Myron's thoughts while looking down at the covered bodies of Santucci's squad...
They got killed on my orders. I sent them to their deaths. I should have questioned the Captain's orders. Damn. What have I done. Myron let the anguish and despair wash over him. This whole situation was becoming dangerous; body counts becoming more important than the soldiers themselves. This Captain had no idea how extremely difficult it was to engage the enemy with just a squad. Never knowing how many of the enemy were hiding in the bushes. Not knowing if your next step would be your last because of the hidden booby traps.
Myron thought of the families of the dead soldiers. How does he explain to them that he knowingly ordered them to their deaths by not questioning the orders. He asked himself 'Did I hold back 3rd squad and send out Santucci's knowingly?' No! All his men were equally important, but a voice in the back of his mind mocked him. This is nuts, nothing is clear anymore.
He had wanted to go out with Zeke and look for Santucci but the Captain had ordered him to stay. This gung-ho Captain was going to get them all killed if he didn't start listening to them. "Fast track." Myron mumbled. He had heard it all before. These staff officers didn't care about the war let alone the soldiers, they just cared about promotions.
The voice of a North Vietnamese soldier rang out. Myron knew by the shocked look on his Captain's face that they could be facing death before the next sunrise. He sighed as the threats of total destruction rang out. He wondered how many other platoons on similar sized bases were facing the same odds. Many he confirmed, due to the stressed answers and information being given by their command. "Do what you can Larry." The last statement by command said it all.
"What are your orders sir?" Myron asked his Captain, beseeching him to take charge; show his stuff so to speak. Alas, he crumbled.
"There's nothing we can do." The Captain replied after Myron pointed out their desperate situation. After receiving permission to burn the code book, Myron left his incompetent Captain standing drowning in his own misery.
Myron's mind was already going over strategies and tactics that he had learnt both at the OCS and in the field. Zeke reinforced his thoughts. They, as usual, were both on the same page. Their men were relying on them. Zeke and Myron would not to let them down. Zeke followed Myron to his hooch and between them they came up with a plan. Three lines of defence; the last would literally blow the base up and hopefully they would survive by being tucked away in the CO bunker.
Zeke quickly got the men organised and between himself and Myron they set up their defence. Myron let the Captain know what their plan was but the Captain said it was all in vain that the NVA would simply pass them by. He maintained that there was no strategic advantage. He wanted everyone to hide in their bunkers and wait out the mortar barrage. The NVA would then, simply move on.
After it was over Myron again looked down at his dead soldier, Doc, and for the second time in a matter of twenty-four hours knew he had failed. He should have instructed the Doc to stay with the wounded, knowing that they would not have been able to keep him safe while being overrun. Whilst chastising himself the Colonel congratulated the Captain for a job well done. The officer in him knew that his and his Sergeant's efforts would never be acknowledged. That was ok with Myron because as far as he was concerned, he had failed to keep all of his men safe. Ladybird had opened his eyes and for the first time he really saw the army for what it was and in a perverted way realised why he would never connect with his father. They just didn't care how they achieved their goals. Myron sighed with relief that he never went to Westpoint and turn into these uncaring decision makers.
Myron's head was pounding from the heat exhaustion and from being hit by collapsing sandbags after the last blast. It had taken Zeke and Taylor to realise he was in trouble. The Captain sat and watched them uncover his half buried body, again not helping the men when they needed him. The Colonel wanted Myron to travel with him and the Captain back to his base but he requested to travel with his platoon. The request was granted. Myron never acknowledged the Captain and hoped their paths never crossed again. He stumbled on his way to the helicopter and suddenly felt a strong hand wrap around his arm. He looked up into the resolute blue eyes of his Sergeant.
"Just lean on me LT." Zeke told him. Myron smiled as he realised this man was always there to catch him. His friend, his brother. Taylor and Johnson held out their arms to help Myron into the Huey. Percell and Ruiz guided him to sit between Zeke and Horn. "You ok LT?" Zeke asked with concern.
"I am now Zeke." Myron replied smiling shyly at his friend. He looked at all his remaining men thanking them and they in return smiled back at him thanking him. Myron at that moment realised that he was now one of them; that he not only had their friendship but also their respect. He looked at Zeke and was a little surprised to see him smiling smugly.
"You're one of us now LT." Zeke's statement made Myron's eyes burn as all the emotions that had built suddenly hit him. Myron nodded and lent his head back and closed his eyes but not before Zeke saw the forming tears. A lone tear rolled down his cheek. He felt Zeke brush his hand over his face as he tied a cloth around his head to cover a cut in his hair. It was quietly done. Zeke wiped the blood from under his nose catching the stray tears as they fell. Myron swallowed hard and took deep breaths trying desperately to bring his emotions under control.
When he thought it was safe to open his eyes he noticed he wasn't the only one who had lost control. Taylor was weeping on Johnson's shoulder. Both Ruiz and Baker were holding each other for dear life. Horn was staring at nothing but the demons in his mind. Percell was openly crying. Myron tried to think of something meaningful to say.
"Hope is like peace. It's not a gift from God. It's a gift only we can give one another." Everyone looked at their LT, their stunned, young, uncertain faces acknowledging his words. Zeke smiled and gave his little nod. The friendship forged between these men would get them through this war and back in the world, that he was certain.