From here to there and back again

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

The followings of Dominic Mosquito, books leading character, as he thrashes through the jungles of Vietnam as a Special Operator carrying out special missions and then becoming a Boat Captain of an Alpha Boat operating in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. Feel his thought and pains as he carries out his assignments as well as losing his friends in combat.

A griping story based on the actual times of the author.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - From here to there and back again

Submitted: January 02, 2012

Reads: 75

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 02, 2012

A A A

A A A

 

 

 

From here to there and back again

Written by: Rick Boutcher

 

US Navy – Mobile Riverine Force

Vietnam War Combat Vet

1966 to 1970

 

Acknowledgment

Writing this book was not an easy task. While the characters are fictional, the story line is based upon my youth as well as my time in the US Navy, serving in Vietnam.

Bringing this story to life required many trips into a certain place within my being, others would refer to this place as a living hell. Was not easy pulling out memories that had finally, after twenty six years of dealing with PTSD, been put to rest.

Rethinking these memories and using them to create story line about the life, times and adventures of Dominic Mosquito, the books main character, caused a lot of heart ache, many tears, pain and several bad cases of the shakes.

But I had help. I give a big Thank You to Jerry and Susanne. Jerry understood what I was going through as he too lives with his own private hell from Vietnam. Susanne, Jerry’s wife, offered technical help with my presentation of thoughts as did my Friends Zoltan and his wife Maria, both English Teachers, who gave me tips on how the English language can be twisted to present thought.

However, even with all this help, if it were not for my very Best Friend, Ken Lipman, who lives half a world away from me, who listened to my fears and thoughts and felt my tears, this book would not be. Ken knew I was going to stop writing because I was having such a hard time rehashing memories that had tormented me for so many years.

If it were not for Ken’s constant support every day by E-mails, his encouragement to push through and continue, his willingness to listen to me complain that it was too hard and his wisdom to know how to reach into my soul, console and nudge me on, the creation of this story would not have happened.

Thank you. . . Rick  

 

The cover picture of A-91-3 was taken with my KOWA SET Camera that rests somewhere on the bottom of the Mekong River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter one: How the hell did I get here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Maybe I’ve made a mistake doing this.” Dominic thought to himself as he slid through the hole he had dug with his Swiss Army Combat Knife, to gain access to the back of the pit below the latrine and settled down into the slimy conglomeration of ground water, mud, shit, piss and whatever that stink of chemical they have thrown in to keep down the stench. He knew that he was going to have to sit here for the rest of the night waiting for the General to come in the morning to take care of business. What he forgot about, or maybe just never thought of, was everyone else! You’ve got that right. He was showered by each and every fucker who came into the latrine to relieve themself. Worse, five of them had a very serious case of diarrhea. Ohhh, what that fish sauce, they eat, smells like. It is absolutely terrible going in. But never ever thought about what it would smell like coming out. Want to talk about time stopping when you are waiting for something to happen. Well, it felt like time started to go backwards. The General would be coming around 5:30 AM. That was the observation made during the past week. Dominic looked at his watch to see how long he was going to have to endure his lunacy, but it was coated with the mire of his chosen  position and no matter how much he wiped it, get it, wiped it, he could not see what time it was. So he was just going to have to wait. And, as he waited he was going to have to accept the offerings of the users and have nothing to say about it.

 

When you have to sit still and wait for time to pass your mind starts to think about things. Dominic found himself reflecting on how he managed to end up in this particular type of occupation.

Dominic Mosquito’s childhood was a constant movement through time that caused great confusion, pain, enjoyment, embarrassment, sadness and ultra happy times. Why was it the way it was. Was his childhood  of his making? Did he do something wrong? Did he do anything right? Was his childhood the way it was supposed to be? How come no one else ever seemed to have the same interests he had? How come he never really enjoyed playing with other children his age? How come other children never wanted him to play with them? He remember when he was going to PS 159, first grade to sixth grade. During the warm months, sometime during the day the classes would go out into the play ground and have recess. All the boys would get together to choose up sides for a punch ball game. The two team captains would pick the kids for their teams but, Dominic was always left standing by the fence. He was small and totally uncoordinated. Could not catch a ball and for sure could not punch it. It got to a point that he would not even stand with all the boys to wait to be not picked! He would slink off to the back of the play yard and find a world that he would fit into. Insects! He would sit and watch the ants for the time they were allowed to be outside playing. But after a while, the teachers would notice that Dominic was not playing with the other boys. He often wondered what the teachers used to say to his mother when she went to open school night to find out what he was doing and how he was doing it.

After a while, Dominic was forced, by the teachers, not to go to the back of the playground. He was forced onto one of the teams of which you could see were not very happy about having to have this looser as part of their team. So, he was always told that he had to play far out left field. Almost never was there a ball hit to this point. If it were, everyone including himself  knew that it was not going to be caught. There was an incident that took place when he was up to punch the ball. He could never hit the ball. If he did, it would just dribble out into the field. He would be thrown out before he got even half way to first base. This one time it happened, everything was right for this one split moment. Dominic’s little fist slammed into the ball and it took off like a rocket. Of course the other team had moved into the inner field because that was where the ball was going to go. As a result, it sailed over their heads and for the first time in his life he was going to get on base. He was running to first base when he heard the words that took all the wind out of his sails. The words that took his tiny moment of glory and dashed it into the ground so as to make sure that he could not enjoy this minuscule fraction of time. It was the voice of Anthony Grimes, “I called time!” Dominic knew he certainly did not hear it called and no one else seemed to have heard it. But never the less everyone said that he had to do it over. Before he ever got to put his foot on first base, he found myself  back at home plate wishing that he could do what he had just done again. “Flub!!” and the ball dribbled out into the inner field as it always did and the elusive first base was lost to him forever. He found myself once again walking over to the fence during the time of the picking of the teams, he could sneak back to the old handball courts where he could hide behind the wall, out of sight and watch the ants come and go from the ant colony with it entrance in the cracked concert. He was lost to the world and it did not seem to make no never mind whether he was part of what was going on or not.

