Volume 5 Number 1-4
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Just Down the Hill, Part II
Marc B. Adin, University of Kansas at Lawrence
I crawled to the sound with dread and fear as my guides. As I inched up I saw the Man of Glass. He was on his back. He was soaked with blood from his upper chest to his knees. He was hit where his belly once had been. Small arms fire kept me down as I drew closer to him. I could see his wound clearly now. Glassman, oh Glassman, how could they do this to you? My face tightened as my eyes filled with tears and then overflowed and washed down my cheeks and into my mouth, the bitterest of tears.
His face, drained white, eyes open; his chest heaving and gulping for air as I reached him. "Glassman, it's me." His eyes did not move to me.
"I know. I knew you would come. You wouldn't leave me alone to die." His speech was whispered and halting.
"No, no. You're going to be all right. I'll stay with you. The medics will be here soon..." The fire from above us increased. I had been spotted. I saw muzzle flashes and movement and I returned fire. I could see movement up and to the right. They were moving down on us. The large puddle of blood growing around Glassman was soaking through to my skin as I lay next to him. It was warm. What were we? Balloons filled with blood? I grabbed his feet by his ankles and tried to drag him down the hill. He screamed in hellish agony. I was pulling him in half.
"Glassman, forgive me."
"Don't move me. I'm dying. I'm through. Help me."
"What do you want me to do? I'm going to stay with you, don't worry, right here." I snuggled in close to his right side, my mouth touching his ear. We whispered like lovers.
"I can't carry you down. I can't move you. What do you want me to do? The dinks are moving down on us." The words gushed from me. At best, we had only minutes left.
Everything was crushing in on me, I was beginning to suffocate.
"Don't leave me like this. Kill me and go."
I began to cry. "I can't."
"Kill me now. Before they get to me. And kill you, too. Can't you see? I'm done." There were long pauses between each whisper. His face felt wet and cold, blue creeping into his chalk white skin, bringing death. The NVA were moving closer. There was fire passing above me from below, stabbing into the dink positions. The sheets of tracers just above were pushing me down.
Glassman was sobbing now. "Kill me. Please."
I blocked him out and fired a few rounds at the dink positions. My fire brought only a more intense response.
I couldn't think. I could only do. Do it now. I unholstered my.45, put a round in the chamber, and reached across his chest. I pushed the barrel of the pistol into him right above his heart.
"Thanks, man. I love you. I'm not afraid. I can see it now." I cradled his head under my arm and covered his left ear with the palm of my hand. I pushed myself tight against him.
"We'll meet again in heaven," I whispered.
"I'll be waiting." He nodded as he spoke.
I squeezed the trigger.
I was running. Crying and running uphill. Bullets were whirring around me but none of it mattered. I was running to the ridge top; some of the platoon had to be there and I had to find them.
"Adin. Get down! Get down!" It was Moore. He was alive. Someone was alive.
I ran up into what was left of the two platoons. They were flat on the ground, forming a semicircle. I fell to the ground and crawled up to Moore.
"Lemme see where you're hit. Roll over on your back. Duncan, give me a hand with him." Duncan began to crawl to me.
"Sarge, I'm not hit. I'm okay. Glassman, Grub, Lieutenant, Smitty. All dead." Moore hesitated as "all dead" registered. He kept looking for my wounds.
"Adin... all this blood... it's not yours."
"No. Glassman." Moore buried his face in his hands for a moment. A tremor shook him. He took a deep breath, stroked me on the head, and regained his composure. Finger paint streaks of Glassman's blood marked his face. It was as if he had painted his face in a ritual which would give him strength and protection in preparation for battle.
Moore went over to the radio. Duncan was asking me about Smitty and Glassman. "Just dead, man, just dead. Smitty, a grenade. Glassman, hit in the stomach." I couldn't explain what had happened because what had happened was still down the hill, like a painting hung on a museum wall which I had yet to recall or think about. It was just something that had happened down the hill, down the hill. Just down the hill.
I was beginning to blank, to lose focus and become disoriented. Why was I here and what was I doing? I felt the panic in me gaining momentum.
"Duncan. Duncan! What are we doing?" Duncan could help me.
"We gonna kill the muthafuckin gook bastards, yeah, das wha we gonna do, we gonna turn em into dead shit meat." We would to it for Smitty, for the Man of Glass, for Conners, for Grub. Yeah, and for me. They had tried to kill me and now they would die for it. All my fear was becoming hatred and anger; an anger which wanted and needed to kill.
Nothing could hurt me now, God had saved me for a purpose: I had become immortal.
Moore gave us the orders to move along the ridge line. We were going to run down on them from behind and catch them in a kill zone between the convoy and us. I turned to Duncan. "Duncan, no prisoners, we kill them all, fuckin kill them all."
"Fuckin A, bro, they already dead." We had reached a point of blood lust, frantic in our overwhelming desire to kill and kill again. The platoons smelled of it; we moved like savage beasts ready to plunge our hands into their chests, to rip out their still beating hearts and smash each heart into their faces. We wanted their own death to be each one's last conscious thought. We were exhilarated by this new emotion which tapped a reservoir of murderous energy none of us had ever realized existed before. We now understood the Army's training cry that the spirit of the bayonet was to kill. We were the embodiment of the spirit which once had seemed so foreign to us, but now gave to us the sole reason to be.
Down the hill we moved. Quickly, quietly. At fifty meters we could see them, all forty of us took cover and waited for Moore's order. It came within seconds.
I fired clip after clip into them. Explosions tore into their positions. Within minutes they stopped firing. We moved closer but continued to fire; all the steel death cut only one way, the good way, from us to them. Moore was yelling at us to cease fire, but we kept firing anyway. I had taken Glassman's bandoliers and had ten extra clips. It was severe payback time. We came upon the thirty or so NVA, all sprawled along the length of the built up berm, all dead or dying. I began to fire into any who showed any movement, aiming for the head from ten or fifteen feet: quick bursts of three rounds. Next I started on those who weren't moving, the force of my bullets turning them this way and that, tearing their uniforms, blowing off pieces of their bodies in all directions. With every shot I felt safer and higher. Suddenly, Moore wrapped his arms around me from behind and yelled, "Enough! Enough!" Duncan had stopped firing too. We looked at the human butcher shop stretched out along the berm. Duncan got down on one knee over the face of an NVA soldier and said, "There it is, you muthafucka. There it is." Then he spit on its face with all the force he had in his body. He stood up, kicked its head and walked over the berm. It was enough. It was over.
I walked across the bodies and the berm and down to the road. As we came into the sunlight of the road, Moore was counting us up: we had lost eighteen men. Every one a mother's son. What would they tell Glassman's mother about how her nineteen-year-old son had died? Someday I would find her and tell her how much I loved him and why I killed him, how we were going to meet in heaven, how it was all right. How I had avenged his death, that his killer was dead ten times over, how Duncan and I and the rest of the platoon had made double sure of that...
As we climbed on the trucks and jeeps and headed back to Pleiku, the burn on my right hand began to throb with pain. We had been turned back one more time. During the ride back my anger did not ebb. My thoughts washed over Grub and Smitty and Glassman and Conners and the fourteen others as my eyes fixed on the beautiful tropic sunset in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. I swore never to forget.
Later, years later, I learned I could never forget what happened on the hill that day, anymore than I could banish the stars from the sky.