Bergen Catholic Talisman

on-line edition of our literary magazine

Vietnam: A Ranger’s Story


I sat in the helicopter on the way back to camp, listening to the sound of the rotors spinning in an endless effort to keep this heap of metal flying. Unlike the ride to the LZ, no one spoke during this trip. We were no longer innocent, no longer naïve as to the ways of the world; that had been stolen from us in just six short months. I looked up at Roscoe, his usually jovial face told what no of us were saying. Just by looking at his face, anyone could see that we were no longer human, but something much, much worse. The silence was killing me; inside all I wanted to do was to scream, punch, kick, bite, anything to let out what we had just been through. I just wanted to let out the tiger that was no caged inside my body, but now I knew it was better to cage the tiger than to let it out, because once out, it controlled me. I looked out the copters door, just watching as Vietnam flew by underneath me. My frustration and shame were dueling inside me, fighting each other viciously to try and gain control of me. Seeing as I had nothing better to do, I decided to reflect; to think about what we had just been put through for the sake of bringing democracy to this god-forsaken land.

In boot camp they had said that they wanted to turn us into machines of war. We were the “game–changers” as Captain Tuck had said. It was on us to be sent into the worst of the worst, and make it better for the rest to follow. Now, as trainees we had all though that the notion of being the best of the best, the secret weapon, the ace up the sleeve was the greatest thing ever. When the clock struck 21:00, lights out, we all lay in our beds and dreamt of a glorious battlefield where we would easily conquer our enemies for the glory of our nation. Oh, to be young and naïve. We had no idea what Cap’n had really meant when he said that we were going to be sent into the worst part of Hell, and were expected to come out the other side with the Devil’s head in our hands and Hell freezing over behind us, but we found out soon enough.

When we had arrived in Vietnam, we were kept in a secret location, told that we were to only speak amongst ourselves and were rarely allowed leave to go into town for some cheap liquor and cheap women. They wanted their Rangers focused, and focused we were. While the rest of the Army and the Marines were at night clubs, gambling, or spending the night with a prostitute, we worked. We worked harder than we had worked in training camp, and told that this was just the beginning. I’ll never forget the exact moment our lives changed, never to be the same again.

It was 0406, the exact time that I was to be changed beyond recognition. The sirens went off in the base camp and all I can remember is rushing. Rushing to get dressed, rushing to get my weapon, rushing to the helicopter; for those fateful nine minutes, we were the fastest people alive. At 0414 we boarded the helicopter and at 0415 we were leaving the base which was evidently being attacked by a very small group of rebels. There were four other Rangers from my squad in the helicopter with me, and a colonel. He briefed us on our mission; we were being attacked by a small faction of Vietcong, and it was suspected that this strike on our base was a diversion for the movement of a large amount of weapons. We learned where we were to go, what we were to do, and when we were to do it. Colonel Goff told us there was no room for error, and that this was not training and any mistake would result in the loss of life, possibly even the loss of the war.

We arrived at the LZ at 0930, and we met up with the two other squads also sent to carry out this mission. We went over the mission details one more time and then began our march to where the weapons drop–off was supposed to happen. As we were marching, Roscoe Parrish was bragging about how many he planned on killing and about how we’d all owe our lives to him when he saved us when, much to everyone’s surprise, he actually did save us; well most of us. He noticed a thin wire at our feet and screamed “Freeze!” We were all frozen, everyone except for Charlie Woodson. Woodson couldn’t keep his balance and his foot fell; right on the wire. I didn’t even see the explosion, I just heard and felt it. Woodson had taken the majority of the blast but Clay Matthews knee was punctured by some shrapnel and Parrish was now deaf in his right ear. The jungle had turned from a buzzing and lively place into a dark, deathly silent forest of hidden dangers. We went to sleep that night hoping that would be our last loss; it wasn’t.

By: Liam Moynagh

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