He used to loose himself in his own world so as to not have to deal with the rejection he felt from all the other boys his own age. Found solitude in the friends that he made in the insect world. Many times he felt that he was supposed to be an insect; thought that he would be a lot happier if he were. But now that Dominic was a lot older then he was when all this was eating at his soul, he could look back and see that what his life had become after this time of growing up and could see that this hard childhood was required for the life he was now living. Being alone was one of the most important things Dominic had going for himself. He found that he did not need to have others around to make him feel comfortable. He could entertain himself and from what he could now see, this ability has been the saving grace for his sanity. His childhood had been his dues.

Growing up, it seemed that all the other boys his age got bigger and bigger. Dominic? Well he seemed to stay the same size. He was a short, skinny, very weak pip squeak that had what seemed to be absolutely nothing going. High school brought yet another misery. Gym included one day a week for swimming. Sounded great till it was found that it was in the nude. Dominic found himself standing on the side of the pool with nothing to cover his skinny pip squeak body. While all the others seemed to be very mature. Hair in the right places while he had one! Felt so bad he found that he could not even swim with any confidence. And of course, the swim coach was in charge of the day you had in the pool. So, part of the curriculum was to race. Dominic once again found himself sitting on the side of the pool watching the others who again seemed to have it all together. Doomed to nothingness. Dominic saw his future coming and he could not fathom what he would do or where he would fit in. A job? Well that was out of the question. What could he possible do. A wife? Dominic was afraid to even say hello to a girl. Who would want to be seen with this skinny nobody. But he had a plan. He would go into the Navy and there, they would give him a job and a place to sleep and food to eat and he would not have to worry about anything. Besides, Cousin Jimmy was in the Navy. He got to go all over the world on a great ship. But first Dominic had to endure the agony of high school. If he could have, he would have quit. But his father, always seeming to be four times his size and an ex-Marine from WW II, repeated to him again and again, “I don’t care if you are forty! You are not going to leave this house till you graduate high school.”

Thirteen brought into his life the beginning of the metamorphosis that would change his life and make him into the demon he had become. This beginning was brought on by his Dad buying him a Dan Laurie, 110 pound weight set. Dominic poured his soul into working with these weights. He started light and grew into some rather substantial weights. His little skinny body started to take on a form that he found he was proud of. It also was the time for the cocoon to split so his inner demon could stretch for the first time.

Dominic was pulled back to reality by the sound of the curtain being drawn back. He looked up through the hole in the seat, and saw it was General Vin. The one person who was the main coordinator for the training of the VC, very talented. The General was 64 years old he was always in Hanoi. Getting close to him was harder than trying to get the smell off shit. For years he was considered to be a major thorn in the side of the US forces. MacV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) had this idea, if he could be eliminated; it was thought that it would disrupt VC training for at least six months. Dominic blinked and thought, “Here he is!”

 

  He turned around, lowered his trousers and sat. His anis staring down at Dominic like the eye of a Cyclops.  It start to expand as the evenings waste pushed forward to free itself for the confines of his bowls; this was the time. Perfect shot. Dominic pushed the silenced Colt 22 semi-automatic pistol up through the hole and square into the generals anis, before he could react to the upward pressure, Dominic pulled the trigger twice.

“Humph” was the only sound he made as the two 22 Cal. projectiles ripped into his innards, lifting him off the hole and then plopping him back down. He then slumped forward and fell off the hole and out through the curtain of the latrine on to his face. He was dead. The two guards began screaming and the training center came to life. Nice thing about a 22 Cal. Projectile, it has great penetration but getting wrapped up in the innards of body, they do not exit. The shot was square up the ass of General Vin. No entry and no exit. The camp doctor ran over and inspected the body. There were no wounds that could be seen and from what Dominic could understand, the camp doctor thought the general had suffered a heart attack. This all taking place while Dominic was still in the pit. Problem was getting out. But, Dominic knew he was going to have to wait till night to do so.

 

“Shit! It’s only 5:45 AM. I am going to have to stay here all day.” Dominic thought to himself. But, he felt reasonably safe, so he squished down in the rear right corner of the pit and went to sleep. He was tired and falling asleep was not hard. Everyone always said he was nuts. Closing his eyes and drifting off his mind started to recall his younger days that now, looking back on them, seemed to have been the pathway to what he had become.

 

All through grammar school and junior high Dominic was tormented by a click of three guys. Their names will never leave his mind. Alfred Contino, Eugene Commo and Patrick Santoro. Patrick Santoro was the toughest guy in High School and the leader of the click. As stated, these three tormented Dominic throughout grammar school and Junior High. He was an easy target and with a family name like Mosquito, it just seemed to be an invitation for abuse. Every time they passed Dominic, he got a punch to the stomach or his books were knocked to the floor or he was tripped.  Hard to imagine this now, but during his Grammar School and Junior High days, Dominic was the epitome of  “Skinny on the beach”. Think, when you were kids, on the back of the comic books was the advertisement for Charles Atlas weights. It showed the skinny guy lying on the beach blanket with his girlfriend and the big bully would come and kick sand into his face. His girlfriend thought he was such a looser. Then he got Charles Atlas weights and worked out, got big and strong and punches the bullies light out. Of course now Skinny’s girlfriend was so proud. Well Dominic was skinny!

The junior year of High School Dominic was 16 years old. He had been working out with weights for the past three years as well as studying the Martial Arts at the Martial Arts Studio on 157th Street and Northern Boulevard in Flushing. He had been doing this totally incognito. Did not want anyone to know as Dominic had a purpose and a plan that was about to come to life. It was time for the caterpillar to come out of the cocoon and become the colourful butterfly. It was time the constant torment of the click was to come to an abrupt stop.

