DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the television series Tour of Duty which aired from 1987 through 1990, distributed by New World Entertainment. All characters belong to the creators and/or producers of the show and were brought to life by Stephen Caffrey (Lt. Goldman), Terence Knox (Sgt. Anderson) and Tony Becker (Cpl. Percell). No money is being made with this story and it may not be posted, published or archived without permission. Although care has been taken in the attention to military protocol, certain artistic licenses have been made for the sake of readability.
This story is rated: PG Story idea suggested by: Doc, Erin, Kit Kat & Percy (Co-writer)TOUR OF DUTY: S.O.S
"Damn this rain, it just won't let up!" Sergeant Marcus Taylor pulled his poncho hood further over his forehead in an attempt to keep the rain from his face. Eight straight hours of driving rain was beginning to agitate the soldier. Once his face was clear of the insistent water the new Sergeant checked over his squad.
Private William Griner, Private First Class Thomas 'Pop' Scarlett and Jim Greer were in charge of perimeter duty for the third squad. Griner and Scarlet continually scanned the dense vegetation for any sign of the enemy.
Private Greer was standing alone away from the group. Greer was a draftee and not in favor of the war in Vietnam. He was known to do anything he could to get out of combat and hopefully out of the war alive. This mission was no exception.
Two days ago Jim Greer attempted to fake heat stroke. Lying on the ground he held the platoon up for more than an hour. Marcus was infuriated by the charade and decided to transfer him out of the unit when the platoon returned to Camp Barnett.
Specialists Alberto Ruiz and Danny Percell were leaning against the jungle trees watching Ryan Abbey. The newbie medic was tending to the wounded F.N.G. Luke Crumley.
Private Crumleyhad been shot in the leg during a VC ambush of the weary platoon at sunrise. Following the ambush there were no choppers available for a dust off and the exhausted platoon was ordered to proceed to the landing zone as scheduled just as the rain began to fall.
"Just hold still and let me clean the wound out or you're going to get an infection!" The medic had been brought into the platoon a few weeks ago as a replacement for Specialist 4 Francis Hockenbury. The predecessor had been transferred out of the unit for his unwillingness to engage the enemy in hostile fire. His objections to the war led to the unnecessary death of a young American soldier. Ryan's dark brown hair was soaked from the rain as he sat on his helmet struggling with the patient who preferred the hand of God take care of his health.
"Private Abbey, just let it go…" Crumley lay on the ground exhausted from the hike and in severe pain from the stinging bullet wound. "I've been shot in Vietnam, Doc! Just let me die. It is God's will."
"Shut up, Crumley and let the Doc clean the wound out! If God wanted you dead he would have shot you in the head!" Taylor was getting annoyed with the young man's strong faith in God, constant praying and asking for forgiveness.
"Sergeant Taylor, sir." Crumley was a strict Mormon from Salt Lake City, Utah. He was formal with his speech and in his everyday routine. The FNG's behavior had irritated the newer Sergeant since the day he moved into the barracks. Every night before bed in the barracks Luke would put on his button up civilian pajamas and kneel by his bedside praying out loud to God so all of the men could share in his faith. "I mean no disrespect, but if it is my time to return to my maker, than maybe we should let it be?"
Marcus rolled his eyes and turned away just as he caught a glimpse of Ruiz laughing at the dilemma Taylor had gotten himself into. Not able to stand Crumley's resignation anymore, Marcus found a solitary area to sit and wait for orders.
"Roger that six, over." First Lieutenant Myron Goldman returned the radio receiver to his RTO. He paused, wiping the raindrops from his face then noticed the questioning gaze from Platoon Sergeant Zeke Anderson.
Lt. Goldman leaned towards the Sergeant's ear to speak over the deafening sound of the pounding rain. "There will be no pick up until the rain lets up or stops."
Sergeant Anderson shook his head in agreement. The Sergeant was serving in his fourth tourand he knew Army protocol quite well.
"There's more…" Lt. Goldman had a troubled look on his face. "Recent radio contact with Charlie Company indicates there is an NVA regiment moving this way. We need to get clear of all enemy engagement. Command wants us to move to the top of a ridge about ten clicks from here. This will get us out of the path of the NVA and we can get picked up as soon as the rain stops."
Goldman pulled his map pouch out from inside his shirt. Reading was proving to be a challenge as the driving rain poured over the plastic covered paper. The officer marked the platoon's location on the map with his finger then scanned the area to acclimate himself to the terrain. "We'll move the men through this area, cross the river and head up the ridge right through here." Goldman traced the path with his finger as Sergeant Anderson struggled to see.
"Looks good LT." Sergeant Anderson agreed with command, knowing the men had to get somewhere safer and drier, if there was such a place in Vietnam.
