We ran the boat up onto a shoal and into some reeds for cover. I set up a triage down below in the main cabin. They just kept bringing down wounded and there wasn’t any more room. I tried to tell the lieutenant but he’d already lost it. He laughed and jumped overboard. They shot him when he tried to climb the bank on the other side of the river.
I was used to small-arms fire and toe-poppers but these guys had mortar wounds. They were all blown apart. The floor of the cabin was slick with blood and the pump stopped working. I could no longer see the toe of my boot. The air got so bad I had to get out. Now they were bringing more wounded in from the bush and laying them down along the railing inside of the cockpit.I could hear the fire fight off in the forest. The boat was listing to one side from the weight of all those men.
“I think they nicked it,” the sergeant said. He had propped himself up on a little bulkhead by the wheel. His face was already paper thin and he had that look in his eyes. Blood ran down his right side and onto the deck. “Are the choppers coming?”
I nodded and tried to smile. The thought of it spread a wonderful calm over his face and for one brief moment I felt like I’d done something good. Then the kid at his feet made a choking sound and we both saw the light go out of his eyes.
“Ah shit,” the sergeant whispered. I knelt down and held his hand. The two of us watched as another soul came up from below and headed off down river. The sergeant would bleed out soon. I had no more dressings. I had already used my shirt and the legs of my trousers.
There weren’t any choppers coming.
Author's Bio: I did not fight in the Vietnam conflict; I fought the war against it. Over the years I have lost several friends who were there. They died of cancer, addiction and suicide. They honored me by telling their stories.