February 14, Sunday afternoon
Dear Chaplain Miller,

What a night-or morning-I had! The war has become real to me. I’ll try to tell you about this happening as best I can.

I stretched out on my air mattress in Speedy's bunker after writing a short letter to you describing the going away party for LTC Anderson. I placed my steel pot beside my head. I covered myself with a poncho liner that served as a summer weight blanket.

I wondered to myself, “Would rockets be able to penetrate the top of this bunker?” Half dreaming, half-praying, confused about my attitude of this night, I realized that the custom of military protocol called for courtesy good-byes, regardless of the war going on. But then, who knows? So far, so good. Nothing seemed to be happening around the base. I was into my dream when Speedy awakened me.

"Sorry, Chaplain. I was playing cards with some guys over at A-company. You doing all right?"

"I'm fine, Speedy. Thanks."

"Chaplain, I wish you would call me Stony, I like that nickname better than Speedy."

"No problem." I said. "Stony, do you have a flash light I can borrow? I have to take a leak."

"Here." He handed me a small penlight. “The piss tube over by the dump,” he said as I took the light.

I slipped on my pants and boots, not bothering to tie them. Looked at my watch. 0235. I made my way out of the bunker and though the other dark mounds of neighboring bunkers to the piss tube. I stood looking down into the gully that was the firebase dump, there was a slight, pungent odor in the area came from the trash. It was pitch dark, with the exception a glow coming from the TOC. The cool night breeze had become a little chilly.

I made my way back into the bunker. Stony was still awake.

"That you, chaplain?" he asked.

I wondered who else he was expecting. "Yeah," I answered. I thought to myself, should I put my pants and boots on? I saw that Stony kept his boots on.

"Do you always sleep in your boots?” I asked.

"Most of the time. You never know what's going to happen out here." He answered.

So I kept on my pants and boots, but didn't bother to tie them. I crawled back again onto my air mattress. I was almost back into my dream. I could hear Stony snoring very softly.

Suddenly the world around us began to explode with vengeful force. Explosions were going off like strings of firecrackers only a hundred of times louder. I jumped up, reached down and tied my boots. My heart started beating so loud it seemed to be shaking the bunker.

Stony woke up and was sat up on his edge bunk area. "What in the hell was that?" he yelled as he started to mess around with his M-16. I pulled back the split sandbag sack that served as the bunker door and looked out across the firebase.

Blasts of deafening orange explosives shouted out their disruption like thunder and lightening coming up from the earth into the dark moonless night. Our mortar pits were glowing with flaming orange blasts. Flares filled the sky with fiery light. I could see most of the way across the firebase; I heard more explosive blasts coming from the artillery area of Blind Faith.

Stony kept saying we were being over-run. Then he started cussing about his M-16. "This damn thing may not work, I haven't cleaned or fired it for months," he said to himself and to me.

That's great. Just what a non-combatant officer needs to hear from his only hope of security. "Stay at the door. Don't go out or you'll get yourself shot by one of our men," I yelled at him. I did learn something from the Replacement Company training after all.

I heard AK 47 rounds going off and bursts from our own M-16's blasting though the night. I said a prayer. "Lord, take care of my wife and boys and watch over the battalion." I was scared, yet calm. I truly thought we were going to die. Little did I understand or know that the VC were not interested in a chaplain and a pad man when they had targets of a Commander in the TOC, mortar pits and 105 howitzer.

The command tactical operations center was as bright as a sunburst. Voices were calling to stay put. The smell of gun smoke filled the chilly air. This was no dream. It was a nightmare.

The attack lasted less than fifteen minutes, but to me seemed like an hour. Huey dust-off helicopters with their lights shining were illuminating the chopper pad. I wish there were words to describe the noise that the blades of choppers make. I could see the red crosses painted on the sides. What great response time!

A Cobra gun ship circled the area, shooting rockets into the bush. What mortars were not destroyed were still popping flares and explosive rounds into the jungle outside our perimeter. All three 105 howitzers, Amazing Grace, Blind Hope and Blind Faith, were standing silent and mortally wounded.

It was a chaotic, frightening, exciting, and fearful experience. When the small arms fire stopped, everything grew quiet except for the noise from the helicopters and mortars. I heard Captain Jones yell, "Chaplain! You're needed at the pad!"

