April 19, 1969
The driver turned off the road and started driving toward the source of the rockets. We
assaulted the enemy as we had been trained to do, although I couldn’t recall anyone ever
suggesting that assaulting with a single track was a good idea.
We were all firing as we saw some of the soldiers stand up and run for the trees. It only took a few moments for the next track down the road to join us. Within a few minutes we had a full complement of tracks and tanks.
As the sun went down it was replaced with artillery parachute flares. As we swept through the area of the ambush we found a wounded NVA soldier. He was still holding a loaded B-40 rockets, but was apparently not in shape to run. I pointed my rifle at the man yelled what I thought was "Surrender" in Vietnamese. The Lieutenant still on the APC had the driver pull up so the lights from the APC shinned on the wounded man. In an act of defiance the wounded soldier tried to point the B-40 rocket at the APC. The Lieutenant fired on the man and he dropped the rocket. I grabbed him by the leg and pulled him out of reach of the rocket.
I knelt down by the wounded soldier. I could see the neck wound he must have received in our initial exchange. His knee was also shattered from the 50 caliber blast he had just received. I was told a dust off (medical helicopter) was on its way to pick him up.
Clear the airways is the first step in first aid. I tried to open the soldiers mouth to see if everything was OK, but he would not open his mouth. Not being able to clear the airways I went to step number 2 - Stop the bleeding.
I had been uncomfortable in training when I learned the first aid packet I carried was for me and not to be used on others. I looked at the soldiers belt and he had a first aid packet. I opened it up and joked with the other guys that I had not been trained in NVA first aid. I took out the bandage and placed it on the neck of the soldier. He just looked at me. He never showed fear or pain. As I worked on his knee I heard the sound of the helicopter arriving to pick him up. I sensed the breathing had stopped. I looked back at his face and life had left his eyes.
The dust off landed behind me and the medic looked at the lifeless body. The medic announced the soldier was dead. He told me he had swallowed his tongue and was fairly common in neck wounds.
I wondered why I grieved for this single life that I could not save, when the plan for the night was to stop the enemy, not save them.
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