by Byron Edgington
It's a tale from my time as a brand new aviator in the unit. I'd been with the Comancheros one month, and was still learning the ropes. This particular story shows me learning what can happen, unless I paid strict attention while flying over dark, moonless Vietnam.
Tom Kearsley was two weeks away from going home. Tom Mattingly had received a Dear John from his wife the day before he was killed. Here's the story:
At seven o’clock, I wandered back to my hootch, lit a few candles—the generator was out again—and picked up a paperback.
At ten o’clock I woke to muffled shouts and scuffling feet in the company compound. They weren’t the usual voices and grunts of inebriated pilots staggering to their bunks, laughing, playing grab ass, throwing up; these were sober, incredulous voices. Something was wrong.
It was Tom Kearsley. He was dead. Two weeks to the day before his return home to Utah he’d been killed, along with six other crewmen, in a midair collision with a Cobra gunship.
The loss of Kearsley’s crew marked the first company fatalities during my tour in Vietnam. That accident was a chilling reminder to me that the enemy was not the only peril. Indeed, the enemy was a minor factor in the number of casualties.
One outcome of Kearsley’s death was the creation of two AC slots in the company roster -- and Tom Kearsley was no longer there to reject my orders.
Read Other Stories by Byron:
Jim, Frank, and The Snake
Smokey, The Alcoholic Pup
“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
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