Disclaimer: Purcell isn't mine. The rest are.
Author's note: Well, here it is. First day in the bush! This is my first time ever writing a war story or any kind of action story, so if you have any advice or if I made any mistakes, please point them out so I can fix them! Cheers!
The Huey flew gracefully across the sky, the forest below looking distant and small. Funny, Purcell thought, that when you're on the ground, you crane your neck to look up at the huge, towering trees. But up here, it all looks so small and unimportant. Look at it. It looks so green and peaceful! How can a war be going on in such a nice place? I wonder if Goldman is down there…
Purcell sighed and turned his face away from the forest below, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against his gun. No matter what he did, he just couldn't seem to get away from thinking about his old squad. They were his family. How could he just stop thinking about them when he had spent a year in hell with them? He could never forget those guys, he just wished he could think about them without getting all caught up in feelings of sadness and regret. It will take time, but you will be able to do it.
The past few days had been interesting. Purcell had come to know the guys a bit better, and found he kind of liked them. They could be serious when they had to, and downright mischievous the rest of the time. But Purcell had realized that that was what made them so fun to be around. They knew how to have a good time, and they wanted to include everyone. They were quite friendly and fun, once you got to know them.
Houser (Purcell had tried calling him Bill, but for some reason the name just didn't seem to suit him) reached over and poked Purcell on the arm. "Hey man. Don't think too hard…you might hurt yerself."
Purcell smiled. "Don't worry, I'm not thinking. I wouldn't do that."
Houser nodded. "Yeah, you might end up thinking something smart. That wouldn't be good. Hey, I bet I'll live longer then you. You probably won't last long out there. You were only lucky on your first tour. Nope, I'll be mourning o'er your body 'fore long!"
Purcell's eyebrows shot up. "Why would you think I'd die first?"
"'Cause yer dumb! C'mon, I betcha I will live longer then you."
"Fine! It's a bet!"
"Winner gets all of the loser's cash and jungle boots, if they're still good."
They shook hands on it, chuckling and shaking their heads. It lightened Purcell's mood, and he breathed easy again, thankful for the distraction. I just hope it didn't curse me, or something.
The Huey set them on the ground and took off, racing away back to base. Purcell surveyed his surroundings. Wow, looks a lot greener from the air. He took his gun and pointed it in front of him, than turned and looked for Lieutenant Griffis, a tall, lean guy with short brown hair. The LT put Guy on point, although Guy had a few things to say about that. They headed into the jungle and started searching for the enemy. A typical reconnaissance and patrol mission: to go out into the jungle and see what you stumble across. Purcell missed his days in the SOG team, and silently wished he would someday go back to the missions that actually had meaning.
They had walked a few klicks without incident when Guy's arm shot up, his hand curled in a fist. Purcell lowered himself into a squatting position, never taking his eyes off of the surrounding countryside. The Sarge and LT both made their way to the front of the line, and Purcell honed in on their conversation.
"What's up?" The Sarge asked after looking ahead of Guy and seeing no apparent reason for the stop.
"Man, I'm beat. I think I had a little too much to drink last night. Can't we rest for a bit? Please?" Guy pleaded.
The LT gave Guy an annoyed look. "We just started! We've hardly covered any ground at all! What's wrong with you? You're tougher then this. And you just had a few days off to rest! Come on, get moving."
"Yeah, but I'm real hungry as well. Just a short break?"
Dave spoke up from the back of the line, raising his voice louder then he probably should have. "Yeah, I'm hungry too. I missed breakfast! Besides, Charlie will wait for us."
"Sure he will." The LT shook his head, giving in. "You guys sure are unique. In a bad way. We will take a short break. Sergeant, you go scout ahead. Unless you need a break too."
Nelson grinned. "No sir, I should be fine. Though…did you always have those bags under your eyes?"
The LT gave Nelson a deadly glare, and the Sarge slipped away, smiling, before he could say anything. Lieutenant Griffis sighed loudly before shaking his head. How did I get stuck with a group like this?
