Monday, May 16, 2011

Vietnam -- One Day in December when the air raged with thunder of Thor

Of all the days I spent in Vietnam the one I remembered the most was a in December. And, it wasn't Christmas.

To be fair, in Vietnam, there really isn't a totally quiet day.

There were times when even the war went to sleep.

Even at that, at its calmest of moments, life has a way of making itself known. Especially, at night.

At 2 am, when most are sleeping, you venture out to gaze up into the heavens, listen for the sharp crack of crickets chirping or the song of frogs serenading the silence with loud and sensuous burping, and let your imagination take you down to the lake where you felt like Huck Finn. Sitting under the shade of a rotting old tree and fishing for Blue Gill.

You bathed in the whisper of the princess of autumn, serenaded by tomorrow with the skin cool air and scolding her sister of summer for the dried out simmering earth.

On nights like this, you could almost feel the souls of he dead howling in the breeze.  Tainting the air with their unfinshed business.

But when the wind whips up some reality into your face, you're back in Vietnam. Whipped by the wind a light dust coats your tongue with the flavor of dirt and sulphur. Combined with the orchestra of truth, the thunder bombs being dropped off in the distance draws you back into the undaunting war of decisions you have no control over.

You sigh a bit as you wipe the dust off your tongue because you know those were blessed with your memories and your rememberance. There just wasn't enough of them.

But I knew as long as I was able to do this I was one day closer to going home. And that's all that mattered.

As the day builds layers upon layers of sound to cover simplicity of the night, there are other sounds unforgotten. A blood curdling scream from a guy washing a jeep in the who discovered the hard way why snapping turtles got their name.

I now know why dog to the Vietnamese are a considered food.  They're too stupid to live. Imagine watching two male dogs mate and then get stuck yelping because they couldn't get away from each other. Then snapping at anyone who would try to help them.

A 45 took care of that problem.

The sound of a First Sergeant stuttering while yelling, "dee dee mmm oooo www, you son of a bbbbbbiiiiiiittttccchhhhh."

You can even get use to the sound and the smell of a pig being fattened up for a summer festival.

Add the sounds of screaming turbines and air pounding rotorblades and after a while almost ever noise in Nam sounded common place.

Except for this day. Off in the distance you could hear the sounds of AH-G Cobras starting up over on the B Battery's Bull Pen. Not two or four but all. Minutes later, there was silence.

One hour later, off to the north it began. At first, you thought it might just be a section of UH-1H Hueys but a few minutes later, you knew it wasn't just 12. And there was a more throaty sound to the blade hammered air.

Men began to run.  Not for shelter, not for their guns, but for their cameras.  The sounds intensified.  And then you could see them.  36 of them in formation loaded to the max with rockets, mini guns and 40mm gernade launchers.  If all that firepower, the entire back area of Camp Eagle could have easily been wipped off the planet. Some 2592 rockets were loaded into those wing store mounted tubes.

The air was hammered into submission as though by Thor himself.

It came at you in the form of ground shaking, head pounding waves. The spark of unity and sense excitement flowed in all of us that day. And as they flew over my head, I got goose bumps and started smiling to myself. That is why I was here.  I just knew it.  That Battery call the El Toros was going to be my new home. If I can't be up in the air doing it, I might as well be on the ground supporting it.

That is exactly what I did.

By the way, that was the first time and the last time in my life that I ever saw 36 AH-IG Cobras fly in formation like that.

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