Disclaimer: The A-Team belongs to Stephen J. Cannell. Tour of Duty belongs to the guys who created Tour of Duty. <g>
Summary: The ATeam meets Tour of Duty in 'Nam.
Author's notes(That's me)~
Tour Of Duty:
Background information about 'Tour Of Duty' kindly supplied by Martin at firstname.lastname@example.orgVietnamese Language:
'Tour of Duty' shows the life and development of a platoon during the years 1967 to 1968 in the Vietnam War. The group was first assigned to the 196th light infantry brigade, bravo company. Then due to their success in missions and excellent experience they got transferred and formed a special operations group (SOG) within Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV).
Lots of negative aspects of the war are shown in the episodes - the doubts of the soldiers on what they were doing, nervous breakdowns, drug abuse, personal losses, corruption, lack of support from home and racism.
But ...... what also is shown in this show (ToD) is how the soldiers could stand the daily cruelty and horror around them. Comradeship, trust, loyalty, friendship and even love were the values they relied on.
Please note that some of the Vietnamese words that you encounter may be spelt as a phonetic depiction of what the phrase or word sounds like and I cannot promise that it sounds the same to everyone. The actual written Vietnamese word, with the special characters, is way beyond my abilities and those of my computer (I have several font faces but not the Vietnamese one). There are some words that I am sure of the spelling and written those, but again I have not included the characters. What I write here might be pronounced diversely by different readers. You have been warned, and, don't forget - I do not know how to speak Vietnamese. Only enough to get by for story content and ordering take away meals. Also, I apologize for any anguish or disrespect I might cause to those who "really know" the language.POINTS of Interest for those that didn't know:
Vietnamese Vocabulary used in the storyMama San - pidgin English for older Vietnamese women
Papa San -pidgin English for older Vietmanese men
Xin loi - sorry about that, tough shit (depends on context used in)
Ga mug - thank you
Ca'm o-n nhienu - thank you very much (pronounced Caam uhrn neow)
Tam biet - goodbye
Ba Mu'o'i Ba - brand name of Vietnamese beer
ao-di - traditional dress of Vietnamese women
ba - married woman, "Mrs"
biet - understand
bo dai - uniformed NVA soldier
Caca Dau - I'll kill you
can cuoc - identification card
choi oi - expression of surprise "what the hell?"
chung toi - We
co - unmarried woman "Miss"
con gai daughter
dai uy - captain
di - go
didi - to leave or to go
didi mau - go quickly
di bau - walk, go by walking
Dinki dau - you're crazy
"A-Team" is a basic ten man team of the U.S Special Forces. The A-Teams often led irregular, military units which were not responsible to the Vietnamese military command.
The A Shau Valley was one of the principal entry points to South Vietnam of the Ho Chi Min Trail, and an area critical to the North Vietnamese...end of history lesson, you are such a good class.
Trip-flares are a ground flare, triggered by a trip wire used to signal and illuminate the approach of an enemy at night.
Starlight scope is an image intensifier using reflected light to identify targets at night
Elephant grass is tall, razor-edged tropical plant indigenous to certain parts of Vietnam.
Manhunt In The Jungle ©
'They came from all over the nation, for all different reasons. But these
soldiers had one thing in common: their friendship, forged under fire. Some
of them gave of themselves; others gave their lives. They were heroes because
they had to be.'
"With all due respect sir, I can not and will not send my men back into the jungle. They need a break. Either they be allowed to rest for a few days or you're going to have more casualties on your hands!" Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith tried to reason, without losing his composure.
"Colonel, I can understand what you are saying and if there were any other possible alternatives, I would take them, believe me." General Anthony Phillips sighed. He rubbed his furrowed brow and continued. "The truth of the matter is there is no one else that I could send to do this mission. The LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol), has already radioed me with the location of the NVA regiment. I need you John. I need you and your men." Phillips said imploring Hannibal with his eyes. "John your team is the only one that can pull this off."
Hannibal looked towards the ceiling and expelled the breath that he'd been holding. With it he let go his pent up frustrations and focused back not the general. "Look general.."
"John, have a seat and cut the 'general' crap. I want to be able to work this out and I don't want you standing on ceremony while we do it. It's bad enough I spend every waking moment fighting the VC's every move without having to battle you." Phillips gently chided him.
With a look of resignation, Hannibal accepted his friends offer and rested his fatigued body in the plush chair. Accepting the cigar offered to him he bit the end of it and spat it into the receptacle beside the desk.
"Tony," Hannibal said with familiarity of all the years that they had been friends, having served together since the Korean war. "All I'm asking for is a few days for the boys to get over the last trip into the jungle. Two months is a long time to spend out there, not knowing if each day you were facing was going to be your last. You said yourself that the LRRP had given you the location of the NVA regiment. Surely they've got enough nous to stay out of sight and keep you updated on the VC position." Phillips watched Hannibal light his cigar and inhale the pleasing taste of the rich tobacco. "This the same brand that Face acquired for you?" Hannibal asked, blowing out light coloured plumes of cigar smoke.
"Yeah they are." Chuckled Phillips. "John at most all that I can give you is 48 hours and then I must insist that you take out that regiment."
"Thanks Tony, I do appreciate it..., and I'll let them know the good news. It shouldn't be to hard to track them down. They were all wanting a hot shower, something a bit more substantial than a quick wash in the river every now and then." Hannibal smiled and then left in search of his men.
As he expected the men in his command were either just finishing their showers or still having them. Past the pile of strewn towels and dirty worn out fatigues in the centre of the room he found lieutenant Peck, brushing his hair which was considerably cleaner from a couple of hours ago.
"Feel better lieutenant?" Hannibal smiled then he sniffed. "You sure smell a lot cleaner."
Face turned around and pointed his comb at Hannibal's face. "Yeah, well you weren't exactly smelling like a florist shop either you know." He pocketed his comb and packed his toiletries away, "If you're looking for BA, he's still in the shower, he said something about staying in it till the end of the war." Face laughed.
"Well I think he'll be out before then..., there isn't that much hot water." Hannibal replied smugly and continued to wait for Face while he gathered the last of his belongings together.
"You want something Hannibal?" Face questioned, uncertain as to why Hannibal was being so quiet. "Huh kid?" Hannibal asked, not really paying attention to what Face had said.
"Hannibal what's wrong?" Face questioned yet again, becoming anxious at his colonel's somber mood. "That obvious huh kid?" Hannibal grinned.
Face rolled his eyes in a 'no shit' look. "Yeah..., that obvious. Now spill." He gestured towards the door, and with his CO he exited the changing room.
"How about I tell you when BA, Zeke and the others are here. Saves me repeating myself that way. You seen Murdock around here at all?" Hannibal asked, scanning the base for any signs of the eccentric captain.
"Surprise, surprise, surprise. Well golly!" he shower block." Hannibal instructed, leading the way ahead of his two subordinates.
Face and Murdock exchanged bewildered glances and obediently followed their superior officer.
"Hey colonel, what's up?" BA asked when Hannibal entered the billet followed by Face and Murdock. Zeke also looked in the colonel's direction when he heard BA speak.
"Well what do you want to hear first? The good news or the bad news?" Hannibal asked, rifling through his pocket for another cigar. Face was the first to answer. "I've always been an optimist, I'll take the good news."