For the past three years Dominic had been wearing baggy clothes so as to hide the changes that were becoming his body. Had to live with the nick name, “Baggy pants Dommi”, which was bestowed upon him by Patrick Santoro. Because of this nick name everyone took their verbal shots and pecked at Dominic each and every day. He sucked it in for he knew his plan and the plan would make it all change. After three years of straining and the pain of working with the weights, Dominic was pressing 250 pounds. He was just as intense with his Martial Arts training and had advanced to the rank of Green Belt . He now had ability to punch through a stack of six ¾ inch boards with either of his hands.

 This particular morning he got dressed very differently. Put on his black Chino slacks with his white “T” shirt on backwards. This was the thing, got the neck of the “T” shirt to come up real high, greased his hair and combed it back into a DA (Duck Ass) pulled out the black leather jacket his father had bought for him but could not understand why he did not wear it and headed off to school. Did not bring any books as Dominic Mosquito had something else to do this day.

He walked the 8 blocks from his house to the High School and strolled into the play yard. Every one stopped what they were doing and just looked. He was looking for Patrick Santoro. It was  Eugene Commo’s unfortunate timing that Dominic found him first. He had something to say about how Dominic was dressed, “Hey, look at the tough guy!”

Dominic did not respond, simply planted his, rock hard, right fist straight into his mouth. Wow, it was the first time Dominic ever hit someone. Did it feel great, Eugene stumbled back; his knees wobbled as Dominic stepped into him and planted another one and another and another.  Had to stop and pick Eugene up.

The entire population of the school play ground started yelling, “Fight, fight, fight” and crowded around so as to keep the teachers from breaking it up.

Dominic beat the living shit out of Eugene. Everything that had been bottled up inside for so many years came spilling out and the results were Eugene’s face being broken up and Dominic’s knuckles bleeding from Eugene’s broken teeth. From one side of the play yard to the other, Dominic, unrelentingly, pounded Eugene into a bloody pulp. Do not think Eugene ever got a punch off. He was just trying to get away but the crowd would not let it happen. They were enjoying the true beating that was taking place as the click picked on most everyone. Now one member of the click was getting his ass kick in.

Finally the teachers got it broken up and the two were taken to the Principles office. Parents were called and the police were summoned. Eugene was administered to by the school nurse but he was going to need a lot more than a cool rag and a band aid. His Parents and Dominic’s parents arrived and the story of what had taken place was explained. The police arrived. Eugene’s Mother and Father, looking at the condition of their son said to the police, They did not want to press charges as their son, Eugene, had gotten in with the wrong crowd and they could not control him. What he got he surely deserved and they were very grateful as they felt Eugene had learned a valuable lesson. The police left.

  The Principle however, could not just let it end. After all fighting was something that would not be tolerated on school grounds. It was determined that Dominic was the one to start the fight (regardless of the years of torment he had had to endure) and as such, he was the one to be suspended from school for the rest of the semester, four months. A tutor from the Board of Education was assigned to keep his class work up to date. However he was not allowed to go back to High School for the rest of the term.

The four months and summer vacation past, Dominic was heading back to the High School once again. And, once again it was not to learn anything. He was going back to school with one thing on his mind. He was going to call out Patrick Santoro. Dominic was going to put an end to the click. It was not until lunch time that Dominic finally found Patrick Santoro. It was in the lunch room.

On top of his lungs he yelled out, “Patrick Santoro, you want a piece of me?”

The entire student body in the lunch room stopped eating or what they were doing and looked to the source of the voice. “Ohhhh shit, it’s Dominic” could be heard in the din of the lunch room. Everyone including Patrick Santoro knew why Dominic was there; it was now Patrick’s turn to face the wrath of this animal who was calling him out. The very same animal who had blackened both of Eugene Commo’s eyes, knocked out three of his teeth and split his lips opened so badly just six months ago. This animal was now calling his name.

Patrick stood up, looked at Dominic and said, “Look Dom, I don’t want any trouble.” He then walked out of the lunch room at a rather hastened pace.

“Woooooooooooooo, Patrick Santoro backed down!!!” were the words buzzing across the lunch room. All eyes turned towards Dominic as the student body pressed in to gather around and begin the worship of their new school hero who was indeed the toughest guy in the school.

Dominic woke from the world of sleep to find that the ambience grew darker and he knew it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge. He opened the tunnel he had made to get into the pit and crawled out. Refilled it once again and slinked off into the jungle back to where Jimmy, Bobby and Terry were waiting. They looked as this human size piece of feces got closer. “Oh man you are out of your fucken mind. And man, you stink!”

 

“Fine, let’s just get the fuck out of here and find me a stream where I can get cleaned up.” Dominic was not pleased with their smirks and under the breath jokes at his expense. They started  with Bobby on point and terry right behind, Jimmy bringing up the rear. About three hours later they found a stream, Dominic stripped off his closes and tried to get clean. “Oh man, your really fucked up” Terry said.

  “What do you mean?”

 

“Shit, you got boils all over your body and what is that rash?” Now that Terry was saying this, Dominic realized that he was really not feeling so good. He felt like he was running out of gas. Like someone was taking his batteries out. With his Swiss Army Combat Knife, Dominic lanced the biggest boils, squeezed out as much puss and blood as he could, applied sulfur, covered them with field dressing; knew that he was in deep shit and was going to need hospital treatment really soon. The pit had poisoned him. If he did not get to a hospital real soon; he might have gotten his target, but by doing so had also gotten himself.

