This was offered last nite for ROGUE MACHINE’s Rant & Rave #33


…Is much thicker than water. Blood is warm. Blood is sticky. You can smell blood. Blood constitutes 8% of our body weight.

Oxygenated blood has a distinctive color, blood carries oxygen to the brain; without oxygen, brain cells die.

Wallace Terry wrote a book about black soldiers in Vietnam. Its title – BLOODS.

Blood: a term of affection. “W’sup, Blood?”

Blood defines my race. 1/64th….

My blood: African, French and Choctaw on Mom’s side, African and Choctaw from my Daddy. I am O positive, Universal Donor. Anyone receiving a critical transfusion might ask, “Am I gonna make it?” … probably not, “What was the ethnicity of my donor?

Harry and the Half Blood Prince. Harry was half Muggle, half Wizard.

Obama is a half blood. If his mother had also been black…would they, could they hate him twice as much?

I try to never underestimate the capacity of Americans for xenophobia (fear of The Other)…tho we do love dogs. But when it comes to marginalizing people, be it Native Americans or African slaves, Asian immigrants or Latino migrants, homosexuals or Moslems or Jews or pretty much everyone apart from Caucasians, it is HERE that you will find your true American Exceptionalism. Fear of other races seems part of our DNA. It’s in our blood.

Years ago, I wrote an essay called Sunday Bloody Sunday…because something awful happened, long ago and far away on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s a memory that has been for years unshared, not even with my family…especially not with my family. Like the Twin Towers, this event dominates the landscape of my life. This is a war story.

On Sunday, September 14th 1969, six mercenaries appeared at my bunker and asked permission to go hunting. Their orders were to kill or capture a Vietcong tax collector. None of them could speak any English but my Vietnamese was pretty good. They were a motley crew: Two Hoi Chans (former VC who’d shouted, “Chieu hoi”, surrendered and joined our side), two Saigon cowboys (sociopaths, unfit for conventional duty), a Nung (that’s an indigenous tribe) and a mysterious Cambodian…I don’t remember shit about him, except he was the darkest and tallest…tho not as dark or tall as I. These people were paid by the body. They worked for the Phoenix Program, a CIA operation. They worked for Blood Money

I was concerned they might not locate their target and to collect their bounty, maybe just waste some unfortunate farmer. That was known to happen. Since this was going down on my turf, I decided to go with them. Every farmer in Quan Binh Chanh recognized me or knew of me; my team had worked hard to win their trust. And maybe, inside me, just a touch of hubris. “These are dangerous people but I can roll with them.” The fuck was I thinking? Pride goeth before a fall.

I briefed my team – mission, coordinates – grabbed my radio, maps, water, standard combat load and shortly after noon, we single-filed thru my perimeter wire and patrolled west towards Cambodia.

Long story short, about ninety minutes later, deep in a nippapalm mangrove, we eased up out of the water onto a small hummock of land and I knelt to check my map. And the hummock exploded…the loudest sound I have ever heard. Then – utter silence.

I am stunned, leaning to one side. “Have I gone deaf?”…and then I hear a sound, like someone pissing. Then it stops. Then I hear the pissing sound again…and notice this thick red ribbon, splattering on green leaves, ten feet in front of me. Then it stops. When it starts again, I realize that red stream is coming from my throat. See, I’d been shot at so many times…and missed, I actually believed I was different. Three specific thoughts: I’m hit. That’s an artery. I’m going to die out here.

A RED wave rolls across my consciousness. Overwhelming FEAR. The next wave is GREEN. SERENITY. “All will be well.” Imagine being held in God’s hands. It’s that good. There are five characteristic Near Death Experiences. One is The Serenity.

I can see six mercenaries, dead or wounded. One approaches. I have tied my sweat band around my throat, tight. The merc checks it and approves. I notice I’m also bleeding from my left thigh and belly…and I remember this specific thought: “If they can’t save my leg, fuck it!”

I didn’t know a lot about blood. We’ve got maybe five liters; that’s about ten pints. I’d had hematology in high school. I remember this student, pushed down the stairs, striking his head, his blood spurting. As he lay on the landing, some of us covertly filled our pipettes with his blood. Today we would not have to prick each other’s fingers.