"General Phillips has given us 48 hours for R&R, the next transport into Da Nang leaves in forty-five minutes." Hannibal replied, waiting for someone to asked what the bad news was. Finally Murdock asked. Hannibal smiled and removed the cigar from his mouth.
"We get to go back and visit Charlie. There's an NVA regiment that the LRRP boys have located and the general wants us to take it out."
Amidst the protests Murdock's questions were heard. "Take it 'out' colonel? Where should we take it to? Dancing or dinner or maybe even a movie?"
"Shut up fool. Can't you be serious for one minute. You're out of your mind!" BA grumbled at the grinning Murdock. "Yeah, ain't it cool." Murdock smiled. BA shook his head in annoyance. "I'm gonna leave you with this crazy man. I promised my Momma that I'd call her when we got back, just to let her know we got back all right."
"Okay BA, we'll meet you by the transport in say twenty minutes." Hannibal said, looking at his watch, calculating how much time that they had left.
BA smiled to himself as he left the billet, leaving behind him Murdock and his inane chatter. It was a few minutes before BA got his turn to use the telephone to call home. His call was answered on the third ring. "Momma?" He asked excitedly. During the course of his conversation with his mother, small tears made an appearance at the corners of his eyes. "Yes Momma I'm taking care of myself..., and getting enough to eat. Hannibal says we got forty-eight hours before we gotta go back into the jungle again. Momma! Momma....., don't cry. Momma you'll make me cry..... I'll take care Momma. God bless you too Momma."
After his phone call had ended, BA struck out at the wall. Venting all his frustrations for being caught up in a war, which had seen many of his friends either killed or maimed for life. He skinned his knuckles in the process, leaving small rivulets of blood dripping down the wall.
"BA, over here." Hannibal called, when he saw BA sauntering off towards the billet. BA raised his head and acknowledged Hannibal. "How's your Mom? Hannibal asked as BA neared the truck.. "She's okay, just worried is all." Responded BA in a somewhat sober mood.
The trip into town was uneventful. Each person looking out the windows at the passing scenery and each of them caught up in their own personal thoughts. The villagers were painting and cleaning their houses in preparation for the Tet Nguyen Dan holiday, which was to begin soon.
On their arrival in town, Hannibal and Face found lodgings for the night for the platoon. The building they entered was surrounded by sandbags, concertina wire and had a machine gun positioned on the roof. Although the Tet holiday was to begin tomorrow, the NVA used it as an offensive to attack the Southern Vietnamese.
With rooms secured for the night Hannibal and face left the boarding house to locate the rest of their team. The ruckus coming from a nearby bar indicated their whereabouts. Hannibal and Face stopped outside the door and bought from a pedlar two souvenir dolls. One of the young girls standing beside the elderly woman that was peddling her goods noticed the gold crucifix around Face's neck.
As she started to flirt with him, the other girl noticed what she was doing and joined in. "Catholic's number one. Bhudda's number ten." The girl said, gesturing to the cross that Face wore. "You lie. Bhudda is number one." The older girl argued with her. The two girls fought fiercely knocking over the pedlar's stall. Face was about to intervene and stop the girls from pulling each others hair, when he felt a tight grasp on his shoulder.
"No conversing with children!" The rugged MP warned him. Face shrugged his shoulders at the MP not understanding what he had done that was so wrong. "I'm sorry lieutenant, it's just that the VC use children to get close to American soldiers. Sometimes these kids carry small hand grenades. Just can't be too careful." The MP explained.
"Thanks." Uttered Face, still shocked that children were being used to fight the war between North and South Vietnamese. "Come on kid, better go and sort out that lot in there before the MP's are called back." Hannibal said. Face nodded his agreement and helped to upright the fallen stall.
"There you go 'Mama San'. Xin loi." Hannibal offered, dusting off a few of the small souvenir dolls. The elderly woman looked at Hannibal, her clear brown eyes conveying her appreciation. "Ga mug." She said and pushed her cart further down the street.
"Hey you two we were about to send out a search party." Zeke shouted above the noise. He pointed to the two chairs that he had saved for them. Hannibal indicated to Face that he was going up to the bar, when Face offered Hannibal some money to pay for the beers, Hannibal waved him away. "Your shout next round." He said.
"What will it be colonel?" Asked the bar tender. Hannibal eyed up all the drinks that were available and then settled on one in particular. "Two Ba Mu'o'i Ba, thanks." Hannibal answered and handed over the correct amount of piastres. He made his way back to the table and handed Face his Vietnamese beer.
"Drink up lieutenant, I'll be ready for the next round soon." Laughed Hannibal and drank from the bottle, savoring its contents. Face nodded at Hannibal, understanding what he had meant and made his way to the bar with the empty bottles. "Two more of the same barkeep." Face said handing over the empty bottles.
As they relaxed enjoying their cold beers and listening to the latest music on the jukebox, Hannibal began to reminisce on his time spent in military training schools before being assigned to various units.
"You think you had it hard, when I was at Fort Bragg, I had to pull guard duty one night. The temperature so cold it could have frozen the balls off a brass monkey. I was watching the snow fall, amazed by the size of the flakes that were falling, they were bloody big. The drill sergeant caught me watching them and let me have a closer look at them ...., by doing pushups in the snow at 0300 hours." Face complained and shuddered at the memory of being so cold.
"Face why does that not surprise me?" Hannibal laughed and was joined by Zeke and the others that had been listening to Face's tales. The exchange of stories went on during the night until the small hours of the next morning.
"I think we should call it a night, big day later on this morning." Hannibal said, checking his watch, seeing that it had already passed 2:00AM. Without a word of complaint the men in his command followed him back to the hotel accommodations that he and Face had booked earlier. The building was adorned with sprigs of yellow blossomed Hoa Mai, for the Tet Nguyen festival.
"You know what I'm looking forward to." Face said to Hannibal. "What kid?" Hannibal asked, already having an idea as to what his second in command was going to say.
"A real bed. Much better than sleeping in a foxhole or with your back against a tree all night." Face grinned, relishing the thought of letting his battle weary body enjoy the soft and gentle warmth that a real bed would offer him.
"Ah, but you like it kid...., roughing it in the woods, communing with nature.." Hannibal started to say before Face interrupted. "Hannibal first of all it's the jungle not the woods and the only nature out there to commune with are the mosquitoes and snakes."
Hannibal chuckled at Face's comment and continued on in silence. As they approached the dimly let alley way that led to the hotel, Hannibal stopped abruptly. "What's up?" Face whispered. Hannibal shook his head. "It's too quiet, considering the festival starts tomorrow. Just be careful."
BA and Zeke heeded the warning and passed the word along to the others in the platoon. The passage of the alley was strange, frightening. Stark white faces emerged from one of the doorways that they passed. Hannibal saw a frightened Vietnamese woman cowering in a corner. When he approached her, she looked at him with close, direct clear brown eyes.
"Mama San?" Hannibal asked gently, trying to evoke a response from the woman. She acknowledged him and pointed to the door that they had passed. "GI's, take daughter." She replied in broken English.
Looking back towards the doorway, Hannibal nodded, knowing that the elderly woman was defenseless in being able to get her daughter out of the building by herself. "Face, BA, we've got a party to break up. Murdock stand guard, if we're not out within ten minutes you better come in."