 

Had to get over the boarder into Vietnam before a call for extraction could be made. Calculations said it was going to take at least a week of humping to get there. But, with Dominic getting weaker with each foot step he took, that week could very easily turn into forever. Bobby, Jimmy and Terry took turns helping him as he began to feel the strain from the pit. But Dominic  knew that he had to put everything he had into getting out of this place. The week turned into fifteen days. Bobby took a sighting and determined that we were about five clicks from the Vietnamese boarded. He fired up the radio and contacted their control and told them the coordinates of the selected pick up point. Told them it was going to take about 10 hours for to get there. Arrange LZ (Landing Zone) as required. They felt safe. To this point, nothing had gone wrong. Nothing at all. It had been perfect. Maybe to perfect.

 

BLAM! The world exploded. The team had walked right into the NVA ambush. they were standing dead smack in the center of the kill zone. Each of the team dropped to one knee and began to return fire. Now this is where having a stoner really counts. The AK-47 uses a clip of 30 rounds.  Full auto, will eat a clip in a matter of seconds. This is where fire control and controlled fields of fire and a stoner really come in to pull your butt out of the shit. The stoner used a box clip with 110 rounds. This means that when the NVA have to stop and reload, four stoners could overwhelm them with automatic fire. NVA as good as they were, when you got them excited, the only way to shoot was on full auto. Lots of bullets sure, but when everyone is on auto, everyone is going to run out of bullets and have to reload at the same time. This is called, lack of fire control. In the middle of all this, Bobby gets on the radio and starts saying that they need some back up and extraction at a point other than the one arranged. 

 

The response was, “Negative, stay on course”

 

Bobby yelled, “Fuck you, we need extraction now. We’re getting chewed up!”

 

“Negative, stay on course” it came again.

 

“I’m going to find you and cut your fucken heart out! We need extraction now!”

 

The team had to get out of there, the first moment when the NVA’s fire power lessened because they were all reloading, each team member  switched to auto and let it ring out. Four stoners on full auto meant 440 round were going to be ripping towards you if you were on the receiving end. Spraying into four quadrants Jimmy, Dominic, Terry and Bobby got to their feet and ran as fast as their feet could take them, Jimmy had Dominic by the collar and it seemed that his energy was being transferred into him so he could find the required effort to run as fast as everyone else. Not really sure how far they had managed to get, but they fell to the ground with a huff and brought together their minds to create a plan that would help them get out of this. For sure the NVA were going to be coming after them. Jimmy and Dominic decided they would hang back and set up an ambush to slow the advance of the NVA. Terry and Bobby would run ahead in an agreed direction so after Jimmy and Dominic’s ambush was sprung, they would be able to run their asses off and catch up. 

 

They quickly set up two claymores and two C4 mines with hand detonators. The two claymores spread five feet apart giving a kill radius of about fifty feet. The two C4 mines were set to the sides of their ambush. Jimmy and Dominic concealed themselves with the detonators and waited. Both carrying a 5.62 Stoner machine gun and both had about three hundred rounds of ammunition. Heard them, they, the NVA, were not concerned about the amount of noise they were making as they ran through the jungle. The first three entered the kill zone and Jimmy detonated his claymore. The three NVA shredded in a blinding flash as the claymore went off causing the bed of C4 to explode, sending 800 ball bearings towards the NVA at 3,937 feet per second, ripping into the bodies of the NVA and tearing them apart. Like it did not happen, three more ran into the kill zone and Dominic detonated his claymore. Again, the three NVA shredded in another flash. It was time to get out, Dominic yelled to Jimmy above the roar of his stoner to clap the C4 mines and run. One after another the two C4 mines went off, Jimmy and Dominic turned to run under the cover of the two blasts. Jimmy was on the  left, Dominic heard a moan. . . He turned and it seemed like time just stopped.

 

Jimmy was laying on his back, on the ground, cut nearly in half by multiple rounds. His top torso was completely severed from his legs but still had a tab of skin connecting on the right side of his abdomen. He was split wide open, his internal organs had flopped out, on to the ground in a mangle of small intestines and liver but he was still alive and conscious; but he was dead. There was no way that Jimmy could remain alive for more than two of three minutes. He knew it and Dominic knew it. But the NVA were right on top of them. If Dominic left him and they found him still alive, his next two or three minutes would seem like years as they would slice him into little pieces. Dominic could not leave him to something like that. Jimmy looked at him and smiled. He knew that Dominic could not pick him up to carry him out. He knew how bad he was hit. He also knew what had to be done as too Dominic did. Dominic pivoted, lowered his stoner and killed Jimmy with a round to his head. Oh God how that hurt. It ripped his heart out. But Dominic could not leave Jimmy like that. This all took place in about two or three seconds, seemed like it was slow motion, Dominic was standing there looking at Jimmy in total disbelief. He had just killed his very best friend. It is the hardest thing he ever had to do or will ever have to do in his life to come.

 

Dominic lifted his stoner, switching to full automatic and cut down four NVA as he turned to run. His heart felt like it was going to punch itself out of his chest as he ran to make distance between himself and the NVA. His mind was racing projecting memories of Jimmy as he raced through the jungle. Of  all the people he has known in his life, Jimmy has got to be the best friend he ever had. Jimmy and Dominic were both Special Operators for a US Military, clandestine unit referred to as Detachment  “Alpha” located in Taipei, Taiwan. The teams of this Unit performed missions that, “Did not exist!” It was on Taiwan where Dominic first met Jimmy. They had both arrived at about the same time.

 

People were selected for duty with Detachment “Alpha” based upon their personalities, ability to deal with situations, a in depth background investigation and what they had requested on their dream sheets as duty stations when getting out of boot camp. Seems that Jimmy and Dominic had both requested to go to SEAL / Riverboat service after they graduated from the schools they had been assigned to. Dominic was very surprised when he was told that he was not going to go to SEAL training, but had been assigned to this Detachment “Alpha”, whatever that was, located on Taiwan. It was at this time Dominic was informed that during his time in school, a very intensive background investigation had been made of him by the ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) and he had been assigned a Top Secret Crypto Clearance (TSC). “Whew, what have I gotten into that I need such a high security clearance?” Dominic thought to himself.  He found out later that all Special Operators held this super high clearance. During indoctrination and training, Jimmy and Dominic were teamed together. That is how they met. The two of them hit it off really well and went on to be the best Special Ops team of the time. You know, it is not often in one’s life that you meet someone who is so compatible with each other that they both can feel what the other is going to do before either can even do it. This is how Jimmy and Dominic had developed with each other. Regardless of the situation, Jimmy and Dominic knew that they would be there for each other.