"Get the men ready, we are leaving in five." Myron grumbled as he wiped the rain from his face with his already wet towel. He knew the men were tired and they would be sure to share their disgust with having to hump to a new landing zone ten miles away, all up hill.
Myron thought about the men and grabbed Zeke's arm for his attention. "Have Greer and Taylor's new guy, Armstrong, help Crumley with the hike"
Zeke made his rounds to check on the men and ready them to move out. The Platoon Sergeant was pleased to see a well-set perimeter by the first squad. Many of those men had only been in country for a few weeks, but they were proving to be fast learners. He had not been happy with Command's decision two months ago to put his special operations Studies and Observation Group on part time platoon duty, but the Platoon Sergeant was a role he knew well. Second squad was sharing stories and finishing their chow and underneath a heavy cluster of bananas trees was his beloved third squad and S.O.G. team.
"Taylor? What are you just sitting around for?" Sgt. Anderson always welcomed the opportunity to banter with his young friend from Detroit.
"Waiting for you and the Lieutenant to find my fairy godmother and magic pumpkin to get me back to my hootch and my warm dry bunk!" Taylor's comment was meant in humor, but his face showed disgust with the weather, the Army and the war.
"Well now Taylor, we may just do that for you." Sarge grinned at Marcus and looked over his shoulder to find Ruiz complaining like an unhappy housewife to anyone who would listen.
"Man this weather is terrible. Every time it rains I sneeze and my bones ache. I feel like I am fifty years old." Alberto rubbed his aching legs and noticed the oldest member of the platoon a few feet away. Pop gave Ruiz a wink as if to say - you have no how bad you are going to feel when you are fifty.
Zeke continued. "Be ready to move out in five minutes."
"Where we going Sarge?" Private Daniel Percell questioned from behind Ruiz.
"Somewhere over the rainbow Percell, somewhere over the rainbow." Zeke grinned as he looked down at his men. He knew how they felt. He also knew it was good to get a laugh or two when you needed it the most.
Private William Griner became even more confused than he already was. "What is that suppose to mean?"
Taylor informed his friend. "Huey's can't come and get us in this rain." Then he looked to Anderson, "but why we gotta move?"
"Well," Sarge began. "Battalion reports show there is an NVA regiment moving this way and if we don't get outta here, they're gonna find us. Griner you'll take point and Percell I want you to take slack."
Griner's look of puzzlement turned to concern and he hustled with the rest of the squad to police up their area and prepare to move out.
Taylor remained perched on his helmet in the mud and questioned under his breath. "Since when has Battalion been right?"
Sergeant Anderson went about informing the rest of the squad leaders to prepare their men to move out. Griner and Percell marched their way up to the front of the column of men. Ruiz positioned himself at the rear and the other men fell into line.
Moving through the jungle and the rain proved to be a slow and tedious task. William Griner felt the pain of nervousness as he tried in vain to scan the saturated ground for booby traps. Danny Percell followed behind a few yards searching the ground for anything the young Private may have been lucky enough to step over or around.
After an hour of sluggish pace humping towards the hill through the downpour, Danny caught a glimpse of a booby trap that William had not seen. Percell's left arm and fist raced up towards the hideous dark sky to halt the platoon while a hiss came out of his lips. "Griner..stop"
Trusting Danny's instincts, Griner stopped dead in his tracks. Looking straight down, he saw the explosive that could have killed him and Percell.
"Stay still, Griner." Danny walked slowly toward the younger soldier while he checked for surrounding trip wires and mines.
Sergeant Anderson moved forward to the spot where the endangered private was frozen still. The LT and the rest of the platoon watched from a distance.
Carefully, Danny began to disarm the trip wire device as William looked down praying that his comrade would get him out of this sticky mess. Despite the heavy warm rain, sweat started to trickle down both William and Danny's neck.
"Shit!" sighed Danny as he noticed there were two grenades at each end of the wire.
"Don't say that. What is it?" Nervously William Griner muttered as he tried to stay perfectly still.
"Nothen man, just stay still." Danny continued working on the problem that lay in front of him in the slippery mud.
Zeke assessed the situation from over Percell's shoulder. "Alright Percell we are going to have to work carefully in all this rain." Sarge hoped to calm the seasoned soldier and let him know that he was there to help if Danny felt he needed it.
Danny pulled two grenade wires from his shirt pocket and placed them into the hole in one grenade and then the other. Sergeant Anderson presented two more wires for the remaining grenades. The third and the fourth grenades were a challenge as they were so close together. Slowly, the young man worked and removed the tension from the trip wire near Griner's foot.
"Griner, back up slow" Danny ordered and moved back as well.
William Griner let out a sigh of relief. "Thanks!"
"No problem William, just don't do it again." Danny smiled at his friend, patted him on the shoulder and motioned for Griner to move back a little more.
