Somebody was talking about when they were the most scared while in Vietnam. Not surprisingly, I have my own story…
Cherry’s to the 9th Infantry Div. all went through the “Old Reliable Academy”. That consisted of 5 days of mostly classes & a little live fire practice. That was topped-off by a real patrol and a all-niter.
Normally a walk in the park we were all kinda spooked being it was the end of TET ’68 and lots of clearing was still taking place. We hiked a few miles to a rubber plantation while the Lt. checked a couple of ID’s and put us on the ground several times. I’d heard that the Army paid the plantation owner cash for using it and he paid charles to leave the place alone. I thought that deal was a good one at the time.
We took up a night defensive position just off the main road (main dirt road). Dark found us all facing out like the spokes on a wheel. Every other guy was on watch for two hours. I started on and was able to stay awake by needing a cigarette worse than life itself. I woke the man on the right & slipped straight-off into sleep.
Just after I got to sleep a mortar round sailed into the trees off across the road. Scared everyone shitless of course. Not enough to keep me awake I drifted off soon after. I was never convinced that the Lt. didn’t have somebody lob one our way just for the hell of it.
Some time later, much more than 2 hours later, I woke with a bad case of piss pain….
Without a thought of anything but taking a leak I rolled back and to my knees ready to start the wet season.
It seems that most of us around the perimeter had succumbed to sleep. My sudden rustling of the dry grass brought the man to my left to instant wakefulness. In a single heartbeat I found the flash suppressor of his 16 deep in my belly. “Password”, he challenged, voice full of scared shitless backed by gunpowder.
I did remember the word and whispered it back into his dark face. I heard like a clap of thunder the first click of his safety going to “Manual”. Then, “O God in Heaven forgive me of my sins & please get me the hell-out-of-here!”, came the second click onto full auto. I don’t know what happened to the piss…reabsorbed on the instant, I guess.
“Password!!”, he demanded again in a harsh (I’m gonna have to shoot this dink SOB) voice.
I repeated the word twice quickly at him. At that exact moment I was scared worse than ever before or afterward, Vietnam or anywhere else. I vivid picture of 20 rounds plowing through my body in hot flame blasting guts, meat & bone out of my back was searing it’s way through my poor little brain.
Fortunately for me a young Buck Sgt. (yeah, Instant NCO) who knew the guy with the end-of-my-world-right-now thunder stick in his hand and told him to stand-down. He did, apologized to me, & went back to sleep!
I was scared so many times later and feared no less for my life but on the bar chart of fear it was all downhill after that moment. That was it, I didn’t know it yet but I had the worst fear behind me.
I have no idea what time that all happened but I slept not a wink the rest of the night. I lay there & heard all the peculiar sounds of war around us and watched the first of many lines of tracers weaving through the darkness. It was a beautiful dawn.