of freedom, or slavery.

You must start thinking about this, because I believe that the day is coming soon and I personally believe it has already been planned. Not all conspiracy theories are hogwash. They may throw down the gauntlet soon and my suggestion is that you prepare yourself to react.

I mean no disrespect to our elected officials, but they need to understand that “We the People” will not be disarmed. If they proceed, then it is they who are provoking us and we will act accordingly. We are within our rights to do so.

For those who are in support of taking the guns, you need to ask yourself a very important question, and I am not just talking about the politicians, although if you support them, you have chosen your side.

Are you willing to die to take my guns?”

--Dean Garrison

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog and it needs YOUR voice.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Life: Changed Forever: by Michael Lansford

Heroes All ...

I've been reading all the posts from fellow Vets. It's good stuff, all of it, especially the post called The Reluctant Hero (October 6, 2014), about Mr. Peter Lemon, who was presented with the Medal of Honor.

The most recent one by Mr. Edgington, Laotian Rescue Mission, about flying into Laos to rescue the recon team is also very good.

I remember some of our rescue missions in Laos.  I wrote about one of them before.  It was when the Medevac was coming into our AO and it was very hot. They were great pilots and they did amazing things to save us. Heroes, all of them. 

It goes back to some of what I've already written about.  I saw so much bravery in Vietnam. It was a part of our everyday life that most never knew. 

The Laos post hit home for me, because the pilot crews from Camp Eagle were a later group doing just what the '69 crews did for us. We never knew who they were, but Mr. Edgington's writing gives me a sense that their unit was more than likely the same group who got us out many times.

Rope/D-Ring Extraction 
There was nothing more fearful than being extracted via a single rope that we hooked onto, or when possible, a rope ladder, while hovering and/or lifting us out as we scrambled to get out. In a sense, you are a sitting duck at that point in time. 

With a rope extract, we all hooked on in opposite directions, so we had a better field of fire in all directions. This gave us an invaluable edge, because door gunners weren't able to shoot straight down, or they would risk hitting us as we hung below. 

We called rope extract hooking onto a "D" ring.  Then we hooked to each other and the choppers just lifted us out and we flew to safer ground.  Then they set down so we could get inside. 

It was a weird feeling, just hanging there, a chopper above you, nothing but air all around, and it was a long way down to the ground. Scary thoughts. 

Anyway, I got to thinking about all the combat we were in back then and how it affected most of us. I decided I would write some thoughts down, as they came to me. I can't think of a good title at the moment. 

The funny thing about combat missions, firefights, ambushes, etc., is that once it starts, you instantly realize your life is on the line, as well as the lives of others around you. You must make instant decisions that affect each member of your team and group. All the training in the world can't even get close to the 'real deal' in combat. 

Once you pull that trigger, your life is forever changed in many ways and it will never be the same again. Something inside instantly transforms you from being a scared kid from the world to something you never could possibly imagine.  You can't begin to fathom all the possibilities you become, have to do, or are willing to do, to save someone. 

At times, your insides tell you, "This is your end.  It's the hand you've been dealt and there's no way out, except one of three ways: KIA, WIA, or MIA.  It all depends on fate." 

The choices you must make in combat are clearly defined, whether you like it or not. There's something strange about holding a weapon and knowing others' lives are in your hands, even the enemies'.  You must decide when, how, or why others must die. It's hard to comprehend.

As time moves forward and you become a short timer, the fear factor goes way up. With each mission, you get the feeling that this will be your last ride. There are times you feel every round is aimed only at you. It's kind of like having a sign pinned on you, or a target, saying "I'm Short",

Many a time I felt I wouldn't get out alive, like so many others felt, yet by the grace of God I lived and for the rest of our lives we all deal with survivors' guilt and the loss of so many we fought with every day. You even wonder, what has happened to me since I fired that first round? You're still the same person on the outside, but inside, your world is in a turmoil that never turns off, or goes away, ever.

Firefights did many things to us. You get numb, you get more afraid, more hardened, cold, and even indifferent.  Every emotion there is, you live it inside yourself and there is no one you can explain it to, especially when you get back to the world.

