"Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, 'how much should we give?'
Ooh they only answer, More! more! more! yoh!"
John Fogarty, Fortunate Son
The intensity did not let up for Mike Company after the battle in the Que Sons. We returned to our routine of daily patrols and nightly ambushes, barely getting any sleep. It was grueling, and the monsoon rains just made us miserable as we slogged about the area near LZ Baldy. Our only saving grace was that we didn't have to hump backpacks full of food, fresh socks and other supplies as we were able to return to the rear area before going out on ambush.
Despite not having the packs, we were still carrying a pretty heavy load. When on patrol, individual Marines would hump their own weaponry and ammo, and share reponsibility for things such as radio batteries, machine gun ammo, mortar rounds and other material that might be crucial to the mission. The overall discomfort of this activity is generally overlooked when people consider the combat experience.
On September 2nd, our entire company was on a sweep of an area that we knew as Pagoda Valley. This particular piece of real estate was infested with booby traps and enemy snipers who had probably been left behind when the 1st NVA regiment had pulled out of the area. Their job was to slow us down through harrassing fire, and they were very good at this.
About noon, we stopped for a brief period of time to catch a breather, and maybe cook up a quick C-ration meal. Because we were so depleted by the action on August 28th, I was flying solo; without an assistant gunner or ammo humpers. I sat down at the foot of a small rise which was topped by a tree, removed my helmet and put on my soft cover. I had prepared my meal, using the dry can from the ration kit and a heat tablet for my beef when I heard a rifle shot from my rear. The sound seemed to come from the treeline adjacent to our position and I gathered up the M60 and did a low crawl up the rise, thinking that I could lay down some fire to suppress the sniper while we assaulted the treeline that he occupied. I got about halfway up the hill when I felt as though someone hit me on the head with a baseball bat.
The force of the sniper round turned me over on my back, and I recall seeing my own blood spouting into the air and back into my eyes. It was as if I was swimming in a pool filled with red water. I became aware of a medical corpsman tending to me, and my buddy Chuck Richardson coming over to check on my condition. The corpsman yelled to the CP that we would need an emergency medevac, despite the overcast weather conditions. I lost conciousness several times before the chopper arrived. While this was going on, my buddies were assaulting the treeline, and eventually sent the sniper to the next world as a result of a particularly well-aimed M79 round (grenade launcher).
Once airborne, I began to shake from the relative coolness of the air and the shock of getting wounded. The crew chief put his flight jacket around me and stayed by my side throughout the flight. Fortunately for me, I got full attention from the crew as there was not much other action going on that day. Once we landed at First Med, I was wheeled into an operating room and looked over by an entire team of doctors. Luckily for me, the round simply laid open my scalp and caused a concussion as they could find no damage to my skull. One of the doctors indicated that it was probably good that I didn't have my helmet on when the round hit me, as the hard surface would not have stopped the bullet and could have deflected it downward into my head.
Stitched and bandaged, I then enjoyed three full days of rest in a soft bed, tended to by comely nurses and attentive orderlies. I ate like a hog and wrote a letter to my mom to make sure she knew I was okay. The Department of Defense sent her a telegraph about the incident, and I wanted her to here from me as soon as possible.
Finally, I was sent back to the unit, happy to see the fellas, but missing the good treatment I got at First Med. My status on full duty wouldn't last for long, however, as the next challenge came quickly--this time from a less impressive source than the NVA sniper.