Sergeant Anderson checked the area. "Good job, Percell. Griner take a break from point. Taylor has volunteered for your position."
Percell gave a laugh as Marcus moved into the point position. "I thought you weren't walking point anymore, SERGEANT Taylor!"
"At this point I'll do anything to get away from Crumley, he is driving me crazy! Besides we need a skilled point man to get us through this rain." Taylor adjusted his weapon in front of him and prepared to move out.
"Whatever Taylor." Danny pushed his friend forward and resumed his position as the slack man.
Taylor looked back to his superiors, Goldman give a wave to move out.
Taylor stared in amazement as he approached the river. The usually small shallow river had more than doubled in size.
Danny came up behind the stunned soldier. "Geez, how the hell are we supposed to get across that?"
Slowly the rest of the platoon filed in behind the men, each soldier staring at the raging water that blocked their path to the secondary landing zone. Sgt. Anderson came to the edge of the water and squinted up and down the shore looking for an answer to Percell's question.
Lt. Goldman quickly ordered the Platoon Sergeant to get the men to set a defense perimeter while Myron consulted the wet map.
The Sergeant set to his work then returned to the Lieutenant to find him thrashing the receiver against the radio.
"Sir?" Zeke knew there was no good news in store.
"Radio is dead." Myron sighed and took a minute to work out a plan before proceeding with orders.
"I guess this means we are on our own." Sergeant Anderson knew the platoon was now stranded and had to get to the ridge if they had any chance of being located when the rain let up.
Myron tilted his head slightly forward to keep the rain from running directly into his eyes. "Let's send out two patrols to check the river for a decent crossing." Seeing the well-trained Sergeant was in agreement the younger Lieutenant continued. " I want you and Percell to go north and Taylor and Griner will scout to the south. Each patrol will be out for 30 minutes and then return. The rest of the platoon will set up here and wait."
"Will do." Zeke winked at his friend and called for Taylor, Percell and Griner to join him away from the rest of the platoon.
LT needed to establish new squad leaders in the absence of his two Sergeants. "Conner, get Ruiz up here."
The noise from the driving rain was so loud that the men had to call for Ruiz as if it were a bucket brigade. Alberto trudged through the thick mud to reach the Lieutenant's side. Once he was there the LT informed Ruiz that he and Pop Scarlet would serve as squad leaders until the two patrols returned and for now the men should grab some chow and keep alert.
Ruiz and Scarlet set out through the soaked vegetation to inform the men under their command
Sergeant Taylor and Private Griner slowly worked their way south along the river's edge. Taylor was surveying the river while Griner watched for snipers and booby traps, not wanting the afternoon's unpleasant experience to happen again.
"We are not going to find a way across this river." Taylor shared with the young Private. "Usually we could walk right across cause it's only about three or four feet deep. This is crazy!"
"Well maybe we'll find a bend where the river is narrower, or where we can rig up some ropes to get across?" Griner attempted to add some optimism to the conversation.
"Griner, this river is usually about fifteen feet wide, look at it! It's got to be about forty feet to the other side!" Taylor pointed across the river with his M-16. "We ain't getting across till this fucking rain stops! How long have we been out here anyway?"
Griner pulled his wrist out from underneath his government issued poncho and wiped the water drops from the face of his watch. "It's 18:40, we have been out for about 25 minutes wanna head back?"
"Nah, we'll keep going for another ten minutes then head back, we will get back a lot faster cause we won't have to search for booby traps." The two men continued further along the river knowing that dusk was setting in and darkness was fast approaching.
"Sarge, hey its 18:45 we oughta head back." Danny was crouched low next to a large tree, which Sergeant Anderson was leaning against.
The Sergeant did not acknowledge his friend, instead he just stared through the wet air at the rushing water, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Not one single place Percell," Anderson continued to shake his head. "If the NVA is really in the area, the platoon is in a lot of trouble cause there is no way we are getting across this river with an injured man unless Taylor and Griner found a way. Come on now, let's head back."
Goldman and the platoon sat motionless undercover as more than 50 North Vietnamese Army regulars passed by the platoon about ten meters away. The NVA soldiers were casually walking and conversing through the rain.
"Stay Alert and watch your noise level." The NVA Lieutenant was frustrated at the casualness of his men as they moved across the well-known territory.
"Radio, Sir." The Radio Officer handed the handset to his leader as they moved through the rain.
"Copy that, yes sir." The Lieutenant smiled as he received the order and handed the receiver back to the operator. "We shall be stopping by the river bend near the old village of Fau Choy. We shall move quickly and have time to fish and then rest till the morning."