"Sure colonel, but remember to call if you need some extra help." Murdock answered. Zeke followed Hannibal inside with Face and BA, while the rest of the platoon waited with Murdock.
Too many times Hannibal had seen soldiers succumb to the easy escapes from war, turning to drugs and alcohol. Seeing several soldiers passed out from the illegal use of the narcotics did not make it easier for him to deal with.
"Over here colonel." BA said, pointing in the direction of a group of six men huddled around a young girl. Hannibal nodded and gestured for his men to flank each side, blocking the exits that the drunken soldiers could try and use.
"Let the girl go now!" Hannibal seethed, trying to control the rage that was building inside him. The drunken lout in charge of the small group, staggered forward, crashing into a table in an attempt to reach Hannibal.
"What's it to you?" He slurred, "she's just a whore, a gook." As he spoke the young girl, got up from the floor and made her way behind BA, seeking refuge behind the muscular sergeant.
"The young lady is not a gook, soldier, nor is she a whore! You have a duty to protect the citizens caught up in this war, they have been through enough already without the likes of you making their lives more intolerable! Have I made myself clear, private?!" Hannibal berated the man in front of him.
"I'm a sergeant not a private!" The drunk retorted, swinging his balled fist towards Hannibal. "You will be a private by the time I have finished with you!" Shouted Hannibal, easily ducking the punch thrown at him.
Seeing their drunken friend throw a punch, the others joined in, each selecting a target on which to vent their anger at having been caught. The fight that ensued was short lived, each of the drunken men lying on top of each other over broken and upturned tables. Hannibal walked over to where Face was leaning against the wall. "You all right kid?" he said handing Face a crudely made ice pack.
"Yeah, I'll live....., didn't see that guy. He sure knows how to pack a punch." Face grimaced applying the ice pack to the rapidly forming bruise under his right eye.
"Hold it! Stay right where you are!" Shouted an MP, aiming his service revolver at Face. Murdock had followed the MP's inside and was frantically shouting at them above the noise of the juke-box. "Not them," Murdock said pointing at Hannibal, BA, Face and Zeke. "Those are the guys you need to arrest...the ones on the floor."
"Uh ....sorry about that captain." The MP said, turning his revolver away from the direction of Face. He then summonsed the two MP's that were waiting for his instruction to place the drunken men under arrest. "What would you like them charged with colonel?"
Hannibal wasted no time in rattling off a list of charges as he withdrew a cigar from his pocket. "Conduct unbecoming a soldier, willful destruction of private property and attempted rape."
After the MP had finished writing down the colonel's list of charges the MP looked at Face. "What about you sir? Anything to add?"
Face removed the ice pack and smiled. "How about assaulting an officer?" He said, his eyes twinkling with glee as he added his charge.
"Duly noted sir." The MP grinned. He moved a little closer to Face and whispered. "It makes a change not to be placing you under arrest this time lieutenant."
After the room had emptied of all its patrons and BA had escorted the girl outside, Hannibal approached Face. "What was that all about?" Face looked at Hannibal and gave him a wry smile. "Long story, let's just say last time Malloy, the MP, was sure that I was guilty when he arrested me, purely on the grounds of association."
"And were you?" Hannibal asked intrigued at an issue from Face's past coming to the surface. Face grinned at Hannibal and shrugged his shoulders. "What do you think?" He asked, before walking off to catch up with Murdock..
Face found Murdock outside the door with BA, Zeke and the young girl. "Where's Hannibal?" Murdock enquired when he saw Face emerge from the building. "He's just wrapping a few things up, shouldn't be too long." Face answered, turning back towards the door he'd exited he saw Hannibal. "Speak of the devil." Face added.
"How is she BA?" Hannibal asked, noticing that the girl had found a protector in BA. "She's frightened man, time to get her back to her Momma." Stated BA, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
Together the platoon crossed the empty street and found the girl's mother. Hannibal cautioned the others to remain alert while he and BA took the girl to her mother. "Mama San. Con gai." Hannibal said to the girl's mother.
When she saw that her daughter was all right, she graciously thanked Hannibal and BA.
"Ga Mug. Ca'm o`n nhienu." The girl's mother repeated over and over. Hannibal smiled at being able to help. "Kong co chi, ba." His words were welcomed with a warm smile from both the girl and her mother. "Tam biet." They both said as they left the vicinity.
"Tam biet." Hannibal replied, watching them disappear from view.
Crossing back to where the platoon was waiting, Hannibal signaled to them that the girl had been reunited with her mother. "Now that the night's excitement is over, I am more than ready to hit the pillow." Hannibal sighed, heading in the direction of their sleeping accommodation.
"Hannibal, why are you going to hit your pillow?" Murdock asked, concerned for the pillow's well being. "Ah, Murdock, what Hannibal meant to say is that when he gets into bed he will put his head on the pillow and go nighty night." Face quickly said.
"You know Face I really hope that is what he meant, because the pillow, it didn't do anything to him and it just might call on all of its friends to start a pillow liberation army, and we wouldn't want that would be?" Murdock asked with sincere seriousness.
Face shook his head and thought best to keep quiet rather than get Murdock started on his next crusade, fighting for the defenseless inanimate objects.
"Murdock, if you don't shut your mouth I'm gonna feed you to a pillow." Growled BA, gently swiping Murdock on his head. Face decided that now would be a god time to catch up with Haor yourselves," Hannibal said, rubbing his weary eyes, "all I want to do is climb under the blankets and get some real sleep for a change. Coming lieutenant?"
"Sure colonel." Face replied, taking the opportunity to leave the argument that he was slowly becoming entangled with.
The stillness and quiet of the morning was broken by a culminating crescendo of explosions, quickly followed by joyous laughter from the young spectators in the street below.
"What the hell is that?" Face yelled, clambering out of bed and falling over the chair beside it. "Take it easy kid. It's only fireworks ....., it's the first day of the Tet Nguyen Dan holiday." Hannibal chuckled, turning on his back and placing his hands under his head.
"Tet Nguyen..., hmm, well can't they go and be noisy somewhere else?" Face grumbled, before gathering his towels and flannel together. "Where ya goin' kid?" Hannibal asked when Face did not bother getting back into bed for a few more minutes peaceful slumber.
"While no one else is using the bathroom, I am going to enjoy a hot shower, no telling how long before we get to have another one. It's not as if there are portable hot showers in the jungle is it?" Grinned Face, all ready half way out the door.
"Mot, hoi, ba, bon, nam, sal, bai, tam, chin, moui. Un, deux, treis, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. Ekahi, elua, ekolu, eha, elima, eono, ehiku, ewahu, eiwa, umi. Odin, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat, shest, sem, vosem, devyat, desyat. Uno, dos, tres.." Murdock counted.
"Ahem, Murdock, what are you doing?" Hannibal asked when he heard Murdock talking to the door of the bathroom.
"Good morning colonel. I, was, um.... counting." Murdock sheepishly replied. Hannibal shook his head, 'it's too early for this' he thought to himself. "Okay Murdock why are you counting and I know I am going to hate myself for asking."
"Colonel, I told Face he had to the count of ten to get out of the bathroom and when I counted Face told me it was the wrong language, so I've been counting to ten in the languages that I know. Vietnamese, French, Hawaiian, Russian and Spanish." Murdock grinned and rapt the door with his knuckles. "Come on Face open up."