 

Dominic did not know where he got the energy from, but it was there and he tapped it to the max. About 500 yards from the ambush point he ran into Terry and Bobby who had stopped to set up another ambush. Dominic hung back with Bobby and Terry, told them both that they had lost Jimmy. The news of losing Jimmy made their blood boil. It was reflected in the amount of killing that took place when the NVA reached their ambush. Between six claymores, six C4 mines, three hand grenades, their three stoners, they chopped up 17 NVA. From this point, they figured that out of the garrison of 60 NVA that were in pursuit of them, they had already killed more than half of them. It was obvious that they were taking a heavy toll for as the team turned to leave the ambush area, the NVA stopped to regroup and hopefully think about who it was they were chasing. The NVA did not know the size of the enemy force. They only knew that this enemy force  was kicking the shit out of them.

 

The sun was starting to rise, not a good time to be moving through the jungle when you are trying to remain concealed. The team decided to laager for the day. This would give time to recover a bit. It would also allow the three remaining team members to cat nap while a watch was set. They found a rise that had heavy brush cover and large rocks that offered a good hold out point if it came to that. Terry and Bobby set out some claymores and C4 mines to make a kill zone perimeter while Dominic worked on himself, injecting some glucose laced with Dexedrine, that would work on giving him a bit more energy. He than laid down to sleep while Terry and Bobby stood watch. Dominic’s mind filled with the thoughts of Jimmy and how they ever got into this situation. How was he to deal with knowing he had to kill Jimmy to save him from a horrible death. Dominic drifted off into a restless state of sleep his mind recalling all that brought the team to this point.

 

A MacV mission had been formulated to eliminate General Vin based upon Military Intelligence gathered from captured document and intercepted radio messages that General Vin was going to be at a particular Training Camp in Cambodia. If a small group of Special Operatives were able to infiltrate  this Training Camp it might be possible to eliminate General Vin. Of course this was going to have to be a totally volunteer operation and no one outside the people of MacV and the Special Operatives were to ever know about this. MacV liked to call missions like this, “Black Ops”. Made them feel very important. Most people involved with the creation of a Black Op were referred to as REMF. (Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers) Always safe in some hotel in Saigon while they conjured up missions that were close to impossible to pull off. The problem is though, there are always a certain number of flaming assholes who think they can get away with anything, who will volunteer for such ridiculous missions. You guessed it, Jimmy and Dominic fit right into that description of Flaming Asshole. But in this case they were not alone. There was also Terry and Bobby.

 

So MacV had their team, now it was a matter of getting them close to the VC Training camp; but not so close that they would be detected. Of course it would mean jumping out of a plane and of course it would be a jump in the dark and it would also be one of those new types of jumps that was being developed. The team had four weeks to prepare for this mission. They went back to Taiwan to train in this new type of jumping called, HALO. Sounds like it is named after an angel because you have to be absolutely out of your fucken mind to think about doing this. HALO does not refer to a sweet angel, it stands for, High Altitude Low Opening. Who thought up something like this?

 

HALO, High Altitude Low Opening. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane at 36,000 feet and drop to 1,000 feet before you open your parachute. Sounds insane. HALO was originally developed for Jet fighter pilots that were finding themselves at higher altitudes then prop planes. If something went wrong, well without HALO having been developed, there was no way to get out of the Jet and still be alive when you reached the ground. But military being what it is, even things that are developed for safety reasons, find a way into operational use. Understand, at 36,000 feet, a plane cannot be seen or heard from on the ground, the air is so thin you would be rendered unconscious in a matter of moments. And it is so cold, (something like -50° F) if you did not die from the lack of oxygen, then you would freeze to death very quickly. So, the team members are dressed in TJS (Thermo Jump Suits) with a pony bottle of breathable air supplied to them by means of a full-face mask. They are carrying enough dried food packets, called LURPs, to last for 30 days, compasses, maps, PRC 25 radios about 2000 rounds of ammunition for the stoners they each were carrying, several hand grenades 8 claymore antipersonnel mines, 8 C4 Antipersonnel mines and 20 blocks  of C4 each with an assortment of timing detonators. Along with socks and medical supplies, the team themselves, have absolutely nothing to identify them. No rank, no patches, no dog tags, no nothing. Their uniforms were non-descript. They were nobodies!

When you leave the plane at 36,000 feet, before you open your parachute, you are going to fall 35,000 feet. The physics of mass and gravity will cause you to fall at a speed of about 120 MPH, this is called Terminal Velocity. Now, you can control the speed within a 20 MPH range. You can even steer yourself by flaring your arms and legs. Flare your right arm, you turn right. Flare your right arm and leg, you turn right even faster. And of course, the same for the left side. The most difficult part of the HALO, is the time it will take you to fall the 35,000 feet.  Rate times Time equals Distance. So, Time equals Distance divided by Rate.  We have to do a little math here. 120 MPH is a distance of , 120 x 5280 = 633,601 feet traveled in one hour.  The distance to fall being 35,000 feet divided by 633,601 feet, gives you an answer of .0552. Multiply this number by 60 to convert into minutes and you will find that it is going to take, .0552 x 60 = 3.31 minutes or, to be exact, 3 minutes and 18.6 seconds to fall 35,000 feet. Close your eyes at a given mark on the clock. Open them when you think one minute has passed. You will find that the untrained mind will think that after about 20 to 30 seconds, one minute has passed. To have to fall for 3 minutes and 18.6 seconds, well, the inner-you learns a lot about itself. But because you can become lost in the euphoric feelings brought on by this time of falling you will not open your own chute. An altimeter set for 1000 feet will detonate a tiny charge that will blow the chute out of the pack, opening it for you. How can you become lost when you are falling you ask? When you start to fall, let’s say like the first drop on the roller coaster, you get this feeling that your stomach is going to jump up into your mouth. This sensation is caused because your internal organs are not connected directly to your bone and muscle structure. They are supported by membranes. At the initial drop, the bone and muscle having more mass, falls at a faster speed then the organs, so you get the sensation of falling. But, after about 10 to 20 seconds, everything catches up to the same speed and the sensation of falling is absolutely gone. Now, add to the fact that you cannot feel you are falling, and make it a moonless night. You are going to go out into the stars and fall through the clouds for three minutes. It’s really easy to get lost within yourself. By the way, the results of getting lost within yourself is, SPLAT!