The North Vietnamese soldiers cheered out loud at the news and were anxious to get to the river bend to eat and relax. Catching dinner would be difficult with the high waters, but many of the young men were ready for the challenge. The enemy's pace quickly took them away from the platoon and closer to Zeke and Danny.
Myron Goldman boiled with anger and rage as he watched the enemy move north, unaffected by the rain believing they were out of danger because they assumed the American soldiers would not be waiting for them in this weather. They were right, the GI's would have rather been back at base camp, but they weren't. They were stuck out in the mud and the rain unable to mount an attack against the enemy due to being out numbered and two patrols were expected back at anytime.
A few minutes after the last of the NVA soldiers had passed north of the platoon Private Greer began bitching and complaining to anyone who would listen. "This war is fucking ridiculous!"
"Greer!" Lieutenant Goldman had enough on his mind without listening to the belly aching of a newbie grunt. "One more word out of you and I'll find a nice unit for you at the D.M.Z.!"
The young private shut up and flopped down next to Abbey and the wounded Crumley. "No choppers available for a dust off….some service they did you, huh? American government bureaucrats…….."
"Jimmy, shut up!" The usually soft-spoken medic had no interest in listening to the ramblings of an ungrateful American citizen.
"Greer, you need to find a better faith in God to get you through your tour." Crumley had muscled up some strength to share the word of the Lord with this lost sheep.
Unable to find sympathies for his cause, Greer left for a more secluded spot to stew in his disgust for the Vietnam War.
Private Joe Connors sat with Specialist 4 Ruiz with his M-16 ready. "Ruiz did you catch that movement?
"Yeah, but hold your fire, it's probably the first patrol." Ruiz finished his direction just as Taylor and Griner appeared through the wet thickness of the jungle. The two men patted Ruiz on the back as they headed for the Lieutenant.
Goldman saw the men and met them halfway. "Well?"
Taylor shook his head. "Ain't no way we are getting across that way LT, the river is raging from bank to bank. There is no good place to cross down south, how about Sarge and Percell, they back yet?"
"No. They got trouble headed their way, about 50 NVA moving along the river in their direction." Goldman pointed out the path of the enemy for the Sergeant.
"50! We didn't even see'em LT." Taylor looked at Griner as the two thought about how close they may have been to the enemy at any time during their patrol.
"Well Sergeant, who the hell can see anything in this fucking rain?" Myron had attempted to light a cigarette to calm his nerves and was becoming more frustrated at his inability to get the soaked tobacco lit. After a few failed attempts the agitated leader threw down the cigarette and stared to the north hoping to see Zeke Anderson and Daniel Percell appear through the rain at any minute.
Anderson and Percell moved quickly along the river returning from their patrol duty to the waiting platoon. There were only a few precious minutes of daylight left and they were still more than twenty minutes from where Lt. Goldman and the men were waiting for them.
Suddenly Anderson raised his fist into the air and he and Percell crouched low searching the tree line for any sign of danger. Percell pointed out the NVA moving in their direction confirming what the Sergeant had suspected.
Both men's hearts began to race as they searched for a means of escape or coverage. In seconds the two men realized the river's edge and the incoming enemy had trapped them in. Percell grabbed Anderson's left arm and pointed to a heavy area of brush. Without a word the Sergeant and the Specialist moved underneath the jungle coverage and positioned themselves with their weapons ready.
Anderson and Percell lay absolutely still in the mud and rain. Every inch of their bodies soaked while the mud oozed into their boots.
Within moments the few NVA soldiers grew from six to fifteen to thirty. As the enemy soldiers began to spread out around the area the American men lost count as the numbers continued to escalate. The enemy began to mull around attempting to smoke their cigarettes, kicking off their sandals to search for fish in the raging water or relieving themselves. Many of the Vietnamese men sat comfortably in the mud to converse with each other munching on their rice, which came from the tiny satchels in their shoulder bags. Others started to set up a small camp for the night.
The enemy had trapped the two men and didn't even know it. Zeke and Danny held still as the conversations amongst the NVA soldiers began.
"What the hell are we doing out here? No GI's are going to be out in this rain!"
"No, they spend most of their time drinking and having sex with the women in Saigon"
"Hell, I wouldn't even sleep with those whores in Saigon"
The Americans heard the trio of men laugh and then dig into their rice rations. Danny looked over to Sarge as if to say How are we gonna get out of here? Zeke noticed the young man's concern, but had no answers. As the darkness of night took hold, Sarge knew there was nothing he or Percell could do other than wait for the enemy troops to move out in the morning.
Lieutenant Myron Goldman looked about at his men clustered under trees with their ponchos protecting them from the uncontrollable rain. Hours had passed and there had been no sign of Zeke or Danny. He was again faced with a handful of gut wrenching decisions with two men missing and one man facing death. Myron knew he had to move forward, attempt to cross the river and save Private Luke Crumley's life.
