DAVID WILSON, USMC
KHE SANH, VIETNAM
January 30, 1968
Enjoying Huế City? Foods not quite like Mom’s is it? We’ve been fighting the Viet Cong at Khe Sanh for the past nine days. We’re gonna rush their positions later today and hopefully take them by surprise. Captain Jackson went out last night to clear the way of traps and tunnels. He didn’t return. Guess that means Lieutenant Reagan’s in charge now. Write back to me will you? Semper Fi!
David dropped a picture of him and his brother into the envelope before sealing it up.
“Sgt. Wilson, I’ll make sure that letter gets to Huế City, alright? We gotta go look for Captain Jackson,” Lt. Reagan said.
“Captain Jackson has been gone for 12 hours now; he’s either dead or captured,”
Cpl. Leo Andrews said.
“Marines don’t get captured, Corporal!” Reagan yelled, “We fight till we die!”
“Okay, if we’re gonna go, we gotta go now, before the Chucks get a chance to set up traps,” David interrupted.
“Sergeant Wilson’s right, we better start moving,” Reagan ordered.
“Oo-rah!” The rest of the Marines yelled. Just as they stepped outside, Reagan signaled for his team to stop moving.
“What is it, sir?” David asked.
Reagan was looking into the distance with his binoculars with a terrified expression on his face. He muttered a few curses under his breath before turning around and yelling, “INCOMING ATTACK!”
David took the binoculars from Reagan’s hands and looked through them. All he could see were thousands of triangular hats moving towards him.
“Somebody get me a radio right now!” Reagan yelled.
“Coming!” Pvt. Jacob Lawrence said as he ran to pick up his back-mounted radio. He pulled it onto his shoulders and ran back to David.
“Station, we need an incendiary barrage on my target right now!” Reagan yelled into the radio.
“Negative, all air support is already engaged,” came the voice over the radio.
“Wait, you mean we’re not the only ones under attack?”
“That’s what it seems like, a lot of our planes have been shot down in Hue,”
Eric… David thought. “Lieutenant, what about my letter to my brother? I need to stay in contact with him so I know he’s alive.” Sweat dripped down his face as he struggled to breathe properly.
“Calm down, Sergeant,” Reagan began.
“I don’t wanna calm down! I HATE this damn war!” David collapsed onto the floor and began to cry.
Cpl. Andrews knelt down and put his hand on David’s shoulder. “Wilson, it’s gonna be alright. C’mon, we still have war to fight,” David didn’t respond. Andrews looked up at Reagan in despair.
“Let’s just go, Corporal, he’ll come when he’s ready,” Reagan said.
“I never really thought about what war can do to Marines until now,” Pvt. Lawrence said, “I thought Marines were unbreakable.”
February 1, 1968
Hue City is a hellhole. The Viet Cong carried out a massive attack the other night. There aren’t many of us left. I heard they also attacked Khe Sanh. I hope you guys held up well without Captain Jackson. If you get this letter David, please write back. All my buddies are dead or dying and I really need someone to talk to. Good luck, godspeed. Semper Fi!
“Sgt. Wilson, I have something for you, might be important,” Reagan said as he handed David the envelope.
“Thank you sir,” David said as he grabbed the envelope. He eagerly opened it and read his brothers letter. A tear of joy fell onto the paper as he was relieved to know his brother was alive. “Can I write back?”
“Not right now, we’re counter-attacking. Grab your gear,” Reagan ordered.
“But my brother…”
“You’re brother is a Marine, and a Wilson. He’ll be fine, David.”
“What do you mean by ‘he’s a Wilson?’”
“Wilson’s are excellent warriors,” Pvt. Lawrence stepped in, “Now come on David, let’s go send the Chucks to hell, for America!”
“For America,” David repeated with pride. He loaded up his weapon and followed Reagan out into the humid Vietnamese air.
“Why the hell is it so hot in January?” Andrews asked.
“It’s not January, soldier,” Reagan said.
“Oh right, I forgot, I was too busy sending Chucks to hell,” Andrews joked. The rest of the team chuckled at the joke. Suddenly, the group came under fire and were quickly pinned down.