Purcell settled himself on the ground, his back to a tree. He took out a C-ration can and opened it, smiling contentedly at the sweet aroma the peaches produced. Beside him, Dave was nearly drooling.
"Oh sure, new guy gets the peaches. How come I never get peaches? I've been here nearly four months, and I've only got peaches once, man. This aint fair!"
"Oh quit whining. You're such a baby! We're in Vietnam fighting a war and all you can think about is food and your stomach."
"Thanks a lot, Danny. Next time you get stuck with ham and lima beans, don't be expecting no sympathy from me!"
Danny shook his head, blocking out the stream of foul words that came from Dave's mouth. Beside him, Miller was smiling slightly and poking fun at Houser's hair, which was shooting out at all angles. Houser just punched Miller on the arm. Purcell looked at the other guys. Guy was sitting with a black man from another squad, talking in hushed voices about something. He looked at the guys from the other squad, none of whom he had met yet, even though they were all in the same platoon. None of them had approached him yet, asking who he was, so Purcell didn't ask them either.
Sitting a little away from the group was an interesting fellow, a Canadian. This had perked Purcell's interest, as he didn't know that Canadians and Americans were put in the same unit. He knew that Canada was staying out of the war in Vietnam, but he also knew that some Canadians sneaked into America and pretended to be Americans, just so they could enlist and come to Vietnam. Purcell liked to listen to him as he talked because he had a tendency to say weird things, like "eh". Purcell decided to go talk to him. He looked like he could use some company.
Just as Purcell was about to go over to the Canadian, the LT stood up and said that the break was over. Everyone groaned and complained. Griffis just grinned and said that he said it was going to be short. Purcell quickly stuffed the rest of his peaches into his mouth, annoyed that he wouldn't be able to savour the flavour. The LT hesitated for a moment, then pointed at Purcell.
"You've got point."
Purcell nodded and got up. He could hear people whispering behind him, wondering why the LT had put the newbie on point so early. Purcell wanted to shout I'm not a newbie! This is my second tour!! But he kept quiet and moved to the front of the line. The men fell into position behind him.
Purcell always hated being on point because he had to focus on the ground. He seemed to have a tendency to look up at his surroundings all the time, instead of mainly focusing on the dirt. Then he always got nervous, and had to slow almost to a stop to check the ground extra carefully. Also, the walking was tedious. To avoid falling into a punji pit or other contraption, he had to step up slowly, keeping his weight on his back foot and slowly transferring the weight to his front foot. If he felt the ground give way, he should then be able to easily remove his foot before he committed too much pressure. And that wasn't all. To avoid tripping a wire, he turned his foot sideways slightly, dragging it along the ground. If he felt anything on his ankle, he would know it was a wire. This all made for some slow walking.
It seemed the LT was pleased with his work as the point man, because he kept him on point for most of the day. The LT got his revenge on his men by making them go the rest of the day without any breaks or stops. By the end of the afternoon, everyone was beat.
"Okay guys, hold up. We're going to stay here for the night, so start digging in."
Muffled complaints and sighs followed. Mostly everyone was too tired to dig a hole in the ground. The LT grinned evilly at his men, pleased with the result of his revenge. Some men mumbled less-then-pleasant things at Guy, as it was his fault that they hadn't stopped all day. Guy just shrugged.
Purcell and Miller shared a hole. It was kind of hard for Miller to dig as he was very petite and scrawny, so Purcell tried to dig extra hard. By the time the hole was deep enough, Purcell was covered in sweat and panting heavily, too tired to do anything other then collapse to the ground. Miller seemed to understand what Purcell did and smiled his thanks.
Darkness fell over the land, cooling the air. It was quiet, except for Guy and Dave arguing over some pointless thing. They were hushed by a few annoyed guys who, against their better judgement, had called out "SHUT UP!!!" Everyone went quiet for fear that the enemy had heard, but after a while when nothing happened, they relaxed. Purcell knew that the LT was going to have a few things to say about that come morning. Glad that he didn't have first watch, he fell into a deep sleep.