|Byron Edgington and his Huey|
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Medal of Honor winner, Peter Lemon, reminded me of the mentality we all seemed to share in Vietnam, that, as corny and outdated as it might sound, we were indeed our brothers' keepers over there.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.
Ho Chi Minh
Terror and Hilarity
A Return to Vietnam
The War That Will Not Let Us Rest
War: A Waste of Youth
The Right Seat is the Wrong Seat
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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