 

Dominic did not really hate jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but he could also not say that he really enjoyed jumping. This is the team’s fourth HALO. First into a real operation. The other three were training with the Taiwanese Air Force. The drone of the C131 engines vibrated through the interior of the plane, blocking out the hissing sound of the decompression valve that had been opened to equalize the planes’ interior pressure with that of the outside atmosphere pressure at 36,000 feet. After one month of seriously hard training,  preparation and constant deciphering of information about General Vin, this was the insertion that was to lead to his termination.

 

 

 

The green light flashed and the jump master who does not leave the plane, screamed on top of all the noise, “Go!” Jimmy, Terry, Bobby and Dominic ran out the back of the C131, off the ramp into a black sky that was filled with a billion stars. “Settle, settle,” Dominic said to himself as he positioned his body for the 3 minute 18 second fall. Could not see the ground. Could not see a horizon! It was all black filled with stars. But, there appeared to be a line where the stars just stopped. That was where the sky kissed the earth. “Hey! Pay attention to what you are doing. It is not time for fucking sightseeing!” Dominic screamed at himself. Forever is the feeling of free fall. Even at 1000 feet you cannot see the ground. It is 2:00 AM and no moon. As Dominic approached 2000 feet his breathing began to become a little erratic. It was getting to the time the chute should deploy. Had to really pay attention and keep focused. If the altimeter for some reason fails and the tiny charge does not open the  chute at 1000 feet, Dominic will have to have to open it manually. But, at 1000 feet, the ground comes up really fast. There it was; the vibration of the chute pulling out of the pack and finally that upward feeling of the chute fully deployed. He still looked up. But, sorry guy, it is a black chute and you cannot see it. The ground was now coming into sight as a black shadow. Time to put his legs tight together with his knees bent just so and get ready to fall into the trees. With luck, the chute will not hang up and he will get all the way to the ground. “Thud!” Dominic felt his knees buckle as he came into contact with the ground and he rolled to the right over the top of his knapsack that was filled with all his equipment. A perfect PLF (Parachute Landing Fall). Quickly, his chute was off, the jump suit was off and he was digging a hole to lose the jumping equipment in forever. Equipment buried, Dominic now had to locate Jimmy, Bobby and Terry. Luck was with them. They had all made it to the ground in one piece and were within 50 yards of each other. With all the equipment that had to be buried, buried, the team moved out of the area to a point where they could stop and get their bearings.

 

The team was now on the ground. Cambodia soil felt the same as Vietnam, same heat, same type of jungle. they were about 6 clicks north of the Training camp where their target was going to be. The team moved out with Jimmy taking point. Dominic followed behind with Bobby and Terry bringing up the rear. Moving was slow in the dark, but they wanted to get to the area of the Training camp by day break. This way they could recon the area and see just what it was they would be up against. It was about 0200 when they headed out and arrived at the Training camp at about 0500. Sun rise would be in about another hour. They spread out and checked the perimeter meeting back at the point of arrival one hour later with information to share with each other. They found that there were three gun towers with automatic weapons. The three towers would have to be taken out and at least four guards would have to be removed if they were to gain access into the camp un-noticed. That just seemed impossible. The first day was spent observing the activities of the camp to determine the guards changed and what went on inside the camp.

On the third day, a heavily armed truck convoy arrived at the camp. With them, General Vin. Now you want to talk about the tenacity of this man, he had arrived from Hanoi. He did not fly, he, at 64 years old, rode in an old, beat up truck from Hanoi! Must never loose face of the ability of your target. This man was for sure a mans man. Imagine, bouncing around in an old beat up truck for however long it took to get from Hanoi to here. He looked a bit tired, but never the less, there he was.

 

The next week was used observing him in the training center. According to the itinerary, he would be here for three weeks. Had to find a way to take him out but at the same time insure that the team would be able to get out with a reasonable amount of security. Problem was, General Vin was never alone. There were always at least two armed guards right next to him. When he slept there was a guard who went into his hooch and two standing guard outside throughout the night. The guards changed every four hours so they were always sharp. There never seemed to be a time when he was not alone. To take him out with a long range sniper shot would be no problem. Not to terminate anyway. But the report of the shot would for sure compromise our safety. “But wait”, Dominic’s eyes opened wide with an idea, “There is a time when he is alone. When he goes the latrine, the guards do not enter with him. The guards remained outside. That’s it. Got to get him when he goes to relieve himself.”

 

 “How are you going to do that?” Jimmy asked.

  Dominic looked at the team with that silly grin he was famous for. Using a stick to draw a map in the mud he whispered “I am going to crawl down to the latrine which was located on the perimeter of the training center. I will dig my way into the pit below the back of the latrine and I will slip down into the mess. Then I am going to back fill the tunnel into the latrine pit. Once I am there, I will simply wait for him to come and do what it is that he has to do.”

 

 “Your fucken nuts.” They all whispered to him.

