Chapter 2: Charlie is in the Bushes
Howard arose from his cot drenched in a thick layer of sweat. He grabbed his pants and put them on tiredly. He grabbed his shirt and slid it on. Then he grabbed his BDU shirt and buttoned it three fourths of the way. He slid his dog tags on making sure that the chain would not clip any of his neck hair. He clipped his pistol belt on, drew a cigarette and began his stroll around the base. He puffed out smoke into the thick and damp air and realized that the sky was very blue today. For him this was a bad sign. During his time in Khe Sahn there were always grey sky days. When blue sky days came around he would either get ambushed or make a terrible mistake.
Howard continued to walk down the wooden stairs that were made of local lumber. He passed one of the guard towers and saw a small glint of metal. He further inspected it to find that one of the new guys was sleeping with his M16 next to him. Howard picked up a small pebble and threw it at the greenhorn. The greenhorn woke up and looked around nervously.
“You shouldn’t be sleeping on the job!”
“What’s it to you?”
“Well I’m 3rd Platoon commander so, it would mean a lot to me if you woke your ass up!”
The greenhorn sprung up, “Uh… uh… sorry Sargent, It won’t happen again!”
“Good. So what’s your name son?”
The greenhorn saluted, “Private First Class Peter Jameson sir!”
“Hey, try not to salute too much. Charlie is in the bushes and as soon as he sees a soldier saluting another one, the other one becomes a high valued target.”
Pfc. Jameson threw his hand down. “Sorry sir!”
“What company are you in?”
“Just got here sir, I was assigned here and was told that a Sgt. Howard would meet me to tell me where to go.”
“Well I wasn’t aware of a new guy. I’m Sgt. Howard and you’ll be with me and the rest of 3rd Platoon.”
“Sir aye, aye sir!”
Howard helped Pfc. Jameson down from the tower. Howard instructed him to follow him to 3rd Platoon’s barracks. Howard showed him his cot and explained the ground rules.
“First, always follow orders. Second, don’t stay up past 22:00 while in the barracks, this way you get some good sleep. Finally third, never dishonor me, the platoon, the company, or the Corps.”
“Sir, yes sir.”
“Another thing just call me Sarge or Sargent, enough with that sir shit.”
Howard started for the barracks door when Jameson stopped him.
“Hey I know it’s too early, but if anything happens, can you give this to my family back home?” Jameson handed Howard a puffy envelope.
“Yeah, sure. You’ll be fine, just don’t worry so much and find something to relax your nerves, you’ll fine.”
Although Howard reassured Jameson many times, he still seemed on edge. Jameson continued to unpack his sea bag and pack it into his footlocker and nightstand. Howard finally got out of the barracks. He started towards the Lieutenant’s office. He knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Sgt. Mark Howard!”
“Come on in!”
Howard opened the door. The Lieutenant was sitting at his desk chewing a pencil.
“What brings you here?”
“I would like to know if my platoon is going out today or not sir.”
“3rd is it?”, he pulled out a file, “Yeah, you’re going to Binh Dinh again. However instead of taking down a troop you’re going to be doing some recon work on the edge of Binh Dinh. Word is the NVA are trying to send supplies from one compound to another. You’re going to have to intercept that truck full of supplies and use any means necessary to stop the supplies from reaching the compound in Binh Dinh.”
“Thank you sir.”
Howard was uneasy about this one. He knew something bad was going to happen due to the blue sky. Howard rallied up his men and explained their mission in the barracks. Everyone geared up and headed to the helicopters. Howard pulled Jameson into the helicopter.
“Just stick to me like glue and everything will be alright!”
The helicopters took off. Howard saw the village that they were at before while in the helicopter. The one house they went into was burned down and a NVA propagandist sat there yelling at the villagers. Then they came upon a small field which was intended to be their LZ. The helicopters hovered and everyone jumped out. Except Jameson, he rolled out of the helicopter and fell onto the plush ground. Howard helped him up.
“Alright let’s head toward the road!”
Howard led 3rd Platoon towards the small hill that was beside the road. “Okay, Jackson, O’ Neil, Martinez, and Kneilson head over to the side of the road into that ditch and set up the M60. I want you to take some loose branches and put them on top of the M60.”
Martinez answered with a yes Sargent. Howard took out a small box of nails and headed to the road. He sprinkled the nails around as if he was sprinkling salt on ice. He carefully and evenly sprinkled the nails and ran back to his platoon.
“I’ll give the signal to open fire.”
Over an hour later and Howard already heard a truck. He signaled his men to get ready. The truck ran over the nails and one of the tires popped. As soon as it popped, the truck stopped dead in its tracks. The door on the passenger side swung open and out stepped an NVA soldier. Howard watched as the soldier inspected the tire. He waited for him to discover the nails. The NVA soldier bent down. All of a sudden the NVA soldier jumped up and started shouting. Then twelve other men piled out of the truck. Howard saw the opportunity and ordered the open fire.
Bullets from all sides were caving in on the NVA soldiers. Blood was spraying left and right and was splattered on the sides of the truck. Howard ordered his men to go down there and continue to open fire. The NVA soldiers returned fire but were soon put down. Howard ordered Greyson to check the truck.
Howard heard a rustling in the field nearby. He looked towards the field and noticed glints of metal. Howard held up his rifle and opened fire on the field. His men followed him and opened fire on the field. NVA scouts were getting up and being shot down. Some returned fire while they could and soon retreated to the nearby jungle brush.
“Fucking Charlie, always in the bushes!” Exclaimed Sgt. Howard
“Ahh shit! I think the new guy’s dead!”
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