"Sergeant" Myron whispered firmly to Taylor, who was resting beside him. "Be sure the men know to be ready in the morning, we're moving out at first light."
Taylor became concerned with the order. "LT, we are going to search for Danny and Sarge, right?"
"Sergeant Taylor." Myron Goldman knew it was necessary to remind the man of his chain of command before repeating his earlier decision. "We are moving to the secondary PZ. Sergeant Anderson and Percell will need to make it on their own."
Being a veteran of escape and evasion, Taylor was not happy with the decision and didn't want to have to be the one to inform the men they were leaving the lost patrol behind. Even though it left a sick spot in his gut he understood the responsibility he assumed with his new stripe. "Yes sir. I'll tell the men."
As Taylor rose to convey the order, Myron braced himself for the inevitable argument that was sure to follow. He knew the men would be bitterly opposed to the idea of moving to the secondary PZ and leaving their fellow comrades to fend for themselves.
A few of the newer soldiers approached the Lieutenant. "We don't want to make a scene LT, but we ain't going in the morning without Sarge and Danny," Private Thomas quietly declared.
"We're not leaving them behind out here! We should go out after them!" Private Jensen supported the brewing argument.
Lieutenant Goldman lashed out. "What about Crumley, huh? Did you think about him? He's not going to last another day! We have been stuck in this fucking rain for half a day and command has no idea where we are!" Myron shot back. "Hell, we might not even survive crossing the river in the morning. Anderson and Percell are on their own now, and we are going to the top of that ridge for the safety of the platoon!"
Greer joined the conversation. "I'm with the Lieutenant, we need to get out of here!"
Private Thomas' anger began to boil as he lashed out at Private Greer. "That's our Sergeant out there! We all go down together that's the motto right? Leave no man behind; obey the creed and all that shit! Come on LT we need to go and find them, Crumley can wait!" Thomas slammed his hands onto his hips and waited for Goldman to overturn his earlier decision.
Myron Goldman breathed deep to confirm his orders just as Marcus Taylor appeared and stepped into the conversation. "Private Thomas, you will do as you are ordered and not question the LT, is that clear?"
Private Thomas stared at Taylor in his disbelief and trudged away from the conversation ending the conflict.
Myron agreed with the angry private and didn't like the idea either, but what choice did he have? With the radio broken and one wounded soldier, being lost was just plain stupid. At the new PZ he could send his platoon back to base and have choppers search for Anderson and Percell from the air, as well as continue the ground search with his S.O.G. unit, Team Viking.
Zeke looked desperately into early morning rain at the enemy and then back to Danny Percell who he had ordered to get some sleep a few hours earlier. Anderson eyed the boy and noticed him trembling. Moving ever so quietly closer to Danny to give some body heat, Zeke hoped Danny was trembling because of the weather and not because of a nightmare. The two men could not afford for Percell to yell out.
Zeke's mind started to think about the situation. Since he and Percell hadn't returned in the designated time they were given he knew that Goldman would take the platoon to the secondary pickup zone. Zeke closed his eyes for a moment hoping Myron would go by the book and leave the two stranded soldiers to fend for themselves.
"Sarge?" Danny's whisper was barely audible but it still caused the older man's body to jump at the sound. Anderson turned to look at the young man. "Sarge you rest, I'll stay awake." Danny looked at his Sergeant; both of their faces were splattered with mud from the heavy raindrops bouncing off the ground.
Zeke shook his head no, as Danny knew he would. The Sergeant checked his watch, 04:30. The NVA had left two sentries to patrol the area. The sentry nearest to Anderson and Percell startled the Americans by yelling abruptly in Vietnamese. Zeke and Danny felt the rush of adrenaline as they froze in fear that they had been spotted.
"LT." Taylor shook the leader's shoulder to rouse him from sleep. "Its 04:30. The river is still raging, what do you want us to do?"
Lt. Goldman paused a moment to clear his foggy mind and acclimate himself to where he was. It had rained throughout the entire night; he wondered how he had ever found a way to sleep.
The seasoned Lieutenant knew that Zeke was operating on his own plan now and there would be no sense in waiting for him or sending out a search party. He knew the correct decision was the one he ordered at nightfall. The platoon needed to move to the secondary PZ for extraction.
"How is Crumley?" LT questioned.
"Not good, Doc says he has lost too much blood and he's gonna be hard to move." Taylor informed the lieutenant.
The Lieutenant continued. "Since there is no good place to cross the river we will ford it right here. Get Scarlet, Griner and Thomas to help you rig up some ropes through the split in that tree branch there. Find out who our strongest swimmer is so he can tie the rope on to himself and be the first to cross the river. Each man will tie on to the rope and swim across the river on their own. When that man has crossed, the rope will come back and the next man will follow. Oh yeah, about the weapons, we will tie them in bunches and swing them across. The Doc will have to cross with Crumley then we will stretcher him to the PZ."
The American soldiers prepared to cross the raging river. One brave solider who boasted about being a strong swimmer tied the rope securely around his waist and dove into the water swimming as hard as he could to the other side. A group of men held the end of the rope feeding the slack as the man swam to the other side 30 feet away.
The others watched in amazement as Private Simpson made it to the other side of the bank without being swept away down river. The young soldier quickly climbed the bank of the river and tied the rope to a large tree.
Zeke listened to the yelling North Vietnamese sentry. Within a few seconds the once sleeping enemy began to rise and fall in for orders. The Sergeant was relieved to discover the yelling was a wake up call for the troops. Methodically the small men scurried around the campsite to hide their tracks and ready to move out. Zeke noticed the NVA Lieutenant moving toward the river's edge searching for something on the ground. Within a minute he summoned two other soldiers to clear the ground uncovering a tunnel into the earth.
"We will cross under the river and stake out the LZ area at the top of the ridge. If there are U.S. troops in the area they will go there for extraction." The NVA Lieutenant gave the orders to the men. Like ants they disappeared into the ground, sealing the hole behind them.
Shaking that thought out of his mind, Danny looked at his comrade. "Now what, Sarge?"
"Well son, we have to get across the river and warn the platoon. Hopefully I know LT well enough that he would have crossed when we hadn't come back." Zeke responded.
"Not to question your judgment Sarge, but what if LT didn't cross the river last night and he is still at the NDP?" Danny questioned. "It will be easier to take Crumley through the spider hole rather than across the river,"
Zeke considered the young man's idea, he definitely had a point. It would be a lot easier for the whole platoon to use the underground bridge. "Let's head back, check out the camp. If they aren't there, we will come back and use the tunnel."
Danny and Zeke moved quickly to the area of the platoon's NDP.
"Keep your intervals," Sergeant Taylor ordered to the men. His frustration continued within him as they humped through the rain and slick mud towards the PZ.
Lt. Goldman observed his men, taking special notice towards Crumley who was being stretchered by Armstrong and Greer. Myron called quietly to Taylor. "Alright, lets break for five. The men need it."
"Platoon hold up and take five!" The word was up and down the line and the young GI's took their break. Sergeant Taylor made his way around to all the squads
Being a strong believer in God, Crumley weakly continued to quote scriptures to keep himself calm.
Hearing this aggravated Marcus. "Crumley, will you shut the fuck up? I can't take it anymore."
The entire platoon stopped what they were doing and looked up at their Sergeant.
Goldman briskly walked up to Taylor, took him aside and looked him straight in the face. "I don't care how annoyed you are with one of the soldiers, you never say that to them. You hold it back; remember you are a Sergeant. These men look up to you and respect you. Now do you understand what I am saying?"
"Yes sir," said the embarrassed solider.
"Good. Now get the men ready to move out!"
Nodding in agreement Taylor moved away from his commander.
Sarge and Percell arrived at the now deserted NDP. "They are gone," the young solider said looking around the area where the platoon had set up camp less than eight hours ago.
"Alright," Sergeant Anderson re-conned the area. "Lets move back to the tunnel. Our men are out there and they have a load of trouble moving their way."
Sarge pushed Percell lightly on the shoulder triggering the Spec 4 to begin a cautious jog back to the assumed safety of the underground tunnel.
The NVA company moved slowly through the woods searching the ground for any trace of American GI's.
"Be sure to check for boot prints, they will be easy to find in the soft ground." The NVA Lieutenant hadn't had successful combat with any American platoon in three weeks. With a fresh set of men he planned to bring better news back to his commanders. "I want results from you! We can not allow the Americans to rule our land and ruin our families!"
The Vietnamese soldiers yelled out in agreement with their commanding officer. They hoped to be victorious as well, but many doubted they would find any GIs in the pouring rain.
Myron Goldman noticed the gradual increase in the terrain and pulled the map out to pinpoint their location. He was sure they were at the base of the hill and in the home stretch. As he unfolded the map Sergeant Taylor approached. Myron turned to look over his shoulder and was surprised to see Marcus. Lieutenant gave a little grin. " I was expecting you to be Anderson."
"Yeah, and I was expecting you to be Tina Turner, imagine my surprise!" Taylor still felt awkward working alongside of Lt. Goldman.
"We should be at the base of the hill right here." Goldman pointed to an area on the map. Marcus Taylor was an excellent map-reader and confirmed the Lieutenant's position. "We are going to take 15 minutes here and then begin the climb. When we reach the top we will wait for the rain to let up and…………." Just then the rain stopped and the blue sky appeared.
