|About the Book|
Throughout my life, Ive found it easy to make friends, but never like while I was in Vietnam. All the men I met there are very special to me and I feel a very close and special bond with them.I didnt know the names of those who were passengers onMoreThroughout my life, Ive found it easy to make friends, but never like while I was in Vietnam. All the men I met there are very special to me and I feel a very close and special bond with them.I didnt know the names of those who were passengers on my helicopter when I helped take them into battle, re-supplied, and picked them up again to take them to a safer area, on another assault, or to a field hospital. In all too many cases, our crew took them on their final helicopter flight out of the bush and on the first leg of their trip back to their mourning loved ones. Without knowing their names, I can still see the look on each of their faces, whether they were traveling to the rear, back into battle, to seek additional medical help, or headed to graves registration. Each man had a very distant look in his eyes.Our missions of fire were underlined with an indescribable rush of adrenaline. Our alertness was always at its peak during those flights when we had to be performing at max capacity, keeping our wits about us while we flew into battle with our machine guns blazing. Our rounds joined those of the supporting gunships and often, jet or prop driven fighters and bombers. Because these flights were so brazenly accomplished, they are ingrained on my mind to the point that I think of many of those missions on a daily basis, as if they happened this morning.Our missions of mercy, they too added excitement to our lives. The flights where we snatched men from the rice paddies and depths of the mountainous jungle, often surrounded and under enemy fire, are unforgettable! These missions were another shot at cheating death.As flight crews, we never knew what we might see on the next lift. But we knew that these missions were critical to saving mens lives. Usually the medics and buddies in the field had patched these guys up and were able to stop the majority of the bleeding. We often retrieved wounded who had just been hit by enemy fire in the past couple of minutes. In many of these cases, they had not received medical attention as the rest of their unit was busy keeping the enemy at bay while our crews were busy loading the wounded on board. There are no words to describe the peak of adrenaline! It far exceeded “peak.”There were times when the wounds were still smoking from white phosphorous, or the steam might be rising from their still warm bodies. If there wasnt time to care for these soldiers on the ground, the task fell into the hands of the crew chief and gunner after the aircraft cleared the danger area. Too often the bleeding couldnt be stopped, with wounds too large for our limited supply of medical supplies. Though we were able to fly these soldiers to field hospitals for additional help, many died while aboard our ships. The field hospitals were very efficient and were able to send men back into battle, while more men went home for additional surgery. A lot of them left pieces of their bodies back in the jungle. They all left their blood.The final missions of mercy were flown when the intensity of the battles became less intense or were complete. The unfortunate soldiers who were our passengers on these flights, were in no rush...their missions were complete. These brave, often young warriors gave everything in an attempt to save others lives while trying to save their own. They returned home silently. Though I didnt know any of them, I felt there was a special relationship between us. That bond still tugs at my soul. We shared both life and death. The memories of them will be with us forever. Their names are written on the Wall.Recalling our flights into various battlefields, I can still see the fear in the faces of the grunts, and the tears often being shed over the current battle, which might snuff their lives out in a split second. I can see, hear, and smell the gunpowder and JP4 from the blazing gunships, the fighter jets screaming by on their strafing, bombing, and napalm attacks, smoke-filled villages, fearful, tearful, and often screaming refugees, the bound P.O.W.s loaded on our chopper. I smell the overwhelming stench of enemy bodies laying on the battlefield, who have yet to be buried, due to the intensity of the battles.I can easily remember how dry my throat was from fear every time I felt the icy touch of death. Although I didnt want to admit that fear at the time, I unashamedly admit it now, in all its vivid and unforgotten reality.My survivor guilt, nightmares, and flashbacks have helped me to write more vividly. However, reliving my entire year in Vietnam over the past several years while writing this has been emotionally draining. Yet, I am grateful to God for the fact that He has also healed my emotions over my experience to a large degree.After re-reading the letters I sent home and the copies that my parents saved of those sent to me by my family, I now better appreciate my insecurities and fears.