Tomorrow is January 10thâ€¦ again. Every year, for the past 36 years, this date becomes important to me. It likely means nothing to you, but itâ€™s special to me and those 20 or so who were there that day. No earth-shattering event happened then, nothing of note, nothing of any notoriety or importance. Itâ€™s just the date on which two insignificant, un-heralded, un-important soldiers died.
January 11, 1971 (local time)
Itâ€™s early morning. The tropical sun leaps above the hills to the east, illuminating the fog which clings to our little hilltop in Antenna Valley, south and west of Danang. Everything not close by is obscured by the fog which now diffuses the sunsâ€™ light, the luminescence engulfing us without actually revealing anything. We know whatâ€™s out there beyond our foxholes because we saw it yesterday, but we canâ€™t see it now.
SSG Leo â€œPopsâ€? Rose and SP/4 Allen Gray are sitting in their damp, dank, wet foxholes for stand-to, like the rest of us. We were awakened by the last guard shift an hour or so before sunrise to tumble into our holes (which are remarkably like graves) in anticipation of a VC attack just as the sun rises. Itâ€™s their favorite time to attack. We do this every morning, like clockwork, but nothing ever happens.
Thatâ€™s not to say it couldnâ€™t. It could, and especially here in this valley. Weâ€™ve been here now for about 4 or 5 weeks, off and on. We did an operation here back in early December and another one later in the month, which stretched into the new year. We got a couple of bad guys and few from the other platoons have gone home on Dustoffâ€™s. The usual stuff. Get some; lose some. It never ends.
Now, weâ€™re back again and, like the previous operations, the signs of the enemyâ€™s presence is everywhere. Weâ€™ve already made contact this time, in the Landing Zone (LZ) when we landed, but no one was hurt. Weâ€™ve also nearly fired up another platoon in this dense brush and 1st and 3rd platoons have had a firefight with each other. This place is thick with bad guys and the sense of ominous doom is heavy.
This morning, though, is quite. No movement, no clatter of distant small arms or even the â€œcrumpâ€? of artillery. Itâ€™s almost peaceful, as if the whole world has decided to sleep in because of the fog. We wipe the dew off our faces with the nasty, filthy green towels which we wear around our necks to cushion the weight of our rucksacks and prepare for the day. Who knows what the day will bring? Will we live? Will we die? It no longer seems all that important. We are grunts, common Infantry, and our job is to die whenever, and wherever, our leaders think it appropriate or when God decides. We have no say in the matter.