Summary: Pre-Series, John's POV during his tour of duty in Vietnam – John flinched as a bullet buried itself in the rock near his feet and then outright gasped when another bit into the flesh of his shoulder.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: After I posted the pre-series oneshot from Mary's POV, one reader sent a message suggesting I also do one from John's POV, maybe exploring his time spent in Vietnam. So, here we go. Although John was many things – a husband, a father, a mechanic, and eventually, a hunter – I think his primary identity always came back to being a Marine, being a soldier.
Semper Fidelis...Always Faithful
The shooting started at dusk, a solid half hour of bullets zinging into the U.S. Marine outpost, probably from M-16 assault rifles smuggled into Saigon and now firing from abandoned houses nearby.
Soldiers returned fire, shaking the heavily fortified structure where they were posted to its foundation as they ran through hundreds of rounds.
Then, as suddenly as it had began, the shooting ceased.
All was quiet.
But it didn't last.
Bursts of gunfire erupted sporadically, and then, shortly before 11:00 that night, a solider from Texas manning a machine gun on the roof radioed downstairs to say something wasn't right on the street below.
Seconds later, a single bullet tore through his chin. Blood coated the gunner's nest. The sandbags circling its bottom had not been hit, suggesting the soldier had gotten to his feet just before the shot came.
As word spread through the outpost, soldiers in the wounded man's battalion rushed through the dark of the rooftop.
They yelled for a medic.
One came, scrambling so fast up two flights of stairs that he fell hard, banging his knee.
They placed the wounded man on a stretcher and carried him gently but quickly down the stairs.
Those soldiers not carrying the stretcher or hurrying to assemble an evacuation team were left to wait with only their anguish.
They punched walls and kicked things.
They lit cigarettes and stared into the dark.
A column of jeeps and a tank waited outside the outpost in south Saigon, engines running. Soldiers threw smoke grenades to provide cover for the team with the stretcher. Whoever shot the soldier was probably still out there in the dark somewhere.
But the medical team suddenly stopped and laid the wounded man down on the dusty ground to insert an IV drip. His eyes were open, but his face was covered with blood.
They checked for a pulse. First one arm, then the other. They couldn't find one.
One of the medics stepped forward and breathed into the soldier's mouth once, twice.
He wasn't breathing.
The team lifted the stretcher up and loaded it into one of the jeeps. The convoy left with a roar of engines, headed to the nearest major medical unit.
And all was quiet again.
U.S. military pilots then radioed to warn that they would be dropping a napalm bomb on the area near the outpost where gunmen were still hiding and shooting at the structure and that a Special Forces team would be arriving soon. The bomb hit, shaking the neighborhood with its tremendous explosion, and the shooting stopped.
John Winchester, Corporal of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Echo company, arrived within an hour of the explosion. His company had orders to lead a mission to sweep through buildings looking for insurgents in a particularly dangerous sector of the city before heading north – and they needed to leave within minutes.
Soldiers nodded and changed pants and boots that were stained with the fallen man's blood.
As they prepared to leave, word came in from the medical unit – the wounded man didn't make it; he was dead.
"They won tonight," someone said.
"And Wade died for nothing," another added.
John stared blankly at the wall for a moment, simultaneously disturbed and comforted that he felt nothing.
They didn't win.
His company had orders and a mission, and he would be damned if Wade – if any of them – died for nothing.
He turned. "Let's go."
John pressed himself into the jagged stones that covered the cliff. Machine gun rounds and sniper fire ricocheted off the rocks. Two rounds smashed into his helmet, slamming his head into the ground with their force.
"Shit," he hissed, slowly raising his head.
Thank God for helmets.
Nearby, three of his comrades were gravely wounded. One grenade or a well-aimed bullet, John thought, could etch June 9, 1972, on his gravestone – and perhaps had already done so on theirs.
The previous mission surrounding the outpost in Saigon had gone well, but the mission that sent his company to the Cay Giep Mountains seemed imperiled from the outset.
John and his men had been sent to kill or capture Veitcong – Victor Charlie – from a rugged valley that had never been penetrated by U.S. forces – or they had been told, by the French before them.
Three massive CH-47 Chinook helicopters had deposited the men earlier that morning, banking through thick clouds as they had entered the valley.
The approaching U.S. soldiers had watched enemy fighters racing to positions dug into the canyon walls and to sniper holes carved into stone houses perched at the top of the cliff.
Considered a sanctuary of the South Vietnamese operatives, the valley was far from any U.S. base.
It was impossible for the helicopters to land among the dense vegetation or on the jagged rocks at the bottom of the valley. Having no other choice, the Marine soldiers, each carrying more than 60 pounds of gear, dropped from twenty feet above the ground, landing among boulders.
Almost immediately, the soldiers were trapped against the cliff, and John was sure his men would be overrun. The narrow path was too exposed, and the enemy was too well armed and too well hidden.
It was now six hours into the battle, and John peered over the side of the cliff to the dry river bed 60 feet below, considering his options. Could he roll the wounded men off and then the rest jump to safety? Would they survive the fall?