"Murdock have you tried counting in German?" Hannibal asked. Murdock looked at him dumbfounded, "Hannibal why didn't I think of that?" He then turned his attentions back to the door. "Eins, swai, dri... well it's about time Faceman, I was about to call the water police." Before Murdock could push passed Face, Hannibal had already beaten him inside the bathroom and locking the door.
Not believing that Hannibal would do such a thing Murdock slid down the wall to sit on the floor, he began counting again. "Better count to at least a hundred in each language." Face smiled as he strode purposefully out of Murdock's way.
By the time Murdock was finally done with his shower the water was barely tepid. He chortled to himself, thinking about the next person who was to use the shower. His grin suddenly turned to a worried look when he saw that BA was the next bather. "Morning BA." Murdock said as he scurried past him.
During breakfast which consisted of bread, rice, fish and nuoc-mam (fermented fish sauce used as a condiment), Hannibal instructed the platoon that they had four hours before their transport was to take them back to the army base.
The morning was spent scouring the local markets for souvenirs to send home to loved ones and enjoying the celebrations. Face had persuaded Hannibal and BA to part with some of their hard earned income to go thirds in buying Murdock a new flight jacket. Face had seen one earlier and knew it would suit their beloved pilot.
Hannibal and BA also agreed with face when they finally saw it. "Kid why a tiger design on the back of it?" Hannibal asked, admiring the workmanship of the jacket.
"Hannibal it is said that the Vietnamese fear the tiger, it is a symbol of a stalker that is silent and always present." Face replied matter of factly, recalling what he had read about Vietnamese superstitions. The small man who had completed the work nodded his head in agreement when he met the silent question that Hannibal asked with his eyes. BA looked at Hannibal and shrugged, for all he knew it could be true or Face had conned the Vietnamese businessman to play along.
After thanking the man and paying him for his fine skill they hurried off to find Murdock. "What's the hurry guys?" Murdock asked, steadying himself after BA had collided into him. After presenting Murdock with the jacket, the three watched as Murdock proudly put it on. "But guys why? This must have cost a fortune."
"It did." Grumbled BA. His comment was rewarded with a nudge in the ribs by Face. "Murdock it was worth every cent, besides we missed your birthday consider it a late gift." Smiled Face. "Yeah Murdock, happy late birthday." Hannibal also smiled, giving Murdock a congratulatory slap on his back.
"Our ride's here." Face said when he saw the familiar green truck pulling into town. Hannibal nodded and gestured to the men in his command to make their way to the truck. During the ride back, Murdock proudly displayed his new jacket. "Sure is a beauty Murdock." Zeke said, admiring the workmanship.
Once back at the base they were met by General Phillips and briefed as to their next mission. He explained to them that the LRRP had moved in and taken out the regiment but had located a much bigger stronghold. A NVA base that was armed to the hilt. "You will be joined by some new recruits they need to learn from this mission, it is only a pre-lim to what is in store. Colonel, I need you to train these new men and this jaunt into the jungle should enable that. I will see you when you return."
"Great FNG's." Face sarcastically mumbled. The dissention amongst the platoon at the change of plan and the addition of green recruits was audible. "Lieutenant I don't like it any more than you do," Hannibal said addressing his junior officer, "but if I have to follow orders and like them, so do you."
"Yeah but Hannibal, I mean colonel...., FNG's? You gotta be kidding." Face retorted. Hannibal was starting to become more frustrated at the predicament and tried to resolve the issue. "Look I'm not interested in having Fucking New Guys here either, this unit works well as it is, but you heard the general, it is a pre-lim for what is to come, come on it won't be that bad...it'll be a walk in the park."
When the new recruits arrived, Hannibal gave them a quick orientation course. "Survival," he said, "depends on having what you need, when you need it. And that gentlemen I suggest you emblazon into your brains now, forget the crap you learnt at basic training you are here to fight, for your country and for your lives!" His thunderous voice bounced off the walls of the makeshift building, causing the new recruits to cringe in their seats. "Any questions?" He bellowed.
Silence filled the building. Hannibal looked at each man waiting for someone to open their mouth. "Well no takers, so I assume that you know what is expected of you and you are ready to begin your tour."
"Yes sir, colonel sir." Came the unisoned reply. Again silence filled the room, this time to be broken by Face. "Colonel, the huey is ready. Murdock's ready to go when you are."
Hannibal nodded at Face. "Thank you lieutenant, well don't just sit there," he said looking at the new soldiers, "move out."
As they scrambled into the huey, the seasoned soldiers sat at each side of the doorway with their backs to the walls. The six new recruits were not so fortunate, those lucky enough got to be in the middle of the doorway while the others had to hang on for dear life as the Huey's did not have doors. Holding onto each other they watched as the canopy of the jungle sped by until their destination was reached.
When airborne Hannibal revised the mission. It was to be a simple search and destroy operation. Go into an area and search it and then destroy anything that might be useful to the VC soldiers. Hannibal and his men had performed the operation many times before, but this time something nagged at him, a feeling of impending danger.
"Murdock I'll call you when we're through, channel one seven. Take care Murdock." Hannibal said before exiting the huey, followed by a very seedy looking BA.
The chopper left after barely touching the ground and was immediately lost in the cover of the jungle. Hannibal instructed Face to take point and Johnson to take rear guard. The target area was a two click walk, during the course of the distance silence was maintained.
Moving through the woods, they looked for signs of the enemy target. By the time they located the enemy base it was getting dark. Hannibal halted the platoon and ordered them to take up a position on the edge of the clearing. When they were close enough Hannibal positioned himself near Face.
He took his night vision glasses and focused on the enemy target. "What the fuck!" Hannibal exclaimed when he saw it was still being patrolled by several VC soldiers. Face heard the tone of incredulity in his colonel's voice. "Hannibal...., what's up?" Face asked not really wanting to hear the answer.
"So much for intel..., this place was meant to be deserted, ready for us to come in and clean it up." Hannibal growled under his breath, not wanting to alert the rest of the platoon to the problem that had arisen.
"Hannibal how many times have I told you not to trust military intelligence. Take it from someone who knows, take what they say with a grain of salt. I was told that I was going to have a nice cushy number running the PX and look where I get sent." Face said in his con-man charm, trying to alleviate the tension.
Hannibal looked at him and gave him a crooked smile. "They sent you out here because you were costing them money, building up your only little supply store."
"It was surplus stock." Face uttered in his defence. "Uh huh Face, you just remember that line, when you're brought up before the Judge Advocate General, right now I've got bigger fish to fry." Hannibal replied focusing back on the guarded target area.
When Hannibal had laid out his plan the platoon moved in. Unfortunately one of the new recruits tripped a claymore, an anti-personnel mine, he was lucky he died instantly not knowing what hit him. Face recognized the type of mine and pulled the new recruit beside him down to the jungle floor, while keeping his M-16 aimed towards the running enemy soldiers.
"Thanks." Uttered the nervous soldier. Face shook off the thanks and concentrated on what was going on in front of him. Their cover had been broken and frenzied VC soldiers ran head strong into their direction, taking the newer recruits by surprise at the ferocity of the attack.
The VC soldiers rushed forward like crazed kamikaze pilots, with their AK-50's. They thrust their bayonet ended rifles into the unsuspecting new recruits, who stood there mesmerized at the swiftness of battle. The closest that many of these soldiers had come to in defence fighting was firing a few rounds at targets that didn't fight back, that was back on the outside world, here they learnt a cruel lesson.
