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Saturday, August 31, 2013

("Tell me over and over and over again my friend, you don’t believe, we’re on the eve of destruction”)…Barry McGuire

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration

Chapter Eleven

An Hoa, Republic of Viet Nam, November, 1968...Somewhere near Dodge City

They had been out humping the bush since daybreak after dropping in at the LZ about four or five clicks from the area known as Dodge City. It was a 36 square kilometer area south of DaNang and about twenty or so kilometers from where they had started from in An Hoa. The NVA and Mr. Charlie were thought to be thick in this place and the brass had decided that the Marines would be cleaning house big-time here. They had seen nothing but water buffalo, bugs, and skeeters all day, and then the daily downpour came at sunset. The rain would fall in big fat drops so thick that you could not see but a foot or two in any direction. And with the humidity, you actually were sweating as well. It was no wonder that the chicks here had such beautiful skin. If someone were to bottle this place, they’d make a fortune selling the world’s greatest moisturizer.

“Just like back home in Biloxi, Mississippi,” JoJo Cole would say in his smart-ass tone. He was a real pain, but usually he was more funny than irritating, and that was a nice diversion from the steady diet of fear and boredom. It was shortly after the rain stopped and the night fell that things got interesting, not the first encounter for most of them, but the last for some of them.

Junior lay very still in the tall elephant grass. He stared up at the night sky, a pitch-black backdrop freckled brilliantly by a million twinkling stars. It was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. You would never get a chance to see something like this in east LA he thought. The corners of his mouth began to pull his face up into a smile. It was the kind of smile that he usually saved for his kid sisters (Sonja and Leticia), his Mom and Grand-pop, his Tia Irma’s homemade tamales, and of course, the current Playmate of the Month.

He lay there, quiet and still, sweating bullets in the heat of the night, watching the stars blink back at him. A shooting star suddenly passed by quickly, falling from the sky like a ripe apple from a tree. The giggle that was about to escape his lips was stifled, as a large hand slapped over his mouth. Junior’s eyes snapped wide open almost bugging out of his head with the fear that he was about to be wasted by a VC ‘crawler’. He sighed, a loud exhale through his nose as he recognized Hightower.

The huge Texan’s face was grotesquely camouflaged with alternating stripes of olive green and black paint, and was one inch from his daydreaming friend’s. Hightower didn’t speak, but Junior understood his meaning by the look in his eyes. He was to be very quiet, make no sound. Obviously they were not alone! Junior blinked an affirmative to his buddy’s silent warning, placing one hand over Hightower’s and reaching for his M16 with the other. Wesley Hightower had been sent out on a solo recon detail after the firefight about a half-hour earlier. He let go of Junior’s face and rolled to his right, crawling quickly to where Gunny and D-Day the unit's current radio operator (aka Dave Davis) were hunkered.

“What you got for me boy?” Sgt. Marquette whispered loudly.

Hightower slid in close beside the two men and removed his helmet. He took the sweat towel from around his neck, dried the top of his head and replaced his cover back onto his head.

“We’re in deep shit Gunny! Charlie's crawling all around us, I had to grease one just to get back here,” he said still trying to catch is breath.

“I don’t know where that dip shit butter bar was trying to lead us, but he damn sure fucked things up real good this time!” Sergeant Marquette looked back at the frustrated grunt and scowled at him. He was about to reprimand him when a sing-song voice broke the hushed silence.

“Hell white boy, show some respect for the dead, he’s one of you ain’t he? All that pretty blond hair, crying shame, that’s what that is, mother fuckin cryin shame,” said PFC Joseph Cole from the other side of the muddy ditch.

“CAN IT JoJo, you trying to draw fire down on this position boy!” Gunny spat back at the soldier in a harsh whisper, his teeth clenched tightly.

“Son, that kind of talk ain’t gonna get us outta this jam now is it?”

“I know your momma didn’t teach you none of them words.”

They stared back at the bloody remains of Lieutenant Daniel Sheridan, their recently deceased platoon leader. He had been the latest in a string of 90-day wonders that routinely showed up in country. These young officers were commonly referred to as ‘butter bars’ because of the cloth rank insignia on their uniforms (shiny gold lieutenant bars weren’t a very good idea in the field). However among the combat vets the term was used more sarcastically, depicting the fact that these newbies didn’t know shit, and that meant they were a danger to whoever had to follow them. Typically you saluted and yes sir’d these guys but took direction from your platoon sergeant, the seasoned leadership in the field.