It's hard to put into words what we dealt with in times of life or death, combat, and even more so when being overrun and knowing your life depended on hand-to-hand and you were literally fighting for your life and the lives of others.

It was knowing that if you lost, your comrads would be lost, and that makes you fight with a purpose so fearful and so scared that you become not scared.  Inside, you know you must fight even harder and be willing to lay down your life to save your people.

You already know you won't make it, but you continue to take out as many of the enemy as you can, so long as you have a breath of life left in you and can still squeeze that trigger just one more time.

When it's over and you've survived, the reality sets in and you withdraw even more, knowing what had to be done and it fell in your lap. Why me?  you ask yourself. Fate? Timing? Being in the right place at the right time? Or worse, the wrong place at the right time ...

The roads we traveled then are still alive today, filled with guilt, anger, sorrow, remorse and more. We live it all every day and night. All it took was one simple squeeze of a single trigger from a weapon and life is never the same forever and ever.

How can we ever explain these feelings and the many, many more we carry with us? We went from innocent scared kids to hardened combat veterans -- for most of us, before we were even considered adults back home.

For me, I was home by the time I was twenty, a hardened combat veteran. Back in the world, I was still considered a kid and not old enough to buy beer, or worse, NOT old enough to vote, (as I was informed). See, I was not mature enough to vote and make decisions that affected my life, or the future of our great nation.

I thought I had already proven that, except for the fact that NO ONE back home had a clue as to what we all did over there to make it home again, nor would they understand the real world of COMBAT LIFE 101 ...

Michael Lansford

Other Articles by Michael Lansford:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog and it needs you.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Laotian Rescue Mission: by Byron Edgington

Byron Edgington and his Huey
CJ: I read with interest the medal of honor piece about Mr. Lemon. He's certainly a hero in my book. 

Here's a piece that may shed some additional light on the sentiments he expressed, the idea that we were all in it together.

First, let me state categorically that I am not a hero, and I will disdain the label, should anyone try to affix it to me.

The blog entry of October 6th, The Reluctant Hero, about Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Peter Lemon, reminded me of the mentality we all seemed to share in Vietnam, that, as corny and outdated as it might sound, we were indeed our brothers' keepers over there.
In chapter 12 of my memoir, The Sky Behind Me, I relate a story about a rescue mission from September 1970.

The short version is this: I was aircraft number two of a four-ship formation of Hueys headed into Laos to rescue a recon team that had been compromised. The NVA had discovered the mens' position, and the enemy was moving in for the kill.

My flight headed out from Camp Eagle, across the AShau Valley and into Laos, where we soon made contact with the beleaguered team. Flight lead, a fellow named Frank Tigano, arrived at the site, hovered so his four men could load, but took too long above the LZ.

As second ship, I had to make a sharp left turn, come back around and approach again. The LZ was too steep to land in, so Frank had been hovering, as men scrambled up a rope ladder into his ship.

When I turned back around, Frank's Huey was laying on its side on the LZ, rotor blades smashed, fuel pouring out, men trapped under the shattered fuselage.

I raced onto the LZ, had my crew drop our ladder, and we hovered while Frank and his men rushed inside my ship. I hovered there for nearly three full minutes — an eternity, it seemed — taking small arms fire the entire time. But I got those men out, and flew them to safety.

It wasn't until much later, nearly back to Camp Eagle, that I took time to assess the danger we'd been in. I realized that it never occurred to any of us to back away, or refuse, or retreat.

Our comrades were in trouble. We dove in and rescued them. It was pretty simple actually. We knew they'd do the same for us, and that knowledge, the realization that someone had our backs, was about the only morale booster we had in Vietnam. But it was a big one.

For a much longer version of the Laotian rescue mission by a fellow Comanchero pilot named Bob Morris, just click on Bob's name.  It's a fine rendition of the story.

Byron Edgington
The SkyWriter
Byron Edgington

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Ambush: by Loyd Cates

Loyd Cates
Forty-five years ago today in Vietnam, our platoon was ambushed late in the afternoon. We took many casualties in the first two or three minutes. To this day, I can't remember how many of us were there on that day, but I would estimate there were at least thirty.

