Sunday, April 30, 2017

We just called him "Chief"

42 years after the fall of Saigon | laststandonzombieisland: At the National Native American Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the wind still whispers in remembrance.

One of the members of my platoon in Vietnam was a Native American.   Everybody just called him "Chief" (we all had nicknames, his was a natural) and I have since lost my list of the real names of all the members of the platoon ... so no disrespect is intended when I call him by his nickname.

About the first thing he did when I joined the platoon was to tell me that he wanted to walk point.

I asked him why.

He said "I'm good at it, better than anyone.  I don't follow any man's footsteps."

So I found him an M14, and put him on point.

He was right; he was better than anyone.

We initiated a night ambush right after Christmas that year (I've mentioned it before), and after the Claymores went off and I put a parachute flare in the air with my M79 Grenade Launcher, and after the M60 had swept the area with a couple hundred rounds of 7.62, and after we had completed our Mad Minute, we all but the 'rear guard' got up and did a sweep of the kill zone,

There were a few bodies on the ground, and I thought they were all dead; but as I approached the nearest body it (a woman) started to squirm like a Dying Cockroach.

Before I had a moment to react, I heard this BLAAAAT beside me; Chief  was watching my six, from the left side, and when he saw her moving he dumped an entire 20-round magazine, full-auto, from his M14 into her.   She turned into a dead cockroach, DRT.

Then he reloaded with a fresh magazine, jacked a first round into the chamber, and caught up with me on the assault line.

There was no time to discuss it, so we moved on.  When we were through securing the two remaining survivors, and assuring that all the rest of the bodies were no longer a threat, we searched the bodies.  We were looking for documents even while a thin 'security line' was guarding against the return of the platoon we (eight of us) had just decimated.

We found a Makarov pistol on the wench.  It was in her hand.   She was three feet from me, and if Chief hadn't done his job better than I had done mine, she could easily have shot me.

When things settled down and the adrenaline rush had died away, I said "Thanks, Chief".

He grunted.   I interpreted that as meaning :"Sarge, you're such an asshole, do I gotta be watching out for you every day and all night too?"

He was right, and I never thanked him again for saving my life.   Nothing personal, he was just doing his job.

A couple of months later, Chief tripped a booby trap.
It was just one of those things; we snagged our boots on Wait-A-Minute Vines a hundred times a day; this time there was a grenade wired to it.  We didn't know anything was wrong until we heard that horribly distinctive sound of a grenade going off.

The rest of that story has already been told here.   This is the first time I've talked about The Chief.

Chief was in hospital for about two weeks, on reduced duty for a while more, and then came back to the field with us.

I never asked him to walk point again.

He never volunteered.

If it had been up to me, I would have sent him home to his family, right then.
I still owe him, Big Time.

A few months later, the Big Red One was pulled out of Viet Nam, and I was transferred to another Division, Chief had already met his DEROS and was back inThe Land of The Big PX.

That's where I sincerely hope he has found a wonderful woman, fathered fat happy children, made a zillion bucks in the stock market, and is living High, Wide and Handsome with not a care in the world.

Thanks, Chief.  I still owe you.


Mark said...

Only someone who has been there would fully understand this.

Jerry The Geek said...

It's that badly written?

Anonymous said...

Memories of the bad place, some good and mostly bad times.