Hannibal stole a few moments of precious time to radio Murdock, he needed some air assistance, enemy soldiers were coming out of the wood work. "Blue leader, calling red tiger do you read me? Red tiger come in."
"Red tiger to blue leader. Copy." Murdock replied, his voice barely being heard above the hail of bullets. "Red tiger, we've got movement in the wire, we're pinned down. We're taking hits, we need some illumination down here Murdock, they're coming through the wire. Over.." The culminating percussion of small arms fire and explosions punctuated the environment of their position.
The radio crackled to life once more, "Blue leader give me your co-ordinates and I'll come knocking on their door...over." The faint voice on the other end said. "Red tiger grid co-ordinate is GA nine six seven oh one niner ...over!." Hannibal shouted into the PRC.
From the enemy side a battery of 105mm howitzers opened up. Tracers careened wildly in the night sky, going in a myriad pattern of directions. Agony filled cries were heard as bullets hit their targets. Castings clattered as the howitzers fired and a haze of blue smoke drifted across.
"Murdock!" Hannibal shouted, "where the fuck are you? Don't spare the horses, just get in here now!" Screams amidst the gunfire and shelling could be heard on Murdock's end of the radio. Hannibal's repsonse was a pyrotechnic display which illuminated the night sky, at last they had air support.
The men in the platoon looked at each other, their eyes wide and animated in the half light. With renewed vigor they returned gunfire, Murdock had brought with him reinforcements, bringing hope to the soldiers fighting on the ground.
The sound of the choppers above was wonderful, Murdock had come back in an AII-1G (cobra) attack chopper, it was armed to the teeth. Dirt fountains started to appear in front of the VC soldiers, causing the ones not crazy enough to pursue that battle, to retreat to the shelter of the building.
Within minutes of the air support arriving the target is completely destroyed along with it, vital documents needed by the military intelligence. A single rocket was fired at the building turning it into a pile of splinters, the poor souls caught inside cremated instantly.
"Hannibal? Hannibal? Where are you?" Face shouted into the smoke filled jungle. He stumbled his way over to the colonel's last sighted position. "Oh God!" Face said turning Hannibal over. Frantically he felt for Hannibal's pulse, it was there all be it weak, but it was palpable. Face found the PRC and radioed Murdock.
"Murdock I need a Dustoff down here! I need it now." Face shouted into the mouthpiece. "Hannibal's been hit." He finished more calmly.
Too many times Murdock had heard the all to familiar call for a 'Dustoff', he'd carried out so many of them he'd lost count. The call was used to apply to all medical evacuation missions, but GI's reserved the term for missions flown to pick up wounded soldiers in the filed, often under fire.
"Hang tight Face, I'll get Spinner to get him out." Murdock replied, his own cobra helicopter being unsuitable for the job. The Huey choppers excelled a the job of picking up the wounded soldiers, with its wide doors and ability to get in and out quickly. Dustoffs took courage on the part of the crew - ground fire was the rule rather than the exception.
BA looked over at Face to see him trying to make the fallen colonel comfortable. "How is he man?" BA shouted above the volley of rounds being fired. Face raised his thumb in an okay signal and picking up his rifle continued to fire in the direction of the enemy.
"Spinner can you get in there?" Murdock asked over the radio while giving as much air cover as he could to the men below him. "Yeah shouldn't be a problem ...those poor son's of bitches are in deep shit down there." Spinner replied.
"Save the liturgy ...., just get in and out as soon as you can ..over." Murdock radioed as he dropped flares, giving Spinner an idea of where to head. Murdock knew the move was two fold being both dangerous and life saving.
"Dear God." Prayed Face, as he surveyed the area in front of him. After what Face had seen, he was not interested in taking prisoners, any feelings of remorse that he had for them had gone. What he had witnessed made him feel that the VC soldiers were less than human.
While BA and Zeke loaded Hannibal and three other wounded soldiers into the huey, Face performed the grim job of collecting the dog tags, he wished that he could have taken the bodies of his fallen comrades back with him, he neither had the time nor the room needed on the chopper for that.
All the dead soldiers were killed at close range, most had their throats cut and all were butchered. Entrails slithered from the mutilated bodies towards the ground. 'Was it not enough for them to be killed? Why mutilate their bodies as well?' Face thought to himself, disgusted at what he had seen. Although he'd seen his friends killed in action before, it still didn't make this any easier to take. Gasping he reached for a young sapling and retched until he could no more.
Wiping his mouth he passed from one soldier to the next, collecting their dog tags and any other personal possession that he could return to the next of kin. After performing this sad duty he offered a silent prayer of comfort for their souls and for their families.
"C'mon lieutenant, this bird's about ready to go." Zeke yelled above the slow churn of the rotors. Face madly scrambled into the huey before it was to far off the ground. "Rest in peace." He said, wiping his eyes.
Zeke saw Face's pain and placed a hand on his shoulder. "It doesn't get any easier does it?" Face shook his head and held the bits of metal in his hand, up into the illuminated wall of the chopper, letting the light reflect off. Soft murmurs throughout the chopper were heard, each surviving man offering his own individual prayer.
"Hey kid..." Hannibal coughed, trying to keep the pain he was feeling at bay. "H-H-Hannibal?" Face asked questioningly, surprised that the colonel was conscious once more. "No point getting to sentimental about it ... just makes the pain harder to live with." Hannibal spoke, offering words of comfort to Face.
"I know Hannibal, ...it's just like Zeke said." Face started to say before Hannibal interrupted. "It doesn't get any easier does it?" Hannibal coughed, clenching his teeth in effort to fight the pain. "Let it go kid."
Face looked at Hannibal, here he was hurt, bleeding and in pain and yet trying to comfort his younger friend. "Better not clench those teeth too hard," Face sniffed, "or you'll be having to get a false set made." Hannibal and Face both looked at each and began to chuckle softly.
Zeke pulled a syrette from his pack. After administering the morphine from the collapsible tube, Zeke proceeded to check on the wounds that had been suffered by Horn, Johnson and Harris, the new recruit. With help from BA the wounds were dressed and the men made comfortable.
"Spinner how long before we land?" Zeke asked, trying to break the eerie silence that filled the cabin of the helicopter. "Another ten minutes or so sergeant, providing we get a clear run back to base." Spinner replied, and caught the thumbs up understanding from Zeke.
BA edged over to where Face was sitting and tried to disrupt Face from his all too quiet mood. "Hey man, there was nothing you could do. It wasn't your fault." He said softly.
Face looked at him incredulously and shook his head. "BA saying that doesn't help bring them back does it? We lost some good men back there. Christ's sake four guys lost their lives on their fucken first mission BA. And three guys that we've been serving with for the past ten months. It was my fault BA...." Face's voice was packed with emotion as he turned his head to look at the passing tree tops, from which the steam could be seen rising in the early morning light.
"How can you say that Face? It wasn't your fault...it was just one of those things ...you didn't have any control over the outcome, how were you to know what was going to go down. You got us out of there, you did the best you could." BA said, looking to Zeke for support.
"My best wasn't good enough though was it? Hannibal would have gotten us all out alive. He would've had a plan that worked." Uttered Face, tightening his grasp around the dog tags in held in his hand.