“Sorry Sergeant Percy. I didn’t mean nothin by it,” JoJo said flatly.

“Boy don’t you get familiar with me, I ain’t no kin to you. Refer to me as sergeant or gunny, do not call me by my Christian name, you hear!”

“Yes sergeant, loud and clear,” JoJo replied, getting up onto one knee and looking more alert.

“Wesley, get your redneck Texas ass over here and give me some details son,” Gunny said still glaring at JoJo.

Junior watched and listened to all of this while trying to be aware of every noise and movement around him. It was these times when all of your senses were heightened, when you could hear centipede’s footsteps, or a mouse fart. Still lying on his back, he released the safety with his right index finger and held the M16 a little tighter. Maybe not the wisest maneuver given these close quarters, but better ready and steady, than cautious and nauseous he decided. Junior smiled remembering the cadence drill from boot camp, “this my rifle, this is my gun, this ones for business, this ones for fun,” they would chant over and over while marching around the barracks in their skivvies one hand shouldering their M16 and the other holding their johnson. Tonight Junior and the rest of the platoon kept both hands on the business end of their M16’s. He turned his head to the right and could see Gunny talking into the radio handset, Hightower, Davis and Cole kneeling around him, each of them scanning the bush looking for signs of Mr. Charlie.

He set his gaze on the body of Lieutenant Sheridan and studied the stillness of it; it was almost like looking at a painting, like it wasn’t real. He turned his head to the left and suddenly everything was real again. Only five feet from where he rested in the muddy grass was another body. This one wasn’t in quite so peaceful a position as the lieutenant’s had been. This one was all turned and twisted, badly bruised, missing a part or two here and there, gizzards and giblets hanging from it’s middle and such, like a turkey freshly slaughtered for the feast. This one, not even an hour before, had been telling Junior a joke about the Easter Bunny, Cupid and the Tooth Fairy standing at the urinal in the officer's latrine. He couldn’t remember the punch-line, all he could remember was that he had been walking through this muck right next to this one when the mortar round slammed into the ground directly in front of them.

All he could remember was the ringing in his ears and the searing pain in his head as he rolled from side to side trying to make it stop. Seeing the tracers light up the night, whizzing by him, brilliant green and red streaks of light, it was almost beautiful. He could not hear the incoming rounds or the screams of the guys around him, the urgent directions hollered by his platoon sergeant, or the thump thump thump of tree-line mortar rounds as they rained deadly razor sharp fleshettes onto the ground and into the mud or bodies of the targets they found. All he could remember was that this twisted mass of flesh and bone lying near him had been his friend since day one at boot camp.

The guy had been with him through thick and thin, had carried his drunken behind out of many a tight spot, held him by the collar while he puked into his locker-box, and studied with him late after taps to help him get ready for his GED test. All he could remember was that this one was his friend, Angel Martinez. Junior, Angel, and Hightower were tight, the three amigos baby. Junior turned his head away and looked at the night sky again. Somehow it wasn’t as beautiful anymore. Someone was going to pay for this alright, oh yeah, someone was going to pay. Junior pulled back the lever on his weapon putting a round into the chamber, and set the switch to automatic. Most definitely, there was going to be some payback tonight!

The Huey banked to the left slightly and then leveled out flying at one hundred and fifteen knots, about one hundred meters above the trees below. It was a clear morning, not a cloud in the sky and nothing much happening below either from what the Air Cavalry Captain could see from his jockey seat. He adjusted the frequency on the radio located in the center of the control console and put a hand to his ear. They usually flew with the side doors open and so there was always a lot of racket to talk over.

“Foxhunt leader to posse, we’re getting close girls, we’ll circle once and drop in two at a time for extraction, Medi-Vacs first as usual,” Captain Wallace barked into the headset microphone.

“Lock and load, and try not to grease any of the good guys y’all. I don’t want to have to write any more FF letters home, OK?” he pleaded.

FF letters were sent to families explaining that their loved one had been killed or wounded by friendly fire. Captain Wallace wondered if any of these letters were ever actually mailed, as they had to be cleared by the brass first, and given the current popularity of the war, well, it wouldn't surprise me if those letters were lost on purpose.

