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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frank Elmore's War


(C) James J Alonzo

It was June, 1967 the monsoon season in the Delta, which produced a hot, humid, rainy night in the rainforest of this particular place in Vietnam. Viet Nam would be the ideal gig for a lazy weatherman reporting the weather, since there were only two seasons in the delta, Monsoon and Dry, and the temperature today, the low is 98 degrees, with the high 100 degrees hot!!

Today's weather; hot, humid, and rain. Tomorrow's forecast, more rain, more humidity, and hot!

This rain didn't slow the seemingly endless firefights Frank could see in the distance.

Frank was 19; drafted out of a Flint, Michigan. He had just started employment at the local Pontiac manufacturing plant out of high school, where he was a star running back, with a GTO Pontiac convertible and lots of friends, mostly women.

Here, he was just another soldier who should have listened to his mom, gone to college and stayed far away from this God-forsaken country. The nearest beautiful and exotic girls were miles away in Saigon.

These were his thoughts as he stood his two hour guard at night watch. His platoon was asleep, while he stood there with rain dripping off his helmet, his thoughts were of home, parents, girlfriends, even his younger sister and brother.

He thought about life, as he wiped the water off his M-16 for the twentieth time in almost as many minutes. His life, mostly: the past, present, and the future.

Was there going to be a future for him, he wondered? War seemed so senseless, however the rich and shameless and their cronies, old men in suits who were country leaders thought these wars up, and sent our nations youth. But not their sons and daughters, the rich don't choose to fight them.

Suddenly, something brought him back to the present, a noise, intuition maybe? He stood erect.

"Who goes there?" (nhung người đi đó?) he called out into the pitch black night.

He wasn't surprised there was no response, but Frank remained cautious, as he had his M-16 trained on the jungle. He gave the alert to his platoon, falling into a prone position, and opened fire on the bush.

Frank heard some (NVA) North Vietnamese soldiers fall out screaming, riddled with machine gun fire. Another VC jumped up and threw a grenade at Frank! The M-16 barked again and he joined the other NVA shot. The whole platoon was in position now and firing, for the enemy had a large force over there in the rain.

The grenade had landed between Frank and his sergeant. As Frank reached to get it, a bullet caught Sgt. Pavlovich in the chest. Frank threw the hand grenade back towards the bushes, but the shrapnel from it hit him in the left arm. Frank bleeding, still managed to field dress his sergeant's wound and carried him back behind the line of fire.

The platoon was able to drive the enemy back into the jungle but the cost was high. There was blood everywhere. Bodies lay scattered, some still alive, some dead, some dismembered.

Dawn was breaking - the rescue choppers were landing in pairs with a third gunship spraying the jungle with gunfire to hold the enemy back. The medic who treated Sgt. Pavlovich credited Frank with saving Pavlovich's life. Frank was put on a stretcher also and sent to the Medivac hospital.

Upon arrival, the doctors thought at first, that he would lose his arm but the doctors managed to save it. However, as Frank convalesced, he found out he would permanently have limited use of it. So he was sent home with a Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star Medal of Valor for saving his segeant's life.

He never heard from SGT Pavlovich and wish he could locate him to see how he has been. The soldiers who had died in this battle were sent home and given proper military funerals.

Frank went to the funeral of one of his buddies from Detroit, Michigan, and as he stood there, listening to the playing of taps and then witnessed the twenty-one gun salute at the funeral's end. That also signaled that Frank's war was over.

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© Copyright 2012 James J Alonzo All rights reserved.
James J Alonzo has granted Agent Orange Legacy its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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