"How do you know that lieutenant?" Zeke retorted, "I'm damned sure that I couldn't have done any better under the circumstances ...pull yourself together, your in command now. The new guys are scared shitless, they're going to be looking to you for leadership Face."
Face looked at Zeke and shook his head. "I don't know if I really want the responsibility any more ..... maybe Murdock has the right idea, coming up with his crazy antics, so no one knows whether to take him seriously or not." As he spoke he gripped the dog tags so hard that the edges cut into his hand.
"Have you really thought about that," before giving Face a chance to answer Zeke continued, "I mean Murdock... is he really crazy? You know there's a lot of tension in the bush, some need to act crazy, just to remain sane. Maybe Murdock is one of those people. I know that listening to him chatter helps to get me through at times."
While reflecting on what Zeke had said, Face saw blood dripping from his hand. He looked at it as if it were not real, he hadn't felt any pain and sat mesmerized by the blood pooling in his hand.
"SHIT!" Zeke said, a lot louder than he realized, his exclamation catching the attention of the rest of the platoon who had been lamenting silently on their own personal losses.
"Purcell hand me that first aid kit." Zeke ordered, wiping the blood from Face's hand with a small towel. "You did a good job on this," Zeke remarked as Face watched him, "didn't you feel the tags cutting in?"
Face shook his head, still not believing that he had cut the palm of his hand so deeply. "No....., I was just holding them, must have been grabbing them a lot tighter than I thought." Replied Face sheepishly.
"You don't say." Growled BA, accepting the first aid kit from Purcell. He rummaged through it finding the necessary lotions and a crepe bandage. Between himself and Zeke they cleaned the wound and wrapped the bandage around the pressure pad on Face's hand. "You better see the quack when we get back to base." Commented BA, taking the blood stained tags and cleaning them.
As he cleaned each one he read the names; Captain Rusty Wallace, Captain Randy Lee, private Scott Baker - three men he had spent the last ten months with, getting to know them a little, sharing times of fear and joy. 'How soon things change', BA thought to himself.
The four remaining tags still had their newness about them and bore the names of Alex Shepherd, John Grainger, Steven Doyle and Luis Fox.. "God guide them on their journeys, give their families strength". The burly sergeant prayed quietly. Fingering the tags once more he raised them up to his lips and placed a small, delicate kiss on them.
"Nice BA". Hannibal whispered, then sought out Face. The euphoria of the morphine giving him the needed time to talk to Face before they landed. "Lieutenant?" Hannibal mouthed.
Hearing his CO call him, Face twisted his body around to meet Hannibal's gaze. "I heard what you said before, and for what it's worth, I couldn't have gotten everyone out any better than you did. You did your best and that's all that any one can do under the circumstances. You can only play the hand your dealt kid." As Hannibal finished speaking, he caught BA's smile and signaled him to watch over Face.
"Hold on boys and girls, where about to land." Spinner said, guiding the huey to the illuminated landing site, upon landing, medics rushed from the side of the building where they had been waiting for the arrival of the huey.
When the helicopter blades had slowed enough, General Phillips waited near the door of the helicopter for the platoon to disembark. He saw Hannibal carried from the helicopter on a stretcher, followed by Horn and Johnson also on stretchers. Ruiz assisted Harris from the helicopter and helped him to the infirmary.
"My God!" Phillips uttered. He searched for lieutenant Peck, seeing him he moved in his direction. "What happened?" He asked, placing his hand on Face's shoulder.
"Fucken Military intel is what happened!....., sir." Face seethed. Two MP's had heard the tone Face had used with the general and stepped forward to intervene. "Do you wish to press charges general?" The larger of the two MP's asked.
"No." Phillips answered firmly and ordered the MP's to leave. Face had continued to walk on while the general was dismissing the MP's, ignoring the requests for him to stop.
The general gave Face a few minutes to calm down before he decided to catch up with him.
"Thought this is where I might find you lieutenant." Phillips said trying to break the tension. Face looked up and then abruptly stood, saluting the superior officer. "At ease lieutenant. Care to tell me what that outburst earlier was about, before I change my mind and have you charged with insubordination." Phillips asked, beckoning Face to follow him.
"Well lieutenant? An explanation sometime this decade would be nice." Phillips asked, becoming exasperated by the non verbal replies from the junior officer.
"Typical intel..... they never get any information right. Seven men were killed by the VC thanks to incorrect information being handed on yet again!" Face exploded, finally losing his battle to contain his emotions. He let his arms drop to his sides, his actions distracting the general's gaze.
"Lieutenant that is the second count of insubordination that I could have you charged with in as many minutes. I am sure that colonel Smith would be disheartened to hear of your conduct. I am willing to drop the matter, provided that there are no further outbursts of this nature." Phillips cautioned, watching the lieutenant take himself back to an 'at attention' stance.
"Thank you sir and no sir there will be no more outbursts." Apologized Face. He continued to stand at attention and waited for the general's next words.
"Dismissed lieutenant. But I would like you to report to me in my office in ten minutes, so we can go over this more fully. Go and see how the rest of the platoon is doing, I'll see them later." Said Phillips, knowing that was where Face wanted to be right now.
"Thank you sir." Face said and saluted the commanding officer, flinching a little as he flexed his fingers to the salute formation. "Oh ..and lieutenant?" Phillips smiled, "you may want to get that hand looked at."
Face returned the smile and hurried off towards the infirmary. Inside he found BA pacing the corridor while Zeke remained seated by the door. "Any word yet?" Face asked, sitting next to Zeke. He heard BA grumble something about the doctors being busy and his answer from Zeke was a shake of his head.
One of the nurses saw the blood seeping through the bandage on Face's hand. "Let me take a look at that for you." She smiled and beckoned him to go with her.
"It might need a stitch or two." Zeke offered, remembering how Face had cut his hand.
Face arrived back a short time later, adorned with a new bandage. "How many?" Zeke asked looking at Face's hand.
"Two." Face replied and gave Zeke a wry smile. He waited a few more minutes before excusing himself, telling Zeke and BA that the general had requested to see him. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Uh huh." Zeke uttered, "if Hannibal wakes while you're gone I'll tell him where you are."
BA looked at Face and smirked. "Yeah man, we'll just tell him that Phillip's finally threw you in the brig."
"Wouldn't be the first time." Face chuckled and hurried off to keep his appointment, leaving Zeke and BA to wait for any news.
"Lieutenant Peck is here to see you sir." The young secretary informed the general.
"Thank you corporal, show him in." Replied Phillip's, watching the corporal exit his office.
She returned momentarily with Face. "Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?" She asked surreptitiously flirting with Face.
"Coffee would be great ma'am." Smiled Face, placing his hand on the door, holding it open for her. "General?" She asked him again, "Can I get you anything?"
"Just a coffee, black, thank you Su..., corporal." The general replied, covering his Freudian-slip.
The general's faux-par had not gone unnoticed by Face. He thought best to keep his comments to himself, being reprimanded twice in one day was enough for anyone.
As the secretary left she gave Face a subtle wink, causing him to quickly clear his throat.
"Lieutenant?" Phillips asked, thinking that Face' action was for his benefit. When Face responded with a surprised look the general knew all to well that the clearing of Face's throat was not for his benefit but for the sole purpose of the lieutenant's own actions.