“MG is on me!” David screamed, “I hate this war!” David crawled quickly towards better cover and hugged it. He leaned out from behind it and squeezed off a few shots at the MG before getting spotted and having to hide again. “We gotta take him out now!”
“Smoke! We need smoke!” Lawrence screamed.
Andrews grabbed a smoke grenade off his vest, pulled the pin, and threw it into the dirt. “Smokes out, guys!” he yelled. He peered out from behind his cover and waited for the smoke to fill. The grey smoke cloud expanded to create a wall between the Marines and the Viet Cong.
“Go, go, go!” Reagan yelled as he ran forward. The team followed him close behind to a flanking position, where he easily took care of the MG.
“Get down before they see us,” David whispered, “Shh, let’s take this slow and careful.” David led his team towards the unsuspecting Viet Cong.
“Take them out,” Reagan said. Just as Andrews and David readied their weapons, the Viet Cong soldiers turned around and spotted the Marines. One of them held an RPG and was loading a rocket into it.
“RUN!!” Andrews screamed. His team took off running away from the RPG while he stayed back to shoot the other soldier. He turned to shoot the soldier with the RPG but quickly noticed the rocket coming out of the barrel. Everything seemed to enter slow motion as he turned around and began to run away from the RPG; but before he could get far, the rocket exploded right next to him, sending him flying into the air.
David screamed when blood rained down on him from the air. He spun around to try and detect the source of the blood shower. David spotted Andrews writhing in pain on the ground, missing his left leg. “ANDREWS!!” he screamed as he ran towards his injured comrade.
“Help him!” Reagan screamed as he emptied his clip into the Viet Cong soldier.
“Hey, man your gonna be ok, just stay with me,” David pleaded. He removed Andrews’s shirt, ripped it up, and tied it around his wound. “That should help, let’s get you to the doctor,”
“No, David,” Andrews groaned, “It’s… it’s too late. Just… just do something for me, tell Leanna I… I love her.”
“No, you’re gonna tell her yourself, cuz you’re gonna pull through, okay?” David cried as he held his friend’s hand tightly.
“Do… do something else, kill those Chucks… send them to hell,” Andrews managed to say. He then closed his eyes and fell limp in David’s arms.
“Oh no, Leo, Leo, NO! LEO!” David wailed. He pulled his friend’s body to his chest and held him tightly.
“He’s gone, David, now come on, we still got a war to fight.”
February 2, 1968
The damn Chucks got Leo yesterday. Took his leg off with a damn rocket launcher. Now it’s just me, Reagan, and a couple other Marines left in my squad. I really hope this damn siege ends soon. I hope it’s going better over in Hue. You would think that the Chucks wouldn’t attack since they’re supposed be celebrating some damn holiday called “Tet.” It’s Friday, which means it would be family game night. I miss that. I hate this war. Write back as soon as you get this, will you? Good luck, godspeed. Semper Fi!
“I’m sorry about Leo, David,” Reagan whispered, “I know you two were close.”
“I knew him since the first grade, man,” David said. He collapsed into Reagan’s arms and cried into his shoulder. “If it’s okay, sir, I’m not gonna do any fighting today, I just need a day to recover,”
“That’s fine, Sergeant,” Reagan answered, “You want me to leave you alone?”
“Yeah,” David responded. He fell against the wall of the barracks and let his head fall into his hands. After a while, David stood up and walked over to the battlefield cross they had planted the day before. He knelt down and whispered a prayer, “O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, send your holy Angel to watch over this grave. Through Christ our Lord. Amen,”
“Amen,” came a voice from behind him. It was Pvt. Lawrence.
“Jacob,” David said, “What are you doing here?”
“Just praying for our fallen brother,”
“Lawrence! I need you over here now!” Reagan yelled from somewhere in the distance.
“Coming sir!” Lawrence yelled back, “See you later David,” Lawrence took off running towards Reagan’s voice, leaving David with Leo.