John turned as much as his position against the rocks would allow and motioned toward one of his men who was better situated further down the path.
"Deacon," he hissed. "Get your ass down there and find another way out before it's too late."
If it isn't already too late.
Deacon nodded and slipped out of sight. Sometimes free-climbing the rock face, he found a steep path on the opposite side and made his way back up several minutes later.
John flinched as a bullet buried itself in the rock near his feet and then outright gasped when another bit into the flesh of his shoulder. "Fuck!"
"Holy shit!" Deacon yelled, seeing blood seep between John's fingers where the Corporal's hand was clasped over his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
John squeezed his eyes shut, in pain and thoroughly pissed.
"Corporal?" Deacon prompted.
John swallowed a moan and opened his eyes. "I'm fine." He breathed deeply and slowly exhaled. "Can we make it out carrying them?"
"Who?" Deacon asked, distracted by what had just happened.
John glared. "The wounded."
"You're wounded," Deacon pointed out as another bullet dug into the cliff.
"It's not that bad," John countered, unsure if he was lying or not. But it didn't matter. He had a responsibility, a job to do. None of his men were going to die like Wade...like all the Wades of this war. "Can we make it out carrying them?"
"Yes," Deacon answered, nodding and then ducking as a bullet whined past his ear.
John returned the nod and looked back toward the other injured men. Sanchez was still moving, as was Yevak, but Thompson...
John squinted, trying to sharpen his focus. It was hard to tell if Thompson was still alive or not, but it didn't matter – they were all getting out of there.
He gave a low whistle, attracting the attention of his company, and through a series of gestures, explained what was about to happen. Receiving a collective nod of understanding, John turned back to Deacon and the other soldiers who had gathered around him.
"On my command," John said, making eye contact with each of them, "you cover our ass." He looked hard at Deacon. "And then you be ready to get us the hell out of here."
"Right," John returned and prepared to maneuver, ignoring the pain that pulsated in his wounded shoulder.
A shower of small rocks and dust rained over the side of the cliff as the soldiers slid down the path, moving ever-closer to their other wounded comrades. A quick check of vitals assured that – for now – all three were alive.
Brushing his blood-stained fingers across his pants, John reached down and lifted Sanchez over his shoulder, blocking out the searing flare of pain he felt for his efforts, and turned as Pisarik and Pratt did the same with the other two wounded. Rocks once again scattered as they began making their way back up the path, each battling not only the incline but the added weight of an unconscious man – and for John, the added inconvenience of being shot himself.
Enemy fire continued to surround them, and their only comfort was found in hearing the answering fire of Deacon and the rest of the company from above.
Finally reaching the top of the path, John breathed heavily and shifted Sanchez on his shoulder.
"Are they alive?" someone asked.
"Are you okay?" someone else countered.
"For now," John replied, answering both and then staring at Deacon. "Ready?"
"Yeah," Deacon responded, already turning in the direction to go.
"What about them?" another asked, indicating the enemy still firing.
"We'll be back," John said, following Deacon and feeling his jaw tighten. "And we'll take care of them."
And they did.
"This is Joan Kelly reporting live from Washington, D.C., with John Winchester, Corporal of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Echo company." She smiled brightly and turned toward him. "Thank you for joining us."
John offered no expression. "Yeah."
She turned back toward the camera. "Corporal Winchester and his men were honored today for their harrowing, eight-hour battle deep within the Cay Giep Mountains back in June of last year. Their heroics earned the company ten Bronze Stars as well as six Purple Hearts, both of which Corporal Winchester received himself." She looked at him, awe-struck. "Simply amazing. You must be so proud!"
John shrugged. "Sure."
"Of course you are!" she countered. "This is a story about bravery and heroism and courage and – "
John sighed. "Look, this is a story about soldiers fighting side-by-side and covering each other's asses, who refuse to leave any man behind and refuse to quit until the mission is complete."
There was a beat of silence.
"I see," she said, taken slightly aback by his curt response. "Very well said and to the point. I like that." She smiled at him and then at the camera and then back to him again. Clearly this was not how the interview was supposed to go. "And the medals?"
John shrugged again, offering no verbal response.
The reporter maintained her smile, though her eyes told of her frustration. "Tell us more about those."
John shook his head. "We completed our mission, and we all came out alive – that's what's important. Whatever awards come in the aftermath are appreciated but are not important to me; my men and the mission are important to me. Fighting evil, fighting the enemy to save people, to save lives...that's all that ever matters."
She swallowed. This wasn't going well.
"I see," she repeated, knowing by his tone and expression that the interview was over – and also knowing that she had two more minutes of air-time to fill. She smiled again. She really should have been a ballerina like her mom always said. "Is there anything else you'd like to add?"
"Yeah," John nodded and then looked directly into the camera, offering a hint of a smile. "Hi, Mary."
In 2.09, Dean says that John was a Corporal in the Marine Corps, with company "Echo 2/1". In 2.19, we met Deacon, who served in the Corps with John and saved his life. Also, according to his journal, John was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart (among other medals).