Going Home

Two men behind enemy lines try to make it back to base.

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“I can’t reach anyone. The radio's broken.” David said to his officer while inspecting the damaged piece.

                “Well, it’s getting dark so we should just hold out here. We will try and make our way back to base tomorrow.” Richard said looking at the now darkening sky.

                The two dug a 2 foot deep, 6 foot long hole in the ground. It was 6 feet wide and just enough for the two to squeeze into. David propped his M-16 rifle onto two rocks to steady his aim.

                “I’m sure they will notice us missing and come looking for us, right Rich?” David said looking to his commanding officer for hope.

                “Of course they will. I’m too important an asset for them to lose.” Richard lied to the private. He knew they were stranded and alone in enemy territory.

                The Vietnam jungle released its creatures of the night as the sun disappeared from sight. David had to keep swatting at his legs to keep the bugs from crawling on him. The air was also thick and heavy. Richard was taking deep breaths that took in many flying insects with each inhale. What a miserable country to live in. Richard thought to himself as he scanned the brush around him. The sound of a snapping twig killed the silence. David’s eyes grew big as he focused. He slowly switched the safety off and fingered the trigger. His palms were sweating profusely and his heart picked up a faster pace. Richard could sense David’s anxiety. He kept his hand at his side grasping his Colt m19. He deeply regretted dropping his M-16 in the earlier skirmish that day. The rustling of bushes and twigs drew closer. Suddenly a bright flash lit up the sky. Someone had sent up a flare! Neither soldier dared to say anything or move. David began to shake as the fear inside him made its way out. Vietnamese voices in the distance. Richards fear had become reality. The Vietnamese were scouting for survivors from the battle. The jungle went dark again as the flare died. Richard slowly placed his hand on David’s and pulled his finger away from the trigger.

                Richard didn’t know how many there were and didn’t want to start a fight they couldn’t win. David heard a foot brush grass near his head. I’m going to die. David repeated in his head. Tears started to roll down his face. Richard couldn’t see David’s face but when David grasped his hand tightly he could tell that David was scared for his life. Richard gripped his hand tighter. More Vietnamese voices echoed through the jungle. The voices came from all around the two in the foxhole.  Another flare lit up the sky. Richard poked his head out of the hole and saw what could have been about 50 of them. He quickly ducked back into the foxhole. He couldn’t control his breathing. He sucked in thick air around him in deep inhales. He looked at David and saw his face shoved into the ground with his teeth clenched. The darkness fell around them again. The two stayed in the foxhole for the next 2 hours until they were sure the scouts were gone.

                The sun was now starting to come up above the distant mountains.

                “Okay David get up we have to get out of here.” Richard said while climbing out of the foxhole. David didn’t move.

                “Get up damn it.” Richard grabbed David’s collar and jerked him out of the hole. David was trembling.

                “Look if we stay here we may not be as lucky as we were last time. We have to get back to base.” 

                “Do you think we can make it?” His head hung heavy on his shoulders.

                 “I think we can. All we have to do is head south out of this Jungle then cross the rice patty fields we fought on yesterday. After that it shouldn’t be too far.” David held worry in his face like a mask. They got what little gear they had and left the foxhole.

                The two traveled through the thick of the jungle, traversing a few toppled tress vines and bushes. They met no resistance in the jungle and finally broke through to the rice patty field. It was a long run in the open to get to the other side.

                “Richard, why don’t we just go around in the jungle?” David asked nervously.

                 “Because before we were shipped out, they debriefed us on the battle field. There are traps all over the edges of this rice patty field. It’s just better to run straight through the field instead.”

                Richard scanned the field for a few seconds and said,

                “Okay stay on my ass.” Richard said darted from the jungle into the field with the private right behind him.

                The ground was soaked with water and sunk under every step they took. Water splashed wildly around them as they ran. A shot rang out and struck Richard in his right arm. The impact of the bullet knocked him down. The bullet burned inside him as the pain shot up his arm.

                “Damn!” Richard yelled. He squeezed his hand on the wound. David slid next to him.

                “Are you alright?” David screamed. David couldn’t control the volume of his voice.

                “I’m fine let’s go.” Richard yelled through the pain.

                They got up and scrambled for the jungle line. Another shot whizzed past David’s head which made him flinch. The two dived into the forest line behind a fallen tree.

                “Hah we made it.” David said enthusiastically.

                “Shut it. That was a scout and there are probably patrols around here.” Richard ripped a piece of his shirt and wrapped it around his wound tightly.

                The pain was agonizing. The bullet was still in his arm. The two got up and jogged deeper into the jungle.

                “How far do you think we are from base?” David asked.

                “It is about a 2 hour sprint or a 5 hour walk.”

                 Suddenly a shower of bullets flew between them and pelted trees behind them. David dashed behind a tree while Richard hid behind a pile of rocks.

                “I saw two of them.” David yelled. He turned around the tree and sprayed towards the Vietnamese soldiers.

                They ducked into the tall grass. The silence was agonizing.  Adrenaline now ran heavy in Richard’s veins. His senses heightened and he could hear them moving in the grass. He saw a glimpse of the Vietnamese in the grass and signaled David to hold his fire. He slid the combat knife from his belt and held it in his left hand, his Colt in his right. Richard crept to where the enemy was hiding. One of them glanced up at him and Richard fired two rounds into his face, blowing up one of his eyes as the bullet passed into his brain. He dropped instantly. The other horrified soldier was lying on his gun and tried to bring it up from under him. Richard jumped onto him and stabbed the knife into his neck. The man tried to scream but all that came out was a gurgling noise. Richard stabbed him again in the chest and let him fall limply to the ground. David watched the scene play out before him and was now frozen.

                Richard got up breathing heavy.

                “I got them.” He turned to David and gave him a faint smile. “Let’s get moving.”

                A shot rang through the forest and found its way through Richard’s temple. He fell to his knees then fell forward into the grass.

                “Richard!” David screamed. “Richard get up!” He screamed again.

                A bullet tore off some of the bark of the tree David was hiding behind. He started running as fast as he could through the trees. One last bullet passed right by David’s leg. He kept running even though no more shots were being fired at him. When he eventually stopped, he collapsed on the ground and began to cry. The two soldiers had known each other since David arrived in Vietnam six months ago. Memories filled his thoughts of Richard as he grieved.

                An hour passed until David stared moving again. The sky was cloudy as another storm made its way over the humid jungles.  David heard a sound that made him stop in place. It was the sound of propellers. It was a Huey, an American helicopter. It passed over him. I must be close to the base! He thought to himself. He rushed through the little brush that separated him from the clearing to the base. He saw the base in the distance.

                “Yes, I made it.” He said to himself.

                Only 100 yards away was David’s sanctuary from the hell of the jungles. As David ran for the base bullets started peppering the ground around him.

                “What.” David screamed as the bullets tore through him.

The M60 roared its war cry as it spit out bullets. David felt weak and toppled over onto the ground looking up at the sky. The world darkened around him as the rain started to fall. Hours later the base would soon discover that they had killed one of their own. 

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