Our Lieutenant was badly wounded right off the bat. I can't even remember his name now, but he was new and right out of officer's school. Our medic was badly wounded and unable to treat the wounded. 

I was the platoon sergeant and second in command. I had been in country about eleven weeks. I was hit in the back, neck, chest, head and leg with shrapnel from mortar rounds and my ears were ringing so bad I could hardly hear. They still ring to this day. 

I had on a steel pot (helmet) for one of the few times in my tour and it probably saved my life. I had a piece of shrapnel stuck in my helmet liner about the size of a prune. That means it missed my head by centimeters and it would definitely have been fatal. How it made it's way under my helmet is still a mystery to me, but lots of weird things happen in firefights.

I was the only guy left who could operate a radio and direct artillery, medivacs and air support, who was still conscious enough to do so. 

At one time or another during the late evening and night, we had artillery, a helicopter gunship, a Spooky gunship (airplane) medivac helicopters, and a couple of officers from headquarters back at the firebase on the radio. I didn't know either of them.

Medical Evacuation Chopper
I can't remember the order of how we responded to the enemy fire, other than our own weapons, but I know we called for artillery first. We "walked" it in pretty close to our position. 

I think the medivac choppers were next and then we brought in the gunships. 

The medivacs took out all of the wounded and to the best of my recollection, it was already dark. I stayed, because no one else could operate the radio. I wasn't that bad off anyway. 

A couple of the guys that were left bandaged me up and poured some red-looking crap all over me. They had found it in the medic's bag which we confiscated before he was put on the medivac chopper. I don't know what it was, but it sure stunk.

It seemed like one gunship or another was on location most of the night. One of the officers back at the firebase was extremely helpful and one was kind of a smart alack, for lack of a better word. I had no choice but to tolerate him, until he made me really mad. At that point, I told him to go f*** himself (sorry Mom) and I guess he did, because I didn't hear any more from him.

The next morning, our company commander sent my close buddy, Sergeant Donnie Byrd, from Bryceland, LA out on a helicopter to take my place and the helicopter took me back to the firebase where there was a crude medical facility.

Years later, Donnie told me there were eight of us left, counting myself. I didn't remember how many of us there were, but I knew there weren't many. I didn't know how many we had put on the medivac choppers, or whether they were dead or alive. At some point I found out quite a few were badly wounded and ended up in Japan for medical attention and then on back to the world (USA). Through some miracle, and by God's grace, there was no one killed.

When I got off the chopper at the firebase the next morning, after Byrd relieved me, Captain Moon met me on the way to the medics. I didn't have a shirt on and he told me later that my guys had put so many bandages on me and had poured so much of that red stuff on me, he thought I was on my last leg. I probably only needed about three bandages and I think they had put about twenty on me.

A few minutes later, I was lying on a table face down, where the medical guys were picking and cutting shrapnel out of my back. The battalion Executive Officer came into the room and as soon as I saw him, I remembered telling the other officer to go f*** himself (still sorry Mom). I figured the XO had a pair of handcuffs, because I had no doubt he had listened to us on the radio all night. 

Instead, he debriefed me a little and told me I did a helluva job, which boosted my spirits, because I really had no idea what kind of job I had done. I just knew we had a lot of badly wounded guys. 

He never mentioned the officer and until this day, I don't know who he was. A couple of other officers listening to the radio that night told me they had a good laugh over it. I think I spent about a week in the hospital afterwards and then I was fine, except for the ringing in my ears, which I understand is not treatable.

After all of these years, I am still grateful for the miracle of no one getting killed that day. 

We had a reunion for our outfit in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2011. Captain Moon told me and others that one of the helicopters that came to our aid that night ran out of fuel and crashed with no survivors. I never knew that. I didn't know any of them, but those guys are indicative of the caliber of the men flying those choppers during the war. 

It seems trite to say so, but thank you from the bottom of my heart guys.

Loyd Cates

SSG Cates
199th Light Infantry Brigade

Other Articles by Loyd Cates:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Add your opinion, thought, or comment, about this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.

Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog.