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A soldier born unbeknownst, with a mind of his own staring death straight on, unafraid. The courage only a confident young man owns; a lucky young man to know such feelings, to possess a belief in himself and his God. A piece of paper in his strong youthful hands determines his fate, forcing lifelong decisions that should have been years in the making. Time he could not buy, for time moved on faster with each day, and with each friend who was also relieved of the interpretation of what life would hold in the coming years. Tears that came flowed only at night in the dark, alight with fear and frustration as helpless hands wiped dampness away. Up before daylight, he flew blind with clear enough sight to know what awaited ten klicks away in leech infested rice paddies. The agony of the wounded, cries piercing the breaking day, mother's sons, praying for forgiveness. No young man with mud crusted bloody hands should have to do this; his soul is good. Lust for life lingers as a dying breath escapes murmuring lips, thoughts far away, soul reunited once more with destiny. Side by side lie six others struggling to survive as the hits start coming and the panic permeates the foggy dawn. One glance over your shoulder says it all and a choice no longer exists as it ceased to one hot August morning in a sleepy little town that is now a distant memory. Strong hands grasp the joystick and maneuver among trees, focused, unaware of the tracers and the thumps of mortars, washed out by the symbolic beating of survival. Rotor blades keep time with the pounding of your heart rushing through your ears amid cries for mercy and calls for help. A close formation, an unbreakable bond forms as you fly back toward the LZ. On final you look back once more, and with a deep Sadness, know you can never look back again As you lower the slick to the ground, someone slaps you on the back and thanks you and you clasp your hands in your lap and look at them, and wonder.
I was inspired to write this after attending several reunions of the VHPA (Vietnam Helicopters Pilots Association). These seem to be some of the vivid memories that these men shared.
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