“You know Leo, maybe this war isn’t all that bad, maybe it’s about loyalty to my country, not killing communist Chucks,” David said with his hand on the battlefield cross, “America will never forget your sacrifice my friend. You know what Leo? I’m gonna go fight the Chucks, for my country, because I was born to fight this war. I was born to kill.” With that, David stood up, chambered his weapon, and headed off to fight.
2 YEARS LATER
ERIC WILSON, USMC
“David? Is that you?” Eric asked as he ran towards a Marine securing the area.
“Eric?” David responded. He ran over to his brother and grabbed him tightly.
“I didn’t think I’d see you till the war ended,” Eric said, “You look like you took a hike through hell.”
“Because I did,” David interrupted, “I was under siege for almost seven months, lost my best friend, got hurt, found out grandma died, and was sent straight back to war in a month,”
“David, you got promoted to Lieutenant, and won a silver star and cross. They don’t give those out for nothin.’”
“I guess yo-” David was interrupted by a gigantic explosion nearby. “ARTILLERY!” He screamed as he ran for cover. David, Eric and Lawrence dove underneath a nearby elevated house.
“Where are they?” Lawrence asked.
“I don’t know,” Eric responded, “You from David’s squad?”
“Yeah, Cpl. Lawrence, sir, just promoted,”
“Shut up! Follow me, I think I know where they are,” David snapped.
“Yes Lt. Wilson,” Lawrence said. They followed David under the house towards a large hill that overlooked the area that got bombed.
“Machete’s out,” David whispered, “Lot’s of vegetation ahead.”
“David, what’s your plan?” Eric asked.
“We’re gonna sneak up on them, and then kill em with our machetes, alright?”
“Sounds good,” Eric responded. The group continued to crawl through the lush undergrowth of Vietnam. Just as they approached the hill, a large tarantula crawled in front of Eric’s face. “Ahh, no no no,” he grimaced. He hacked at the spider with his machete until it stopped moving.
“You alright there?” Lawrence asked.
“Yeah, just a nasty spider.”
“Three chucks, 12 o’clock high,” David whispered, “Take it quietly and then do whatever you want to em.’” They snuck up behind the unsuspecting Viet Cong and took a position behind a soldier. David snuck up the the soldier he was behind and tapped him on the shoulder. The Viet Cong soldier screamed as David rammed his machete through the soldier’s head. He turned to see Eric pulling his machete out of a soldier’s neck and Lawrence hacking at a screaming soldier. “Good job.”
“It was my pleasure,” Eric and Lawrence said in sync.
David chuckled and then turned to the edge of the hill. He walked toward it, cut away the vegetation, and yelled down to the squad that it was clear.
“David,” called Eric in a concerned voice, “Look at this.”
David turned around and walked over to Eric, who was standing on the edge of the hill, pointing down at something.
“Look,” Eric said again.
David’s heart skipped a beat when he saw what was at the bottom of the hill. A small village has been turned into what looked like a prison camp. “Get me a South Vietnamese soldier so I know what they’re saying,”
“Yes, sir,” Lawrence said. He turned around and began to go back down the hill to the rest of the squad.
“Is that a prison camp or a munitions depot?” Eric asked.
“It’s a depot,” David responded. David and Eric stepped back from the ledge and waited for Lawrence to return. A few minutes later, Lawrence came running back up the hill with a South Vietnamese soldier following close behind. David motioned for the soldier to follow him to the edge of the hill.
“What is your name?” the soldier asked.
“Lt. David Wilson, what’s yours?”
“Over there,” David pointed down to the depot. David and the soldier lay down and observed the activity closely. Just as the soldier began to speak, a shot rang out and he screamed in pain. David turned to look and saw the soldier, shot in the head by a sniper. “Sniper you guys! SNIPER!” David tripped multiple times as he ran away from the sniper who was now targeting him.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Eric asked.
“Wait for them to get bombed,” Lawrence responded.
“What?” David and Eric said in confusion.
Lawrence smiled, “I called in artillery.”
“When?” David asked.
“And why didn’t I hear you call it in?” Eric asked.
