Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died in war. Most often, it is the survivors of war who keep the memories for us.
My husband, Carl, is one such survivor. He is a combat veteran of the
Vietnam War (or as it is called in Vietnam - The American War). He carries memories very specific to the week in which Memorial Day occurs.
On May 27th, 1969 near dusk, Carl, who was the squad leader, and his first Fire team leader, Gary, and a member of Gary’s fire team sat in their 3 man fighting hole on the company’s perimeter when a helicopter landed to resupply the company with food and men. Carl distributed the C-Rations among the fire team leaders of his squad. It had been over 24 hours since they had any food.
Carl was called up to the CP (Command post) and was assigned troops “fresh from the world,” which means these men were landing in Vietnam straight from the US. He took the men back to the fighting hole and as they got settled, he wolfed down his spaghetti and meatballs - a meal he had to be hungry to eat. He saved his favorite, ham and lima beans for later.
The area came under attack, the fire brought in by the helicopter giving away their location. Incoming recoilless rifle rounds, highly accurate small artillery pieces, were shooting rounds in the fighting holes up and down the perimeter. Carl and Gary put the two new guys and the fire team member in the fighting hole.
The sun was near setting and therefore firing would soon stop because it would give away the NVA position. Carl watched several men who had left their positions on the perimeter during incoming and were walking on the ridge line back to their hole. Suddenly these men were running. Gary and Carl looked at each other and Carl said, “let’s get down, just in case.” The two of them resumed their positions on top ofthe other three guys, just barely inside the parapit of the fighting hole.
Carl’s entire right side exploded. There was a cloud of black gun powder smoke where Gary had just been. Carl’s flak jacket and and helmet protected his internal organs and head, but his right leg and arm were very nearly blown off. Gary was dead.