“Any of you swinging dicks have a better idea how we can get him without having to buy the fucken farm?”

 

Terry asked Dominic how he was going to kill the General. Dominic told him that he had brought along a 1931 Colt Ace, calibre .22L semiautomatic pistol with a silencer. When the General presented himself,  he would simply pop him. No one came up with a better idea so Dominic and his bright idea were on. In the cover of night, he crawled to the back of the latrine. Using his Swiss Army Combat Knife, he slowly dug into the soft dirt till he had an entrance into the pit beneath. He slid through, feet first, and dropped about seven feet into the mess at the bottom of the pit. he reached up and back filled the hole he had made to gain entrance.  Wow! Talk about stink!? Stink at this point referred to a pleasant fragrance of a woman’s perfume. Oh, it was horrible, man it was fucken putrid.

Two hours had gone by when Terry woke Dominic pulling him from his nightmarish tour through his memory. He said that there was an NVA patrol moving in the area. It was light and it could be seen that there were six of them. They looked really nervous, like they did not want to find what it was they were looking for. Well they didn’t. The team just let them go by. This small six man patrol meant one of two things. One, the search for the enemy had been down graded and their loss was being accepted. Or, two, this was a small patrol left out here to keep the pressure on the enemy until reinforcements were brought in.  Would be nice if they were giving up, but the team did not think it so. Dominic took watch while Terry and Bobby slept for about three hours. There did not seem to be any movement. It started to rain, might as well use the rain as a cover. The team still had about twenty clicks to go to reach the boarder.

 

The three Terry, Bobby and Dominic were exhausted not only physically and mentally, but also ammunition wise. They each had about a clip and a half for the stoners, two claymores, two C4 mines, and twenty blocks of C4 between them in addition to a variety of timing fuses. Oh yeah, they also each had a 45 with five clips (including the one in the pistol). They had to get the hell out of here. The team got their gear together and began to move out when it became very apparent that Dominic was not going to be able to move on his own. Either Terry or Bobby was going to have to help him which was going to slow their time to a crawl. Dominic told them to go and let him take care of himself. Could not see putting them in harms way for himself. He would keep up as best he could and if things went wrong, well then things went wrong.

 

Dominic was not sure about the other guys, but he always carried a single 45 round in his left shirt pocket. This was for him. If things really got out of hand and he had exhausted everything in his power to overcome the enemy or to escape and he was out of ammunition, he was mentally prepared to insert his final 45 round into the breach of the 45 and eat it. There was no way he was ever going to be taken by the enemy, alive.

 

Terry and Bobby did not agree with Dominic and He found himself being pulled to his feet and basically dragged through the jungle. He tried to make his feet move but he was not so sure they were actually doing anything other than trying to move. The rain was a good cover as it made a lot of noise which muted the thrashing movement as the three remaining team members headed towards the rendezvous LZ . A blinding flash and the sharp reports of AK47, they were being hit again. They dove into a ravine that was on the edge of an open field. Not sure how no one got hit, but for sure they were pinned down and if they did not get some sort of help, they were going to become part of the landscape. Bobby was on the radio again asking for some sort of assistance, 105’s, a Jet, a fucking flying saucer would do right about now, but there was nothing to offer other than being told to tough it out. “Tough it out? You mean die you fucking prick!” Bobby once again wanted to crawl into the mike and rip out this assholes stomach through his mouth.  But then it was a copter pilot asking for their coordinates.  Bobby gave them to him and he told Bobby he would be there in ten minutes. So it was hold their own. They began to devise a plan that would sort of distract the NVA from the arriving chopper. Now that was a great prize. Many times, a pinned down force was kept alive just so to draw in a helicopter. C4, they had about 20 blocks of C4 with them. They also had various time fuses for the C4. A hand grenade is nice, but C4 makes a hand grenade look like a jelly sandwich. They started pushing five second timers into the blocks of C4. When the chopper was coming in, they were going to fling the C4 block at the ambush line and under the resulting blasts, make a mad dash to the chopper.

 

The chopper began making its approach. Dominic maintained fire with his stoner as Bobby and Terry began to chuck the C4 blocks at the ambush line. The chopper hovered and touched ever so lightly so as to maintain lift. Bobby and Terry grabbed Dominic and they began their mad dash towards the helicopter. It was surreal; the C4 began to explode as did the area around the chopper from the mortars that were being walked into it. As they ran they could see and hear the bullets hitting the chopper. The pilot just sat there with his head straight ahead holding the chopper in place. The crew chief and the door gunners were firing into the tree line but the pilot just sat patiently as the bubble and the body of the chopper took hits, waiting for Bobby, Terry and Dominic to get their asses on board. About ten steps from the chopper, Bobby fly forward. He had taken a round in the back. Terry and Dominic grabbed him and they threw him into the chopper and began yelling, “GO! GO! GO!”  The pilot, who had been just sitting there, came alive and the chopper was pulling up and away from the ambush this pilot had just so matter-a-fact set his chopper down in the middle of. He had landed in the middle of a fire fight to pull the three team members out of the frying pan. Dominic could not help himself, he crawled over to the side of the pilots seat, pulling on the pilots shirt sleeve. When the pilot turned to look at Dominic, Dominic screamed as loud as he could to try and get over the noise of the chopper, “Do you want a blow job now or later?”

 

It is amazing how one minute you are prepared to die and then out of what seems to be nowhere, you are rushing though the sky, the sun is warm and brilliant, your heart is slowing down from the 140 beats a minute it has been beating at for the past number of days and the cold sweat that has held you together is slowly evaporating from your body. You are alive and your mind is starting to realize that you are still alive. You relax, you lean back and close your eyes at which point your brain now begins to replay the horror of what you have just been through. But you do not move, your eyes stay shut, you do not react to the memories of the mission, the ambushes, the loosing of Jimmy, the killing you have just done. Dominic faded into a subconscious sleep with Jimmy’s smile etched on the insides of his eye lids.

