He shuddered and twitched where he’d fallen. I stared at him in shock; this good friend of mine leaking his lifeblood in large volumes, soaking his flack vest, Jungle Fatigues, web belt and the ammo and grenades clipped to it. Tamlin Brussard had made the Northwest Orient charter fight with me to Tan Son Hut and was assigned as a rigger just like me. It was a routine flight in a C-130. No special drops, we’d land and workers would use forklifts to empty it. The base had the name Tuy Hoa and neither of us ever saw it before, but were told it wasn’t all that scary a place. The offload went smoothly and we’d had time to scrounge some chow and even a cold beer. We were then dead heading to Bien Hoa, a major port in constant upgrade and extension. There were lots of planes there and was pretty well protected, suffering random and ineffective mortar attacks. It was at the point that people would’t even break up a card game played outdoors. Since our last few missions had sucked, we looked forward to a day or so of lounging on the beach our checking the big cargo and warships come and go.
We took off, the pilot holding the plane down and accelerating to the departure end of the runway and then popping up to 200 feet trading the accrued airspeed for altitude. e turned south-southwest and looked out over the undulating sea of jungle canopy that seemed to go on forever. We were startled from our sightseeing by an exploding amidships. The aircraft began slow roll. We could hear the pilots swearing and calling out a MayDay, the universal distress call. They spit out map coordinates and ad terrain features to let rescue khow were we were going down.
The aircraft took another hit and I was able to look through a hole in the fuselage where the wing had once taken root. About this time I tarted shouting curswords too. Tamlin looked at me and pantomimed tightening my seat belts. I followed the suggestion. The aircraft struck in a spin and flend skittered across the tree tops like a rock skipped over a calm water, except without the calm. We came to a top and we unhooked, carefully letting ourselves down to the wingless side this was now the floor. Bullets seared through the aircraft’s carcass and scattered shrapnel everywhere. We made our way back to the rear ramp which the pilots opened before they sere shot to death by a few of the machine gun bursts raking the plane. We dumped ourselves and rolled out of the plane and immediately took fire. We were able to find cover, but not before a burst of AK-47 fire on full auto hit Tamlin on the kidney area and walked across his back. He took four rounds. I tried to stem the blood, but everything I did seemed to gush more blood from his fading body so I quit.
“Basket, this is Basket 1-5.” I called into our TAC command. “We have taken heavy fire and the aircraft is down, pilots down and we need dustoff for one o the crew.”
They had repeat souls aboard and souls surviving and told me that rescue was on the way. They asked if I had smoke. I did. Three canisters of red. They told me to stand by and that when I heard choppers to throw a red and contact Tarfoot for further instructions. They gave me the frequency and cut loose. I was taking fire from all directions and tried to figure out a place where the helicopter could land. There was no place I could see.
I heard the rotors and popped red smoke. “Basket 5-1 we see your smoke. We need you to move a half click east..”
“Negative, negative. I have a wounded man and VC is all around our position.”
“Roget Basket 5-1, hold your ears and keep your head down.”
All hell broke loose. There were four Hueys in the flight, on, the medivac was a slick, the other two were armed with rockets and machine guns. I think they emptied it all in a circle maybe 50 feet away from me. Ropes then dropped through the canopy with a litter tied to one end. There was a large D ring sewn into the end of the rope and to that, I hooked for clevises attached with steel cable to the Di ring and stuck my leg through a 3 foot loop of rope about 10 feet about the littler. “Basket 5-1 is ready to go.”
Instead of an acknowledgement, the free rope cold on the ground whipped like a striking snake and the first I and then the litter flew suddenly up above the top canopy. I could hear Brussard screaming and saw that he was leaving a trail of running blood that broke into droplets as the rivulets of it fell. After a couple of minutes, the slick carefully landed and medics came to help Brussard. I ran over to my crewmate. They had his vest and shirts cut off of him and were sticking clamps into the large exit holes in his back, they ignored the penetration areas Where the bullets struck. I took Brussards hand in mine and he sueezed it hard enough the hurt. He was muttering, occasionally saying my name, his wife’s name and he word children. I think he was pssing me messages and requests but I have no idea what he said.
The medic’s pace slowed considerably and they began to reclaim the equipment and devices from his body. “I’m sorry, man.” said a Spec 5 medic. “He’s gone.”
He wa yelling at me and then talking to me, he couldn’t be dead. I touched his neck feeling for the carotid artery. Nothing.
I wondered what he was saying to me and I hoped it wasn’t something like ‘the family savings is all gold and buried under the northeast corner of the house’s rock foundation.’ Or worse yet ‘I killed a man in Memphis just to watch him die, here’ s his contact info.
I truly wonder what it is that so many dying people say as they expire. I wonder what I might say as the day rushes the me at such an accelerated pace. I’m trying to get everything in order and I know I will forget to deal with it, only to remember it like leaving on the water as the family is flying happily to Hawaii or somewhere.
Tamlin, I hope I didn’t leave your water running.