The medic is always there in my mind. He’s always holding the bleeding head of the wounded infantryman in his lap. I’m always circling right above them in my gunship. The medic is always screaming in our headsets to land and evacuate the wounded soldier.
“It’s just a minor wound, but I can’t stop the bleeding!” screams the medic.
The head is a most vascular part of the human anatomy. Even minor head wounds can be tough because of that.
“He’s going to die if we don’t get him out of here!” screams the medic.
But the LZ is too hot to get the Dustoff in—the medivac ship—without it getting shot down and yielding four more casualties. And our gunship is too heavy to get in and out of such a tight spot. And, besides, the living grunts below us still need our firepower.
You can say words like “the calculus of war,” but those words don’t scream, and they don’t bleed, and they don’t smell of copper and urine and feces.
And we can’t control the LZ. And the firing is steady.
“Never mind,” says the medic in a voice broken with crying. “He’s dead.”
The young soldier had bled out in the medic’s arms. I can see the medic sobbing over the body. In my mind they’re always there. Always begging to be saved.
Both of those soldiers had names, but I never knew them. At least one of them has been a name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall for a long time. They are among the nameless ghosts in my mind, the lost army that didn’t get to come home with me. But I have not abandoned them. I never will.
A good friend of mine, Jack Bunton, founder of Ram Engine, sent me this link to the virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall: http://www.virtualwall.org/iStates.htm.
If you knew someone lost in Vietnam, you may want to visit it and think of him or her. If you want a glimpse of the world from which he or she did not return you can go here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qH2vbYs6ebc, or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_gJTsRSd38&feature=related.