"LT, you should have said that twelve hours ago." Marcus grinned at his own wit and wiped the leftover raindrops from his face.
Myron grabbed a much-desired cigarette from his pocket and opened his lighter. Before he could strike a flame the rain began to pound down on them as if it had never stopped. Myron rolled his eyes and mumbled. "You have got to be kidding. Sergeant, give the men 15 minutes and then we climb." LT sat in the soaking mud and stowed his cigarette. Taylor shook his head in disqust with the rain and left to prep the men.
Anderson and Percell had safely made it through the underground river passage and were gaining ground on their missing platoon.
Danny stopped abruptly when he noticed a warning sign in the mud. "Sarge! I've got sandal tracks."
Sarge studied the tracks in the mud. "Yeah that's what you've got, and they are headed in the direction of our men. We better get a move on, because as soon as they notice fifty sets of moving boot tracks they'll be fixing to track them down, come on."
The two men moved rapidly through the jungle, unsure of whom they would meet next but they were sure that they wanted to be at the top of the ridge when the choppers arrived to take them home.
The terrain of the steep hill was becoming very difficult for the men to navigate. Taylor looked ahead just in time to see Private Andy Armstrong slip, dropping his end of the stretcher carrying the platoon's only wounded man.
The Sergeant silently gasped as Crumley screamed out in pain and rolled a few feet down the ridge and collided with the base of a tree.
"OWWWWWW. Oh Lord what have you done to me?" Crumley's leg was throbbing and he had no energy left to remove his body from its painful fallen position. Again Mother Nature teased the men by eliminating the rain from their troublesome dilemma.
Lt. Goldman moved up to the line to determine why the screaming had occurred. He witnessed Taylor and Armstrong tending to their fallen comrade.
"Oh my God Crumley. I am so sorry, I just slipped…it was wet… I'm sorry…" Andy worried that he had further injured the man he had been working so hard to save.
Doc Ryan soon arrived at the scene. "He's O.K. Andy just go get the litter so we can keep going."
Private Armstrong began climbing the hill to gather the stretcher and his carrying partner when he saw Private Greer smugly approaching the chaos. Andy cringed at the idea of Greer starting yet another argument among the men, or worse yet with him. Just go away Andy thought to himself.
Without notice Greer's chest was ripped open by a bullet, his mouth flew open in pain as his body plummeted to the earth.
"AMBUSH!" Armstrong yelled and reached for his M16. Within seconds the wounded body of Private Thill struck him in the head. Andy untangled himself from Private Thill's limbs and began firing in the direction of the oncoming enemy fire. The rest of the platoon had dug in to the area taking cover behind rocks and vegetation while Armstrong was trapped in the crossfire with only a wounded man for coverage. He began to panic not knowing what to do.
Andy recognized Taylor's voice
"Private, help me grab this man and get out of here!" Like a savior Taylor had appeared through the gunfire to give the terrified man direction and assistance with the wounded man. Together they roughly transported the wounded to the area where Doc Ryan and Crumley were holed up.
Marcus Taylor moved further down the hill to exchange a few lively words with the Lt.
"Sergeant we can't stay here any longer, we are going to be overrun and be killed! We need to get the men up the hill for better coverage and position." The Lieutenant finished screaming his orders and looked once more in the direction of the enemy fire just in time to hear the wiz of a small round of mortar fire and an explosion resulting in the KIA of six NVA soldiers.
"Where the hell did that come from?" The Lieutenant was baffled by the stroke of good fortune.
"I don't know LT, that was a M79 shell and Percell is the only one humping that weapon and ammo." Taylor's eyes grew wide in wonderment as a smile spread across Goldman's face.
"I knew Sarge wouldn't miss the boat!" This time the Lieutenant enjoyed the smile on Taylor's face as they realized Zeke Anderson and Daniel Percell were in a flanking position giving the platoon the advantage in the battle to begin the short hike to the top of the ridge.
Taylor shouted to the troops. "Move! Move! Get to the top of the ridge! Let's go! Let's go!" Taylor noticed the Lieutenant lead the group up the hill. He ordered six of the men nearby to drag and carry the wounded while he and Ruiz took the rear and provided much needed cover fire. The M79 mortar rounds continued to distract and eliminate the NVA as more and more of the American men made it to the top of the ridge. Marcus worried that Anderson and Percell would soon be a sacrifice for the survival of the platoon.
Pop and Griner were the first men to reach the clearing at the top of the ridge and set up cover fire for the incoming men.
"Reb, do you hear that?" Pop ceased firing and began to search the now sun drenched sky.
Griner looked at Pop from underneath his steel helmet then looked to the sky. "Pop! Choppers!" Willie pointed to his seven o'clock as the search choppers approached.