Now I figure a brain without half its blood supply will lose consciousness at some point (10 to 15 minutes, actually.) I am multitasking. As the merc checked my bandage, I grabbed my handset. I always carried my own radio. PRC-25. Always. My allies used to tease me, “You lose face, Trung uy. We give you someone.” PRC-25 weighed 20 pounds and I was always the strongest man. This habit was one of my better combat decisions.

I keyed my handset to say, “RUSTY NAILS! RUSTY NAILS, this is NAILS Six, over.” (Six is always the commander’s callsign.) That’s what I intended to say…but no sound came out. I can no longer speak. Turns out the frag had severed my right carotid artery as well as the Vegus nerve. My vocal chords are paralyzed. Frag about the size of a match head, it’s still in there…

But I discover that I can whisper…so I start whispering…Rusty Nails…Rusty Nails, this is Nails 6, over…

Rusty Nails, this is 6, over…

Mayday, mayday, any station, this is Rusty Nails 6, over…

I did that for about 20 minutes without any response. My tiger fatigues are sodden with blood. Can’t feel anything south of my hips. (Surgeons have told me, after 15 minutes I should be in shock or unconscious….or dead).

So this is not a story about heroism. Will, maybe. Stubbornness. I’m gonna die today, I’ve accepted that. Being held in Gods hands helps a lot. But I know that if I pass out, then everybody dies. My command will only authorize an extraction if I call it in. And no one else here speaks English.

So I keep whispering and I stay conscious…and I keep fading. My arms are heavy now… Harder to hold the handset up to my mouth.
It’s been about 30 minutes since I saw those green leaves turn red… ( SFX)

Then my handset squawks….

“Nails 6, This is Rusty Nails, over.”

This is 6. Mayday. Need Dust-Off, 100 meters whiskey of objective, do you copy, over.

“Copy that 6. Requesting Dust Off. Wait. Out.”

So we wait…I signal the merc who’s been helping others…and I’m fumbling to remove a smoke grenade from my webgear. I’m such a fucking spaz, my fingers don’t seem to work for shit…

“Six, this is Nails, over.”

6, go.

“Dust Off is airborne, has your coordinates and frequency. Rock steady, over”

Copy that. Be advised LZ is not secure, over.

For the first time I consider why we might still be alive. Charlie loves to shoot down choppers, especially Medivacs. We may be bait.

It’s been 50 minutes now…

And I hear the sound none of us can forget. 40 years later, veterans still look up whenever we hear the sound of a UH-1 Iroquois. A Huey. A sound that means we are no longer alone; it means help is coming.

“Nails, DustOff, on your push, over.”

Dustoff, Nails 6, smoke ready, over.

“Nails, pop smoke.”

(I pantomime to the merc to pull the grenade pin and toss it. He does.

Dustoff, smoke out.

“Nails, see yellow smoke, over.”

Roger Dustoff, yellow smoke…yellow smoke…
(I don’t remember ever speaking again, after that.)

I see three choppers approaching; two gunships that roll into orbit, looking for targets – and Dust-Off, which flares and settles down onto the tiny LZ.

Now here’s where things get a little complicated. Suddenly My Consciousness is floating perhaps 30 feet above us. I am Out Of Body. My dispassionate doppelganger watches two medics leap out, scalpels ready. In seconds, they have ripped thru my tiger fatigues and jungle boots, searching for holes. I lay down there naked as the day I was born. I watch them lift me onto a litter. I watch my beret fall off into the mud, ignored and left behind. I watch them administer plasma and morphine. I am lifted onto the chopper, last in…SHWOOOP! Back in my body. I am entirely at peace.

Blood Oath: “Anyone I take out, I will bring home.”

I remain conscious thruout the flight and triage at Saigon’s 3rd Field Hospital. Later, on the table, I arrested.  Exsanguination. Means you bled out. Dr. Caesar Cardenas somehow brings me back to life…but that’s another story.

No debriefing afterwards, from anyone. No “Thank you” from the CIA for getting their people out. Ever. I wasn’t CIA…I wasn’t there. “Fuck you very much. You’re welcome.”

14 Sep 2012

(This serendipitous photo was taken that Sunday as I crossed thru our perimeter wire. You can clearly see my PRC-25, which served us well that day)