The Walking Wounded

Sergeant Tibbets and Me on Hill 65

Saturday, December 28, 1968

The aftermath of yesterday’s deadly engagement was still heavy on the minds of Bravo Company.  Sumo and I had learned our lesson from past experience . . . “this was none of our business.”  We served the Grunts their chow and kept our heads down, not making any eye contact.  There was no time to grieve for those who were killed.  Yesterday’s second patrol also lost a Marine to a booby trapped artillery  round . . . two patrols – two USMC KIA.  This was a new day, and it required these Marines to stay focused.

Our new mess man, Nye, was a seasoned machine gunner.  He had survived a year of combat and was nearing a mental breaking point.  The fallen machine gunner had taken Nye’s place on the patrol, and his death loomed large on Bravo Company (Nye blamed himself).

Bambino was a changed person.  His facial expression was a mingling of confusion and anger.  The young boy had aged overnight, his upper lip was curled into a look of wanting revenge.  He had survived his first patrol physically but was mentally broken.

Detachment was a common symptom with Grunts in the field.  It was like the life had been sucked out of their eyes.  These were the walking wounded, and they were more dangerous than a crippled animal.  There was no remedy for this condition, but some turned to drugs or alcohol to ease the pain.  Neither was effective.

Next Edition:  Let It Grow

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