"She is a beauty isn't she?" Smiled Phillips to a stunned Face. "Sir, yes s-s-s-sir." Stammered Face, knowing full well he'd been caught. The general leant across his desk, beckoning Face to lean in to the middle also. "Susan is my niece lieutenant. Need I say more?" Astonished by the revelation, Face sat dumbfounded for a few moments before he found his voice again. "Sir, fully understood."
"Good, now that we have that out of the way, I would like to go over your report of what happened in the AO (Area of Operations)." Phillips said, taking a cigar and leaning back into his chair.
"What can I say ... it was a cluster f..." Face started to say before stopping himself of saying the vulgar word in front of the general. "I've heard the term before son, but thank you for saving me from having to hear it first hand." Phillips smiled and offered Face a cigar. Accepting the cigar Face continued with his report.
".....so after landing in the AO which was supposedly clear of all VC activity, we walked into a fire zone. We finished the job at hand, but not without paying heavily for it, called in a 'dust off' and the rest as they say is history." Face said trying to remain calm. "We have to go back and get the bodies, they deserve a proper burial." Face added, finally handing over the dogtags from the dead men that he had been holding.
"Understood lieutenant. I have a squad leaving within the hour to collect the bodies. Thank you for the tags, I will send a personal letter home to each family. Is there you would like to have added?"
"I think Zeke, sergeant Anderson was going to gather their personal belongings and have them packaged up to be sent back home." Answered Face, staring at his bandaged hand.
"Excuse me...coffee is ready. Would you like to, have it now?" Susan asked, pushing the door open with the trolley. "Yes thank you corporal. Perfect timing wouldn't you say lieutenant?" Phillips smiled, noticing Face looking in another direction rather than at his niece.
After the coffees had been drunk. Face excuse himself from the general's office, saying that he wanted to check in on Hannibal. He made his exit from the office, avoiding the advance being made to him by Susan.
"Strange fellow." Susan remarked as she collected the emptied cups. She noticed the hint of amusement in her Uncle's eyes and shook her head. "Tell me you didn't." She said shaking her head.
"It is for your own good. I don't want the likes of lieutenant Peck consorting with you. Why you had to choose the army of all military careers available to you I'll never know. Why didn't you choose to join the navy like your father and brother?" Phillips retorted, trying to defend his actions to his niece.
"Because of the same reasons your displaying now. Just once I'd like to meet a nice decent man as well as have a career for myself but I am finding it so much harder than I had first expected. Of all the units to get assigned to I end up at this one." Susan jokingly complained.
"Look, I'm only looking out for your best interests. If I had my choice you'd be working state side away from all this. I'm sorry you ended up here, how about we call a truce?"
Susan warily nodded her head. "Talk about a military family....a father who is an admiral, my brother the lieutenant commander and my uncle a general. Okay truce." She said, extending her hand. Upon shaking her uncle's hand she added, "and I get to see whoever I want, off duty?" Knowing he had been beaten her uncle agreed.
"How is Hannibal, BA?" Face asked, sitting on the chair beside the sergeant who reminded him of 'Hoss Cartwright' from 'Bonanza'. "He's getting better, been improvin' since they brought him back from surgery." BA yawned, barely able to keep his eyes open.
"I'll sit with him a while. Why don't you go and get something to eat and have some rest." Face suggested. BA nodded and silently left Face watching over the colonel.
"Well Hannibal," Face said covering his face with his hands clearing the tiredness from his eyes, "you were right...., again. Susan is Phillips' niece. I sure know how to pick 'em. Just glad you're not awake to tell me 'I told you so'."
While sitting with Hannibal, Face picked up one of the military newspapers and began to read it. "Anything interesting Face?" Murdock asked, pulling down on the piece of paper that Face was reading.
"Murdock! When did you get back?" Face asked in amazement. He folded the newspaper and offered Murdock a chair.
"Just got back in...had to pick up the next shipment of turtles." Murdock said. Face looked at Murdock suspiciously. "Okay I know I'm going to hate myself for asking this but what or who are you referring to as 'turtles'?"
"New guys." Came a hoarse reply from the bed. Both Face and Murdock looked tot he direction from which the voice had come. "Hannibal!" They both said in unison.
"No it's jolly old Saint Nick, of course it's me....., who else were you expecting?" Hannibal coughed and then chuckled softly at the two somber faces in front of him.
Face quickly grabbed the flask of water and poured Hannibal a small drink. "Just sip it slowly." He instructed. "How did you know what 'turtles' were?"
As Hannibal slowly sipped his drink, Murdock answered Face's question. "The new replacements are called 'turtles' 'cause it takes 'em so long to arrive."
"Uh huh..., should've known. It's been one of those mornings." Sighed Face, turning his attention back to Hannibal.
"Found out she was his niece huh kid?" Hannibal smiled, knowing that he had hit upon one of Face's dilemmas. "You could say that." Smirked Face, recalling the conversation he'd had earlier with the general. "How's your shoulder feel?" Face added trying to divert the conversation.
"Can't feel much...they must have me pretty doped up on painkillers. My ribs hurt like hell though." Replied Hannibal, trying to get himself into a more comfortable position.
"Who are the new recruits Murdock?" Hannibal asked as he accepted Face's offer of another pillow.
"A lieutenant Myron Goldman and corporal Marcus Taylor. They've both been assigned to your platoon." Murdock answered, "Oh and I've warned them to back anything they say to Face with money."
"Cute Murdock." Face responded a little chastised. Hannibal pulled Murdock's hand close to him. "Murdock your part of the platoon too, don't you forget that."
"Hey colonel I know that...but when I'm up there in my bird, it's like a different world. It's like I believe I can fly. You know that's a good name for a song title." Smiled Murdock, catching Face's expression.
"You're nuts Murdock." Face retorted, rolling his eyes. "Hang on a minute Face, I think Murdock may have something there...., a few more lyrics you could have a top seller Murdock." Hannibal grinned, enjoying how much he was beginning to irk Face.
"Aw Hannibal, don't go encouraging him. You know what happened last time when he tried to sell back the general's golf balls to him. Why anyone would want to play golf is beyond me..., chasing little white balls all over the greens and trying to sink them in holes." Complained Face.
The laughter was broken by a heavy set nurse carrying a laden tray. "Good to see our patient is feeling better. You two plan on sticking around while I give the colonel his sponge bath?"
"Uh no thanks, I'll see you later Hannibal." Murdock said, grimacing at the frightening tone of the nurse. "Me too, I had better get going and check on BA." Face stammered, backing away from the nurse.
Before he could move to far she reached out and grabbed his arm. "Y'all tell BA that I said hello okay sugar. Boy I swear you're gettin' skinny. You need to get some meat on dem bones. You knows I likes my men big and strong."
"I'll remember that and I'll tell BA you said hello." Face said, breaking free from the nurses strong grasp. "Enjoy your bath Hannibal."
"Oh I will kid. Hey bring back a radio or an up to date newspaper when you come back again. Tell BA I said hello as well." Hannibal smiled as he waved goodbye to Face.
As Face hurried out the door he heard the nurse commenting on how skittish he was. The comment was followed by raucous laughter.
Face had caught up with Murdock just outside the infirmary. "Well I suppose that I'd better go and introduce myself to the new replacements and show them the layout of this place." Face said, placing his arm on Murdock's shoulder.