I began to make my way to the Pad. The flare lights and the dust off chopper light gave the firebase a strange glow. Troops were moving about, doing their duty, securing the area. As I was making my way between the bunkers and got close to the Pad, I could see the Medics working on wounded GI’s. Our Battalion Surgeon was providing triage.

Near the last bunker I stepped on a wounded soldier lying between two bunkers.

"Hey" he yelled.

"I'm sorry, I didn't see you." I said.

"Who are you?" he asked. Then cried out, "I got it in the eyes and can't see."

"I'm the chaplain," I said quickly, crouching at his side a placing my hand on his shoulder. "I see the medics have taken care of you." He had a bandage around his eyes.

"Will you say a prayer for me, chaplain?"

"You bet I will. What’s your name?"

"Private Jamison, sir." After a pause he asked, "Are you the Catholic Chaplain?” he asked.

"No, I'm Protestant," I answered him.

"It doesn't matter, does it, Chaplain? I mean you can pray for me, too." His voice sounded excited.

I placed my hand on his forehead above his bandage and prayed, "Lord, bless this young man and see that his eyes receive the proper healing. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." I made a sign of the cross on his forehead.

I looked up and yelled, "Over here. Help me to get this one to the pad!" Some dark figure came over and we got him up to the pad and onto a chopper.

I heard a loud voice behind me. It was coming from Randy, the new XO that I flew out to the firebase with earlier. He was yelling at me but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

"Randy, what happened?" I yelled back as I ran to his side.

"Welcome to the first of the twelfth. Boom!" He yelled even above the roar of the helicopters.

A medic was with him. "The Major has busted ear drums," said the medic. "He can't hear a thing."

"Can I do anything?" I asked.

"Captain Jones may need some help," answered the medic and pointed toward the pad where they were loading the wounded on the choppers.

I ran over to where Jones was leading a fellow who had a bandage around the shoulder. I noticed a dark stain covering most of it. "Here, Chaplain, give me a hand," said Jones. We got the wounded solider up on the chopper. There were four or five others already aboard. "Come on, Chap, let's get the Major on this one. He's the last," said Jones.

"How many of our men were killed," I asked.

"Only nine wounded that we know of. No one killed. We killed three Dinks. Don't know for sure how many attacked. The rest got away." Jones answered in a loud voice.

"How did they get in?” I asked.

"Sergeant Rechico said they came up through the dump. They started with dropping satchel changes in the TOC. That's where the Major got it. The CO's are fine. Nothing hit them. They were in the TOC with the door closed. The Major was outside having a smoke and the concussion blew out his eardrums. Next they hit the mortars and 105’s on their way out."

The dust off was finally completed. Relative silence fell on the base. In the distance I could hear the Cobras checking out the area. The mess sergeant brought us some coffee. After a hot cup of strong coffee, Capt. Jones suggested that we check in with the TOC.

The steel doors were closed. Captain Jones knocked. "Captain Jones, sir, and the Chaplain," he yelled out.

The door opened. "Come on in. Some night, huh, Chaplain?” Lieutenant Colonel Sterling said. "How was the Major doing?"

"He was dusted off last, yelling at the top of his lungs. The doc told me he busted both ear drums." Jones told him.

"Damn!" said Sterling. "I really needed him." He saw us looking around. "Anderson is walking the perimeter with the Sergeant Major."

CPT Jones commented, "We're lucky with only nine wounded. I thought by the noise and explosions and confusion, that we were really being overrun."

The CO said, "We would have gotten them all if we were able to have our weapons loaded while on base. That damn regulation, not allowing us to have our weapons loaded while on a f###in’ firebase is crazy. If some of the old-timers hadn't ignored it, we wouldn't have gotten any of the son-of- bitches. Sgt. Green of B Company blew two of the bastards away and thinks he might have wounded at least one more. I'm not sure yet who got the other f####er. That's not going in the report. As far as Brigade will know, we responded to a Sapper attack."

The radio began to crack out a message. The Personal Officer (S-I) operating the radio reported. "Sir, that was from Division. They want the change of command to go on as planned tomorrow. The Division Commander will be here at sunup. They did cancel the band, however."

"Good!" Said Sterling. "Chaplain, are you going to have a service today?" He asked.

"Yes sir."

"I'll try to be there, but with the General's coming out so early I may not make it."

"I understand, sir," I told him.

"One more thing. What's the weather going to be like today?" he asked with a grin.

I was a little surprised by his question. "I guess we will have to see if it will be sunny or overcast."


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