“Because I went down the hill into another clearing,”
“There’s the plane,” David pointed in the air where a B-47 was cruising through the air. The plane flew over the depot where the bombs fell out of the belly and onto the unsuspecting enemies. David, Eric, and Lawrence started laughing as the explosions rocked the ground.
After the explosions stopped, Lawrence noticed that the rest of the marines weren’t at the bottom of the hill as they were a few minutes ago. He looked for tire tracks of the Jeep or anything that could lead him to the rest of the marines. “David! Eric!” He yelled as he noticed the brothers were missing too. He ran off into the woods looking for his squadmates but had no luck in finding them. Suddenly, he was surrounded by North Vietnamese Army soldiers pointing their weapons at him. He dropped his weapon and put his hands in the air, knowing he was screwed. He thought he heard one of them say his name but he ignored it, thinking it was just his imagination.
“Snap out of it Lawrence!” Eric yelled, slapping Lawrence’s face, “Get me some water,”
“Yes, Sergeant,” said a Marine as he ran off to a nearby stream. The Marine collected some water in his helmet and ran it back to Eric. Eric snatched the water quickly and splashed it on Lawrence’s face.
“NO!” Lawrence screamed. He wiped the water off his face and looked around, confused.
“What the hell was that, Jacob?” David asked.
“I don’t know, one minute I was laughing with you guys, the next I was surrounded by Chucks.”
“There were no Chucks, you must’ve been hallucinating,” Eric said, “We should get you back to the firebase.”
“I think he just needs to go home,” David said.
“NO!” Jacob yelled, “Just bring me to a doctor.” Suddenly, he let out a scream and began to roll around on the ground.
“Jacob, Jacob!” David yelled as he held Jacob down. David noticed a pool of blood underneath Jacob’s body. “Did you get shot?”
“Because you’re bleeding like you did,” David looked up at Eric for help.
“Corporal, are you sure you didn’t get shot?” Eric asked.
“Jacob, can you hear us?”
“I think he’s dead, David,”
“NO! There’s no way!” David shouted, “I’m not losing another friend!”
“David, we’ll take him to Dr. Kucharski, he’ll determine the cause of dea…”
“NO! He’s not dead! He can’t be!” David collapsed onto the ground next to Jacob and hugged his limp body.
“David,” Eric offered his hand out to his brother, “Come on.”
David looked up and held up his hand to Eric. Their hands locked together and Eric pulled David back to his feet. David grabbed his gun and shouted, “Where are you, Chucks!? Come at me! Time to die!”
“David, David, David!” Eric pleaded as he and a few other Marines struggled to hold David back.
“Lieutenant, Cpl. Lawrence died fighting for a reason, for you, for America,” said one of the Marines.
“What’s your name? I never seen you,” David asked the Marine.
“Private Hofner, sir, I knew Jacob pretty well.”
“I guess you’re right, Private, this war is about loyalty to your country and friends,”
“That’s the spirit, David,”
“I still wanna get the hell out of this damn country,”
“That time’ll come David, I know it will.”
1 YEAR LATER
DAVID WILSON, NYPD, FORMER MARINE
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
David knelt down at Leo’s gravesite and closed his eyes. As he listened to the rain fall on his umbrella, his brother came up and knelt down beside him.
“Leo was a great man. A warrior,”
“It’s been more than three years since he died, Eric.”
“He died for you, David, for America.”
“You know I’m glad I don’t have to go back, but I feel like I left having learned that it’s about loyalty to your friends and country, not just killing the enemy,”
“And that’s what Leo and Jacob died believing, David.”
“It’s also what Papa believed when he was fighting in WWII.”
“He still believes it.”
“And Grandpa in WWI.”
“Grandpapa in the Civil War.”
“David, it’s the family legacy, service and loyalty,”
“I’ll serve until I can no longer serve, and right now, that’s in the NYPD. Now come on, let’s go tell Papa our war stories,” With that, David and Eric walked away from Leo’s grave, the horrors of war burned into their minds forever, but keeping in mind that loyalty and service matter the most.