Murdock stopped abruptly causing Face to trip. "Ah Face, don't you mean that you want to relieve them of any monetary assets that they may have by inviting them to a poker game?"
Face feigned a hurt look. "Murdock, how long have we known each other? I'm surprised that you could think such a thing."
"I'm not." Zeke retorted, having finally caught up with Face. "You know the first time I met you, you were as I recall trying to relieve me of some funds, by inviting me to a card game in your cell. As it was it cost me an extra guard duty for accepting your offer, not to mention two hundred bucks."
While Face remained still trying to present himself as the epitome of innocence, Zeke and Murdock reveled at his discomfort. "Are we going to stand here all day or are we going to meet the new replacements?" Face at last asked.
Murdock and Zeke both shrugged and followed Face to the general's office. They waited outside enjoying the fresh morning air while the general finished welcoming the new arrivals. When the door to the office opened the general called Face, Zeke and Murdock forward and carried out the introductions.
"You'll be bunking in here." Face gestured as he led Myron and Taylor to the billet. "Stow your gear and then come over to the mess. I'll introduce you to the rest of the platoon there." Face dismissed both the new recruits and made his way over to the mess accompanied by Zeke and Murdock.
As they entered the mess they were greeted by BA and the rest of the platoon. "How's the colonel, Face?" BA asked pushing past one of the members of the platoon.
"He's doing okay but not overly happy at the prospect of being out of the field for a week. By the way Katy was wanting to pass on her well wishes for you. If I didn't know better I'd say that woman has a soft spot for you." Face smiled at BA's growing uneasiness.
During coffee and breakfast the new replacements were introduced to the rest of the platoon. Conversation was light and stemmed mainly around interests and family. During the course of the light hearted conversation general Phillips and his aide appeared.
The platoon quickly stood to attention, acknowledging his presence. "As you were." The general said as he stood in front of them. "I know you're still coming to terms with what has happened and that your CO is in the infirmary, but we need to press on. We have been receiving help from the local VC resistance and now is the time for us to help them."
As the general spoke he gained the full attention of everyone present. He laid out the plan in full detail of what he wanted the platoon to accomplish and appointed Face as the CO while Hannibal was recuperating.
"I want you all to be ready to move out at 0500 hours tomorrow. I suggest that you get in as much rest as you can today. Dismissed." General Phillips finished, before signaling to Face to join him.
The next morning was overcast as Face made his way over to the infirmary. Katy was on duty and approached him as he entered. "Hannibal's sleepin'. Do you want me to wake him?"
Face shook his head. "No thanks, just tell him when he wakes that I said hello and that we should be back in a few days." He watched Hannibal's chest rise and fall in peaceful slumber, before turning to leave.
After landing at the designated site, Murdock bid his passengers goodbye and told Face to be careful. "Sure Murdock, just don't you forget to come and pick us up again." Face laughed as he too disembarked.
It wasn't long before the team came across the village as pin pointed on their map. One of the local villagers had decided to do more than just provide the enemy locations whenever he could, he'd also chosen to take up sniping on NVA troops.
As the team began the arduous task of relocating the entire village some twenty clicks away, one of the villagers refused to go on the grounds of religious beliefs. Face and Zeke both tried reasoning with the elderly papa San farmer and in the end called upon the man's granddaughter to help. After several hours the elderly man conceded and packed his meager possessions, joining the rest of the villagers.
BA had directed Harris and Taylor to check the stores for and food that could be transported and for Purcell and Ruiz to tether the cattle together. When BA was sure that there was nothing else worth salvaging he informed Face of what he had done and waited further instruction.
Face and Zeke both looked over the map and the relocation zone that they had been given while everyone waited with bated anticipation of the move. The trek to the new settlement would be long and tiring and the best possible route had to be used. The map showed rugged mountain terrain which was passable.
"Do you think they will be able to make the journey?" Zeke asked looking at the handful of elderly villagers who were a respected part of the community.
"They'll have to, they don't really have a choice." Face glumly replied, knowing what Zeke was thinking. Without wanting to waste what was left of the precious day light hours Face gave the command to move out.
Two days into the journey they came across a burned out village of Montagnards. A Vietnamese tribe of mountain people that had inhabited the mountain area that the platoon and homeless villagers were now in. The travelling villagers offered prayers for the lost souls while the platoon searched for any signs of life.
After seeing so many slaughtered bodies, all hope was given up of finding anyone alive. Zeke was searching one of the last huts to be checked when he heard the strained cries of a small child.
"Me, me." The child cried for her mother. What Zeke saw bought tears to his eyes. The child of no more than ten months was trying to suckle at her mothers breast, trying to gain attention from her dead mother. As he fought back his emotions, thinking about his own girls back in the States, he gathered the baby in his arms and wrapped a blanket around her.
"Zeke? Zeke where are you?" Face called unable to locate the sergeant in his command. He heard a muffled reply a short distance from where he was walked in the direction from where it came.
"What have you here?" Face asked seeing the baby in Zeke's arms. He also noticed Zeke casually wipe tears from his eyes as he held the young child up for Face to see. "Another victim of this bloody senseless war." Face said be fore Zeke could answer him.
"Yeah. Her mother's on the other side of the room. She was trying to feed from her mother ...., by the looks of her I'd say she hasn't had a meal in two maybe three days." Zeke answered cradling the baby closer to his own chest.
"Well she's not going to find anything there, unless you're not telling me something." Face laughed, seeing the baby root around Zeke's chest, looking for any signs of a feed. Zeke could not help but laugh at the situation and quickly assured Face that he was not hiding anything from him.
"Maybe one of the villagers will care for her." Face suggested hopefully, rubbing the baby's cheek with the back of his fingers. "They have a dairy cow out there, wonder if the milk bar's open yet." He added, looking around for something to use as a bottle.
"It's worth a shot...., at this stage this young lady has nothing to lose." Agreed Zeke also hoping that one of the villagers may take over caring for the child.
They emerged from the building to find the rest of the platoon waiting for them and the villagers still in a state of shock of witnessing the devastation of lost lives. They all turned when they heard the young baby crying.
One of the villagers stepped froward from the group and held her arms out towards Zeke.
"Xin vu long mote gai?", she asked. Zeke looked towards Face to obtain a translation on what was being asked.
"It's all right, she has asked if she can hold the baby. I think our worries are over." Face smiled, motioning for Zeke to let the woman hod the baby.
"Ca'm o-n nhienu." The woman replied thanking Zeke. Saving Zeke from a possibly embarrassing reply Face answered her. "Khong co chi."
"You're certainly handy to have around. Can you order take -aways too?" Zeke asked Face as the woman turned and walked back to where her people were standing. "My Vietnamese is limited to asking for the necessities and then it is not the best." He added while Face was softly chuckling.
They watched silently as the woman spoke to her fellow villagers about the baby. They all turned and smiled at Face and Zeke and held the baby aloft. One of the women rummaged through her personal belongings and located a pouch feeding bottle, similar to those used by the North American Indians.
Within a few minutes enough milk had been milked from the cow to satisfy the baby's insatiable thirst. After the baby had been fed and cleaned she settled contentedly in the makeshift cradle that had been fashioned for her and was placed in it on the back of the team of oxen.
The soldiers in Face's command spent several minutes with the help of the Vietnamese refugees burying the dead before moving on to their awaiting destination.