“Roger that boss man, we have removed the blindfold from Corporal Parrish as instructed, that should help, but we aren’t responsible for those crossed eyes of his,” joked the last of the eight Huey pilots to check in.

“Real funny Garvey, that’ll cost you a Bud or two when we get back, over,” Captain Wallace replied. The sun was rising fast and high behind the squadron of Huey helicopters as they raced above the tree line toward the battle weary marines just a few minutes ahead. The shadows of the helicopters stretched long and lean across the countryside as they flew in formation, like a small pack of wild ‘mechanical’ ducks heading south for the winter. Small arms fire began peppering the sky around the Hueys and they climbed another hundred meters to a safer altitude.

“Foxhunt leader to Recon leader, pop some smoke Gunny, we’re getting close, over,” Captain Wallace said into his com-set. No reply, he repeated his order.

“Foxhunt leader to Recon leader, I say again, blow some smoke, do you copy, over?” There was a little loud crackling in his ear, but the Huey pilot could hear a response coming.

“Recon leader, to Foxhunt leader, little busy down here, this will be a hot LZ, I repeat, this will be a hot LZ, over,” came the voice of Sergeant Percy Marquette.

“Roger that Gunny, what’s the current situation, over.”

“Charlie has us pinned in a rice paddy about 300 yards from the original LZ, you’ll have to hover, too wet to land. Got two KIA’s, five badly wounded, and fifteen of Uncle Sam’s nephews keeping the dinks off of their buddies, they’re cold, hungry, and anxious, me included, over,” Percy said into the radio, the sound of automatic weapons blaring in the background.

“Roger that Gunny, keep your heads down, we’re coming in with the mini guns first and spraying the perimeter, do you copy, over?”

“Aye-aye Captain, give em hell sir, out!”

Captain Wallace looked over at his co-pilot and nodded, he then looked back over his shoulder at the door-gunner on the M60 gun that was side-mounted in the belly of the helicopter. A twenty year-old Private smiled at him chewing nervously on a thick wad of bubble gum and gave him the thumbs up sign. The Huey pilot turned back around in his seat and looked straight ahead at the hilly countryside, knowing that they were about to clear those hills and descend into a hornets nest of live fire and confusion. He held his breath a second and prayed for mercy for all, and for forgiveness for the lives he would take this day.

“Foxhunt leader to posse, you all heard the man, we got ants at the picnic.”

“Butch, Duke, Sundance, stay on my six and follow me in over the rise and over to the area around the red smoke yonder, copy?”

The three Huey pilots all acknowledged receipt of the orders as they followed Captain Wallace over the rise in attack formation. The red smoke that signified a hot LZ could be seen just to the left of their position. The ground-fire was heavy and everyone hoped that Charlie didn't have any RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades). If prayers were really heard then they would only have to deal with small arms weapons thought Captain Wallace, reassuring himself. He angled his helicopter toward the ground, the business side of the Huey ablaze with the action of the murderous fire from the M60 gun, hundreds of shell casings falling to the earth as the deadly projectiles sought out targets on the ground below. In a few minutes he and his crew will have put more minerals into the area than a thousand years of natural evolution. The Hueys circled in and out of the area surrounding the billowing red smoke for about fifteen minutes, cutting down grass, trees, bushes, and whatever or whoever crossed the path of their deadly purpose.

When Captain Wallace decided that the risk was minimal he ordered in the Medi-Vacs. The choppers tasked with providing cover for the pick up circled the area looking for signs of trouble. They darted around the perimeter, in close and then out wide just in case Charlie was trying to set up a mortar attack on the LZ. This morning their luck was good, or more precisely, Captain Wallace’s prayers had been heard.

“Foxhunt leader to Recon leader, how’s it going down there Gunny, over?”

“Going fine Captain, just what the doctor ordered sir!”

“Roger that Gunny, just another day at the office.”

The Huey gun-ships continued to patrol the perimeter while the Medi-vacs hovered near the rice paddy and the grunts carried their dead and wounded to the aircraft. Junior and Hightower were zipping up the body bag that held their buddy Angel, the wind from the helicopter rotors flattening the tall grass all around them. Junior was looking at his hands, they were covered with Angel’s blood after picking up what was left of him and stuffing it all into that heavy rubber bag. He was clenching his fists so tight that the blood oozed up from between his fingers, his body shook violently with frustrated anger, he finally screamed as loud as he could, “Nooooooo!”

Only Hightower could hear the cry, muffled by the racket of the hovering aircraft. Junior fell to his knees sitting back on the heels of his jump-boots, he slumped forward, arms resting on his thighs, and put his face into his bloody hands. He sobbed uncontrollably in that spot as Hightower stood over him, his big paw stroking his friend’s head and neck. The helicopter may have drowned out the sound of Junior’s anguish, but everyone looking out of the transport upon the scene could feel the weight of his frustration and desperation carried through the air in his silent primal scream. This was a life changing moment for everyone, how could it be any less. The memory of this action would haunt each of them, it would make men or monsters, only time would tell. In these few moments they had been exposed to the cruelest of diseases, hatred, a cancer that closed minds and hardened hearts. Cruel given that it was self-inflicted, and came with a cure that was always at hand. Cruel in that the cure was difficult to administer, because it required a change of heart, a willingness to forgive.

“Yo, Hightower, pick up Junior and let’s go man, let the corpsmen take Angel onto the sandman’s sled,” JoJo pleaded with the big Texan. Wesley looked over at JoJo and fought the urge to frag the smart-ass prick.

“Yeah, OK,” he said, and he leaned over to help Junior get to his feet.

“Lets go, lets go, lets go,” yelled the door-gunner, waiving them toward the Medi-Vac nearest them. Junior did not want to leave without Angel, and he struggled a bit with Hightower at first.

"Leave him man, the corpsmen are right behind us, they’ll put him on the transport Junior. You want to get us all slicked you dumb-ass wetback,” JoJo yelled at the distraught marine! Hightower put is beefy arms around his buddy from behind and picked him up off of his feet, kicking and screaming.

“Put me down ya big ape, I’m not leaving Angel here for the dinks!”

“Shut up Junior, look the corpsmen are right here, see!”

“Hold still or I’ll roll you up in a body bag like a burrito you crazy beaner. You can sweat in it all the way back to An Hoa for all I care,” Hightower shouted to his friend over the beating of the chopper’s rotor blades.

“Yeah, damn skippy,” JoJo added sarcastically.

“Shut your trap JoJo, I don’t need any of your jive nigger bullshit right now,” Hightower fired back at his least favorite marine.

“Who you callin nigger JIM, you better watch I don’t bust a cap in your big white behind while you run back to the chopper, that’s right, you heard me,” JoJo sassed back, looking around to see if he had enough witnesses.

“You jerk-offs better be on that transport in ten God damn seconds or I’ll bag and tag each of your sorry asses and write your mommas myself, now MOVE OUT,” shouted Sergeant Marquette as he ran up on the trio of squabbling grunts.

He motioned to the corpsmen to pick up Angel’s body and take him back to the helicopter. He turned to see if the three loud mouths had started for the transport as he ordered, fully prepared to shoot whoever was still standing where he last saw them. They were already at the chopper and Hightower was shoving Junior through the side door. Percy followed the corpsmen back to their ride, about three or four strides behind them. They were about five yards from the waiting chopper when the whole area erupted in small arms fire. Rounds were bouncing off of the helicopters, the trees and audibly ripping through the thick elephant grass making a sound like tearing wrapping paper. Percy let out a holler as he felt the bullet rip into his right hamstring muscle. Stopping dead in his tracks, he collapsed onto his left knee. Turning instinctively he opened fire in the general direction of the enemy. The door-gunner opened fire as well, covering Percy with hundreds of hot shell casings, each of them burning him wherever they made contact with his uncovered skin.

“Oh shit,” he exclaimed rolling to his left to get out of the way of the hot little bastards.

As the corpsmen lifted Angel onto the chopper the man holding the litter on the outside of the helicopter took two rounds in the back. He dropped his end of the litter and then Angel’s lifeless body, was hit by four or five rounds as well, the body bag ripping into tattered pieces. Percy scrambled to his feet, the pain in his leg nearly causing him to pass out. He grabbed the fallen corpsman and pulled him to his feet, shoving him as close to the hovering chopper as he could. The other corpsman and one of Percy’s marines from the platoon, PFC Scotty Jenkins, grabbed the unconscious man and dragged him into the helicopter. Percy turned back around, reloaded his M16 with a fresh clip and continued to return fire.

