They carried "John Wayne" can openers
and heat tabs, watches and dog tags,
insect repellent, gum, cigarettes,
Zippo lighters, salt tablets, compress bandages,
ponchos, Kool-Aid, two or three
canteens of water, iodine tablets, and C-rations stuffed in socks.
They carried jungle utilities, jungle
boots, soft covers, flak jackets and steel pots.
They carried the M-16 assault rifle,
trip flares, Claymore mines, M-60 machine guns,
the M-79 grenade launcher, M-14's,
66mm Laws, shotguns, .45 caliber pistols, the sound of bullets,
rockets, and choppers, and sometimes
the sound of silence.
They carried C-4 plastic explosives,
an assortment of hand grenades, PRC-25 radios,
K-Bars and machetes. Some carried
napalm, CBU's, and D26Ms; some risked their lives to rescue others.
Some escaped the fear, but dealt with
the death and damage. Some made very hard decisions, and some
just tried to survive.
They carried malaria, dysentery,
ringworms and leaches.
They carried the land itself as it
hardened on their boots.
They carried stationery, pens, maps
covered in contact paper and pictures of their loved ones - real and
They carried love for people in the
real world and love for one another. And sometimes they disguised that
love: "Don't mean nothin'!"
They carried memories for the most
part, they carried themselves with poise and a kind of dignity. Now and
then, there were times when panic set in, and people squealed or wanted
to, but couldn't; when they twitched and made moaning sounds and covered
their heads and said "Dear God" and hugged the earth and fired their
weapons blindly and cringed and begged for the noise to stop and went wild
and made stupid promises to themselves and God and their parents, hoping
not to die.
They carried the traditions of the
United States military forces, and memories and images of those who served
They carried grief, terror, longing
and their reputations.
They carried the greatest fear: the
embarrassment of dishonor.
They crawled into tunnels, walked
point, and advanced under fire, so as not to die of embarrassment.
They were afraid of dying, but too
afraid to show it.
They carried the emotional baggage of
men who might die at any moment.
They carried the weight of the world.
THEY CARRIED EACH OTHER.