IN MY MEMORY
The morning comes too soon,
as I inhale my first awakened breath of the day.
The smell of gunpowder fills my nostrils,
a reminder of where I laid myself to sleep just a few hours ago.
Before I open my eyes I remember last night.
We had had good time playing cards
and drinking away the reality of where we live.
I think of how bittersweet it all is.
I live in a place where I volunteered to go,
actually nearly begging to be here.
Now here, I can't help but wonder,
"Why did I want to be here?"
"Is this what I thought it would be?"
In my eighteen years of life,
I've never been more excited about the morning's arrival.
As I open my eyes,
the light from our little make shift galley
barely illuminates the room.
Today will be an uneventful day.
One of our birds is down for repair.
There won't be a scramble today.
We can't fly without each bird to protect the other.
As my body awakens to the smells,
the sound of snoring surrounds me,
I see that some of the guys are still asleep.
My hand stretches out,
to the cold steel of the 45
that always sleeps with me.
Quietly I make my way to the light
that keeps things in perspective.
The galley light that's always on.
The shower house is a long walk after a night
of drinking and sleeping.
Arriving back at our hut,
everyone else is getting up and around, as well.
There are a lot of things to do today.
Guns need to be cleaned, as always,
mommason will be here soon,
to clean the place up and gather the laundry,
the bird will need its routine maintaince.
Some of the guys are at the PX
searching for something to throw down their throats.
I'm not usually hungry this early in the morning but
I pour a bowl of Corn Flakes anyway.
A couple of guys join me for the same
and the day is officially starting for us.
I guess a day off is good for us,
but the anticipation of what each day will bring
keeps our thoughts on where we are.
The rush we get when that red phone rings
is what we are here for.
The morning turns into noon,
and the afternoon comes quickly welcoming
another night of hanging with the guys.
With all of our duties done, I am ready for a break.
I reach for my coffee as I take a drag
on my cigarette and the red phone rings.
As I grab for the receiver I wonder,
"We shouldn't be getting scrambled today,
we only have one bird."
Clearing my throat as I raise the phone to my mouth,
The voice echoes in my head,
"We've got a situation here,
we know that we're down a bird,
but some boats are taking heavy fire on the Big Blue
and we need a couple of volunteers to take that bird up".
Without thought or hesitation I responded.
let me ask the other guys.
We'll be right there."
"We've got a scramble and they need a volunteer to go."
I holler across the hut.
As I pull my flight suit on another guy jumps to
the call of duty and does the same.
Within seconds we are out the door
and on a dead run towards the bird.
Over my shoulder I see the pilots
coming at the same speed toward the bird.
They jump into their seats
and the starting sequence begins.
The engine is lighting as I untie the rotor tie down.
The other gunner takes the right door
and I jump into the seat at the left door.
The pilots have RPMs on the rotorblades.
We are off to work.
The Saigon River, that we call Big Blue,
is about twenty minutes away.
An unease feeling starts to haunt me
knowing that we have no cover from the other bird,
but the adrenaline over powers it
and I am ready for what ever we might be up for.
As we near the Big Blue we can see
that heavy fire is coming from both sides of the river.
The right side is hitting the boats hard.
The pilots lower the chopper down inches above the water.
My heart is racing.
We are flying down the middle of the river
just a few feet from the shoreline.
We both aim our 60's
targeting the enemy that threatens our boats.
Shots continue to fire at the boats
and now at us, as well.
The fire is coming from an area that
is the size of about three football fields.
The entire place is wooded on the right.
We don't seem to be making a difference
as the fire continues to come at us.
I can't see where the fire is coming from.
There are trees covering the whole place.
Our 60's are not slowing the incoming fire.
I have the mini gun on my door,
but the heavy fire is coming from the other side of the bird.
The pilot seems to read my mind as he begins to turn the chopper and brings us up hard and to the left.
I wrapped my fingers around the switches of the mini gun.
I aim the gun at the water front
and with a zig zag motion
fire the gun throughout the woods.
The mini gun can jam up
quickly as the shells come through so fast.
Not today, it is working perfectly.
At 4000 rounds a minute,
I am able to cover the entire field.
I haven't given much thought to the gun not jamming.
I just want to keep firing until it stops.
As the ammo runs out,
I realize I have spent the entire cache of ammo on board.
I am waist deep in HOT Brass.
There are casings everywhere.
The field is quiet, the boats are quiet
and the inside of the chopper is silent.
The other guys just look at me.
No one says a word.
I begin to feel the heat of the brass against my flight suit
as I start brushing them out the door.
The boats are at peace for the moment.
Our job is complete.
We rotate toward the sky.
We are coming home.
This day is a good day,
we live to see another day.
IN MY MEMORY
Det. 6 Phu-loi South Vietnam
by Michael Donham