“Come on Gunny, gimmie your hand man, hey, gimmie your hand,” yelled Jenkins to his wounded platoon sergeant. Percy couldn’t hear him over the rotor noise and his chattering weapon.


Percy looked back over his shoulder, his weapon becoming almost too hot to hold, the smell of cordite filling his nostrils. He tried to blink the sweat from his eyes, not wanting to lift a hand from his M16 and risk being over run by Charlie. The dinks couldn’t be more than a hundred feet from his position now. Looking around he could see that this was the last chopper still on the ground. He could hear Jenkins urging him to get moving, he could hear Mr. Charlie shouting at him as well. He was bleeding badly and he knew the only thing keeping him on his feet was the adrenaline pumping swiftly through his body.

“Gunny, take my hand man,” Jenkins pleaded, one foot on the skid, leaning halfway out of the chopper, clinging to the airframe with one hand.

Percy turned back towards the enemy and squeezed off the last of his clip then dropped his weapon. He turned to reach for the soldier’s hand but the chopper had drifted up, just out of his reach. He tried to stand but the strength was gone from him, his right leg too badly damaged. He was ready to surrender to his fate when the helicopter skid appeared in front of his eyes and a pair of strong hands grabbed onto him. Jenkins pulled with all of his might on his sergeant’s shoulders and dragged him onto the skid below him. The corpsman holding onto his legs raised a hand to the pilot and signaled for him to take off. The young pilot lifted the chopper from the ground gently so as not to drop the precious cargo. As it climbed, Jenkins and the corpsman struggled with the task of pulling Percy into the aircraft. The chopper pitched suddenly to the right, sending everyone sliding toward the open door. The door-gunner slipped from his perch, his weapon tilting skyward, spraying the air with hot lead, mercifully, missing the rotors blades. Finally gaining control, the pilot leveled out the helicopter.

The door-gunner unhooked himself from the airframe and grabbed the two body bags before they slipped out the side door. He dragged the Lieutenant Sheridan’s and Angel’s bodies back to the center of the aircraft and then went over to help PFC Jenkins and the corpsman. The chopper continued to climb as the three of them worked on bringing Percy into the hold of the aircraft. Small arms rounds struck the bottom of the helicopter and a few ricocheted around the hold, but no one was hit. Jenkins looked down at his sergeant and the two of them made eye contact. Strangely, Percy noticed that this kid looked a lot like his Aunt Charlotte’s boy Henry. It was funny that he would be thinking like that right this minute, but he did. He smiled up at Jenkins, a big toothy grin. It was a smile that he hadn’t used in a very, very long time. Scotty Jenkins looked back at the Gunnery Sergeant and returned the smile. “What was this big goofy face all about, he wondered, it just seemed so absurd?” Jenkins tried to stay serious, but Gunny just looked so damn funny, and that ‘Buckwheat’ smile was so big, he couldn’t stop the giggles, this was so ridiculous!

“Jesus Christ, Gunny, you are one crazy mutha, you know that,” he said laughing out loud. Looking back over his shoulder while he struggled to get a better grip on Sergeant Marquette, he saw that the other two guys were looking at him kind of strange as well.

“It’s OK fellas, I think that Gunny might have a feather up his non-com ass,” he said, breaking into a deep belly laugh.

PFC Jenkins turned around to get back to the business of hauling Gunny into the chopper, when the round hit him square in the face, his head exploded like a ripe melon hitting the pavement. The corpsman and the door-gunner fell backward, as the weight they were supporting became lighter by half. Gunnery Sergeant Percy Marquette fell back to the earth watching the chopper get smaller and smaller as he waited for impact and the sweet relief of death. He laughed out loud right up until the moment he hit the ground and closed his eyes on this life forever.

Hightower kept looking out the helicopter from over the shoulder of the door-gunner who was tethered to the airframe. He was drawing some irritated looks from the guy so he sat back down on his helmet, pulling his knees close to him. He looked across at Junior and JoJo, they must have made up because Junior was fast asleep on JoJo’s shoulder. He and JoJo made eye contact and acknowledged one another with a nod of the head. Hightower peeked around the center bar and looked into the cockpit of the Huey. The two guys flying the chopper were shaking around in the buffeting turbulence as badly as everyone else, there was no such thing, as ‘first class’ on a bird like this. You were lucky to get off these things with both your kidneys still operating.

“Hey man, did everyone get off the ground back there,” Hightower shouted at the lieutenant in the pilot seat? There was no reply.

“Excuse me sir, did we get everybody?”

The pilot looked back at Hightower and gave him the ‘OK’ sign, touching his thumb and index finger together forming a letter ‘O’ sort of.

“Yeah, I think so,” he shouted his voice half stuttering with all the turbulence. Somehow that response didn’t make Hightower feel any better, there just wasn’t enough smile in his style. He stared back out the open door and watched the countryside whiz by.

“Kinda hard to figure all this shit out, ain’t it,” JoJo said loudly from across the way.

Wesley looked at him and sort of nodded in agreement, he didn’t want to hear any of JoJo’s usual bullshit, but he was much too tired to protest.

“Yeah, one minute we’re in hell, and the next we’re flying back to a warm cot, three squares and all the jack we can drink or weed we can toke, a real vacation, right?”

JoJo looked down at his bleeding arm, he must have taken a little shrapnel during the shit storm back at the hot LZ.

“Lord, will you look at that. Looks like Mr. Charlie has done bought old JoJo some RR in Saigon. Gonna be some mighty fine split-tail there mother fucker, fine, fine, fine, and ole JoJo’s gonna be gettin his groove on baby,” he said closing his tired eyes and smiling broadly.

The door-gunner seemed amused by JoJo’s performance as he laughed out loud. “Fuckin A man, Fuckin A,” he said in agreement. Hightower watched JoJo’s head roll around with the turbulence, thinking to himself how different everyone was and then again, how they were all the same. Back in the world none of these guys would ever have come together, at least not on their own they wouldn’t. In country, the rules were different. In country you made new rules and they were all about survival baby. In country it wasn’t your race, color, or religion that was important. It was a man’s heart, guts, and nerve that they were measured by. The conditions here were equalizing, it made them all the same. Everyone watched after everyone else because everyone had the same thing to lose, their life, and it made brothers of the oddest couples. After all, they were just a bunch of kids tossed together from all walks of life, except maybe the usual privileged few. They were expected to do the unthinkable, the down right unconscionable. These teams of misfits, when idle and inert, were only a danger to themselves really. But when stirred and shaken they came together in an extremely volatile mixture, one that the enemy came to fear. Fear was the catalyst, the motivator, and the glue that held them together. Hightower wondered for a moment if they would carry that closeness back to the world with them. Then he snorted a sigh and shook his head.

“No way,” he said in a loud whisper…“No way!”

“What you lookin at motherfucker, you thinkin about kissin me or something, you big ass gorilla,” JoJo said tiredly from under his tipped helmet.

“Shut up JoJo, don’t you ever give your mouth a rest man, I know my ears could use one right about now?”

“Fuck you Wesley!”

“Fuck you Joseph!”

“Hey, fuck both of you mensas, I’m trying to get some beauty sleep here cabrons, cut me a break OK,” Junior said still resting on JoJo’s shoulder.

“Junior, get your greasy enchilada ass off of me and go sit by your girlfriend over there,” JoJo said pointing over at Hightower!

“Man, JoJo I was just getting comfortable,” Junior whined as he crawled over to Hightower’s side of the chopper.

“Scoot over gordo, I need to crash here next to my carnal,” Junior said to Hightower, pointing to the exhausted marine next to him. He curled up on the space next to the big Texan, tucking his hands between his knees and resting his head on a stack of flack jackets.

“Mitchell, hey, Mitchell, you still alive under that hat baboso?”

Mitchell Rojas peeked out from under his tipped helmet and smiled weakly.

“Yo Junior, I’m still here homeboy,” he said.

“Horale! Hey man, you see Angel get it today?”

“Quiet Junior, leave it be ese, go back to sleep and remember the smiles man, not the bag of parts in the Huey back there,” Mitchell said, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb.

“Amen brother Rojas, Amen to that,” JoJo said from behind his closed tired eyes.

“Nite-nite homeys,” Junior said, closing his eyes and falling quickly back to sleep.

Junior decided to deal with Angel’s death later, they all would, right now, they just wanted to enjoy the relative safety of the moment. Junior’s buddies leaned their heads back against the airframe and followed his lead, choosing slumber for the duration of the bumpy ride back to An Hoa. What they didn’t know about Gunny or Jenkins was a blessing for now. There would be plenty of time to deal with that mess later.

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