During war having a chance meeting with individuals can and does happen. This chance meeting can also lead to a lasting friendship. A friendship that was in limbo has sprung a new lease on life. Years has passed (35 or more) since my last contact with fellow trooper John Chizmar.
My company had been taken out of the field to rest and recuperate, after a month long mission. The company had lots of contact with enemy forces while on missions to eliminate the threat of forces infiltrating through are AO. The contact we encountered with the enemy had been relentless, and the rest was welcomed.
The assignment I drew had me on perimeter guard around the brigade headquarters. This duty came with hot cooked meals on real china and silverware and other perks. The only thing that bothers infantrymen pulling this duty is the bullís eye being placed on you. Mortars and 122 rockets was the norm at Phouc Vinh base camp, and a HHQ was a big stationary target. Living this life of Riley had its drawbacks, and one of these was ďINCOMINGĒ. That one word could have you scurrying like rats from a sinking ship.
I had just finished my shift and I was about to take off my boots while sitting on my cot, when off in the distance I could hear the tell tell boom of a multiple launching of 122mm rockets.
Off like a rocket, I grabbed my weapon in one quick movement while heading out the troop tent door. Some of the other guys were in the rear types, clerks, cooks, and supply. The sound of rockets being fired did not start a instant reaction from some of these guys because they have not heard that sound before. Thatís why I was asked, what the hell is going on? My only reply was INCOMNING as I continued to beat feet to the nearest shelter.
On seeing my rapid exiting from the tent and hearing my one word reply the others began to stream out of the tent. Running off to my side is a guy I had been shooting the breeze with before the attack. We were stride for stride as the enemy rockets began to impact on the airstrip and around us. Cover must be found and found now.
Off in the distance I could see helicopters exploding after impacting with the 122s. The rockets are now hitting HHQs AO and Iím in the middle of this chaos looking for sanctuary. I found sanctuary in the form of a bunker. Leaping into the bunker my running partner and me to our chagrin found the bunker full and the occupants not accommodating to our needs. With the words get the fuck out not enough room fading behind are now running Asses, the search for shelter was on.
The exploding rockets lit up the night. This light was a godsend for it gave me the chance to see another bunker and the prospect of safety. I entered the bunker headfirst and my running partner did the same. We both landed hard and were winded from the sprint and the headfirst landing, but we were safe. Rockets continued to impact the area as I looked around the darkened bunker. All I could see with my scan was whites of wide-open eyes and looks of fright on the faces in the bunker.
I got my weapon ready for action as I wanted to be prepared for an sapper-infantry attack. I stuck my head up just a little to scan for enemy movement. I did not want to be one of those blown to bits by a satchel charge thrown by the enemy, because I wasnít alert and wanted to play mole man. The airstrip was a blasť with burning helicopters as I looked around. All was quiet eerie quiet and there was no movement on the compound, then a blast shattered the night, it was the all-clear signal.
Walking back to the guard tent took a little longer then it did when I deeded the area. I was amazed on how fast I ran across the compound to find a safe haven in a bunker. I approached the tent and was taken back on how the tent was ventilated. There were holes throughout the tent where shrapnel made contact with the canvas cover.
The inspection of our abode was finished and I sat down on my cot, careful as not to sit on any sharp shards of metal and began to take off my boots. I noticed some of the guys walking towards me. When they reached my cot I was offered a stiff drink of royal crown and a vote of thanks for saving there lives. They said that they had no ideal we were under attack if not for my immediate action. I drank with great gusto and shot the breeze for a while before I laid my head down and prepared for another day in the nam.
More than 30 years later a meeting would be arranged with my running partner. While being posted on the net with the 101st 67-68 web site the question arose if I was the person that ran through falling rockets in search of safety? I replayed to the query a yes. A meeting was made and a sole that survived the Vietnam War was made whole again.
Man it is a wonderful thing the e-net. A long lost contact from a chance meeting has lead to a lasting friendship My hats off to John Chizmar a man who remembered me and a moment of our great adventure.
William R. Hayes.