"We got to get these men into this clearing!" Pop ordered, "Come on lay down some cover fire!" The two men resumed firing as one by one the members of the soaked platoon clawed their way up the unstable muddy hillside.
Minutes later the last of the men arrived at the clearing and the thumping of the Huey's rotors filled their ears. The men ceased firing as they rapidly filled three of the four Hueys. One by one the birds flew off for the safety of the clear blue sky till only one remained for the last few members of Team Viking.
Pop and Griner were the first to board the chopper with Ru and Taylor providing cover fire.
"We gonna leave them again LT?" Taylor's stomach was turning at the idea of leaving Zeke and Danny behind yet again.
LT's eyes scanned the hillside praying for a glimpse of the Sarge and Percell. Knowing the danger was getting nearer; he ordered Taylor and Ru onto the chopper. Once each man was loaded Lt. McKay pulled the chopper from the ground rapidly gaining speed and altitude.
"Myron, what do you want me to do?" McKay sensed something was amiss and noticed the absence of Sarge who was a common figure in the open door of the Huey.
"Anderson and Percell are still down there!" Goldman yelled to the pilot. " They were cut off from the rest of the platoon. They may still be on the hillside, circle around and check it out."
"Roger that!" McKay aggressively turned the chopper so the passengers and crew could scan the side of the hill from a distance.
"THERE!" Griner caught a glimpse of the well-camouflaged pair moving up steep terrain near the top of the ridge. They had a seventy-yard lead on the NVA predators.
The team kept their eyes on the two men who were struggling in the thick mud on the barren hillside. The two men grew closer as the chopper approached. Carefully Sarge climbed out of the mud on to a large boulder in the earth and reached for Percell's hand to help him up.
"NO!" Ruiz was the first to yell as the men on the chopper watched Percell be swept down the rocky hillside by an unexpected mudslide. Danny's body struggled for support as he bounced off rocks and his limbs collided with the trunks of trees.
Sergeant Anderson watched helplessly as his "little brother" was tossed about by the cruelness of the earth. He laid on the rock with his empty hand extended, wishing he was holding on to the soldier for whom he was responsible for. Looking up he remembered the incoming chopper and he recognized the men watching from the doorway. He stood up on the rock flagging the chopper in his direction.
Methodically Lt. McKay maneuvered the Huey above the veteran sergeant and offered a skid for the forlorn man to cling to for safety.
Anderson wrapped his powerful body around the bar and used the assistance of the men to pull himself to safety.
No relief was spent on the return of one member to the family. One soldier still remained unaccounted for.
Without communicating to anyone the men lay on the floor of the Huey with their heads hanging out, searching for Danny. Much of the ground was exposed to their vision due to napalm burn covering the area of the hillside where the mudslide had taken place. Despite the openness all had seemed lost.
"I'm gonna take her in closer for a better look!" McKay warned his crew. "We'll be within enemy firing range so be ready!" The pilot circled the chopper around and lowered the altitude of the bird as he scanned the hillside.
Immediately Pop noticed the explosion of M79 mortar. The passengers knew it had to be Percell and they knew he should be within 20 meters of the blast.
"I see him, I see him! He's there!" Griner pointed to an open area on the hillside. " How we gonna get him LT?"
"Rope extraction!" Sergeant Anderson beat the lieutenant to the answer.
The crew tied on the rope and threw it to the ground.
Percell slipped his body into the rope harness rope and clung to the dangling lifeline. I guess we are over the rainbow, huh Sarge? Percell thought as he soared through empty sky.
Laughter filled Team Viking's quarters as Anderson and Goldman entered the room.
"Well now, sounds like ya'll went ahead and planned another party without inviting me again!"
"Nah, Sarge!" Taylor greeted the two men. "We just knew this party was going to end up in trouble and you are always there to pull us out, so you'd be showing up anyway!" Taylor took a long swig of his cold beer as he smiled with pride from his comment.
"Yeah Taylor, You all do seem to get me in trouble a lot!" Sarge pulled up a bunk and joined the men.
Feeling not as comfortable Lt. Goldman continued with his business for being there. "Percell, how is the arm?"
"Not bad LT. The Doctor says it's just a sprain and I should be out in the field again in a week." Danny presented his bandaged wrapped arm to his commanding officer and chuckled at his own bad fortune.
"Good to hear, Percell. Well, I will see everyone later." Lt. Goldman turned to leave.
"LT!" Ruiz beckoned. "Why don't you stay?"
"Nah, Ruiz." The Lieutenant wanted to stay, but knew he shouldn't. " I have a lot of paper work and friendly fire letters to get done before our next mission, but you guys have fun!" With that Myron exited.
"S.O.S. baby!" Taylor's voiced echoed through the silence. "Gotta love the Army!"