 

The helicopter landed on Tan Son Nut Air Base in Saigon. Bobby and Dominic were medevac’d  to the Base hospital. Terry simply disappeared. Dominic did not see Terry again till he returned to Taipei, Taiwan some seven weeks later. Dominic was flown out of Vietnam to the Air Force Hospital at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines where they had what was necessary to treat the poisons that were ripping through his body. Not sure how long he laid in the bed with all sort of IV’s stuck into him. He did not really know where he was, pretty much in a semiconscious state. Finally he was awake and becoming aware of what was happening and where he was. One of the Nurses asked Dominic, “Who is Jimmy?” No words came to his mouth, his eyes filled with tears and he lay within the beginning of his own private hell remembering Jimmy and the sound of the shot he fired to end his life.

 

When returning to Taipei, Taiwan Dominic met up with Terry who told him that Bobby had died in the Saigon Hospital from the wounds he received running to the chopped. Individually they were both called to Det “A” command office. Terry and Dominic were told they were done and being sent home on leave before reporting to their next duty station. When it was Dominic’s turn to enter the command office, he was given a hardy well done for his services to Det “A” and handed a set of orders; “No later than 32 days after arrival in CONUS you are directed to report to your Intermediate Duty Station, Navinshopstracencal, Mare Island, Calif for Temduins appx 11 wks SERE and Rivwarfare ops trng to include 1 wk gunnery trng. Assigned to RIVRON 11 HP, Sdiego.”

Dominic looked at his commanding officer, LTCDR Gearhart and asked what this was. He told him he was being assigned to River Boats in Vietnam as he had requested on his dream sheet leaving boot camp. A second question was asked by Dominic, “What is this SERE?”

Mr. Gearhart looked at Dominic and smirked with a bit of a laugh, “Seems that all Naval personal being assigned to in-country Vietnam duty are required to go through SERE, Survival, Evasion, resistance and Escape training before they go in country.” He dipped his head to the right and shrugged his shoulders, “It’s the Navy way.” Dominic turned to leave the office, “Dominic.” LTCDR Gearhart called, “If you ever need something, call!”

 

Dominic was going back to Vietnam on a River Boat. But first, he got to go home and see his family for 32 days. “New York, here I come.” Dominic yelled to himself.  Happiness flowed over him as he prepared to go home to New York. What had gone on for the last eighteen months felt as though they were memories from some movie Dominic had seen or a book he had read. He was going home and then heading out for another adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two: Never will forget Mom’s face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominic did not say he was coming home, wanted to surprise them. It was early Saturday morning, about 2:30, when he stepped out of the taxi. Quietly he walked up the driveway  to the backyard. Dom’s parents had a bedroom in the finished basement and he was going to have walk past the small basement window that opened into their bedroom. He hoped that the garage was not locked, It wasn’t.  Slowly he lifted the roll up door a bit so he could crouch under and get inside. On the right hand corner there was always a key to the backdoor of the house. Yup, there it hung as always. Taking the key he crouched under the, partially opened door, went over to unlock the backdoor and then return the key to its rightful place. Easily he put the garage door back down. Dominic went into the house, closing the door behind himself and locking it, he then, quietly, went up the stairs to find that his old room was still not changed. Closing the bedroom door, laying his sea-bag on the floor, removing his shoes, he laid down on the bed and fell asleep.

His sleep was fitful, he was tired, but Vietnam weighted heavy on his mind. His subconscious mind swept him back into the jungle. Snap, crack the trees contracting in the nights cold, added to the already spooky surroundings of the jungle. Dominic has been sitting just off the Ho Chi Min trail for the past nine days. Bored senseless, counting the type of traffic and equipment moving down towards South Vietnam. Of course he was not in Vietnam, he was in Laos. Although, looking at the jungle, there is nothing to distinguish one country from another. No matter what jungle you are in, it stinks. No, really! A jungle stinks of rotting vegetation.  Thinking back to the Jungle Jim movies, jungles were always portrayed as exotic places filled with gorgeous flowers and tropical plants. Well they are, but the floor of the jungle is covered with the leaves and flowers that have dropped. The jungle being very humid and dark, these things rot and as more and more falls, the matting of the jungle floor becomes this mush that is putrid and filled with things that are just waiting for you to come by and become lunch or dinner for them. Biting insects, leeches and infections just looking for a place to be. A small scratch turns septic is what seems minutes. And then there are the insidious flies. Big black things. They don’t bother you if you do not have an open wound. But just get a scratch and they are on you like stick on shit. Not to mention the mosquitoes! Big enough to pick you up and fly away. This is where Dominic was. Just sitting and counting how many trucks go by, how many bicycles loaded with arms go by, how many armed troops passed. Just sit and count. This is how intelligence is gathered. Don’t shoot them, because this is where Dominic was going to be for the next three weeks.  Just Dominic and the jungle. If he shoots them, he would break his cover. And being alone in such a place is not a situation in which Dominic want the enemy to know he was there. So he just sits and count.

  Hours have passed and nothing has moved down the trail. But still it is never a time to become sloppy and lose focus on what it is you are doing and where it is you are. Voices, he heard voices. Not many, just a couple. Dominic’s vantage point allows him to see a curve in the trial and then about 40 yards down the trail as it passes by his position. He could see that there were only three. Three NVA. One of them has a satchel, looked to be filled. The other two were obviously guard escorts. They are armed with AK47s’ and side arms. Only NVA officers wore side arms. Now why would a currier be escorted by two armed NVA officers? Had to be that the documents he was carrying were so sensitive they demanded an escort of such. This changed the mission. Dominic  was no longer going to be counting. Now, he had to figure a way to get the satchel of documents and get them back to MacV in Saigon before it was known they were missing.

Actually, getting them back to MacV in Saigon was no big deal. Dominic  had a prearranged code to transm


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