Excerpt from “Chickenhawk” by Robert Mason ~~Wrong medal~~

picture-Chickenhawk-MasonKaiser stared ahead, his shoulders sagging. He could’ve been a player on a losing football team, but he was a tired pilot flying a helicopter.
I smoked a Pall Mall and leaned against the door to rest my aching back. We had been flying assaults for more than eight hours, no breaks, and were headed back to the Rifle Range.
‘Yellow Two, Preacher Six.’
‘Roger, Preacher Six. Go ahead.’
‘Roger. Come up on two-six-niner and do whatever you can for the man.’
‘Roger,’ I replied. Kaiser shook his head while I tuned in the grunts.
‘Yellow Two, Wolverine One-Six. We’re under heavy mortar attack and we’ve got some serious wounded to get out.’
‘Roger, we’ll be there soon. What’re the coordinates?’ The lieutenant read off six digits, and I plotted him on my map. He was only two miles away. I pointed to the map, and Kaiser changed course without saying a word. I leaned against the door and flipped my cigarette out the window. Maybe it would clear the jungle.
It was easy to find the guy for all the smoke that filled his clearing. Other than the smoke, I couldn’t see any action.
‘Yellow Two, we are clear. I repeat, we are clear. The mortars have stopped.’
‘Roger, we’re coming in.’
Just like that. Neither of us thought about the fact that the unit was trapped, encircled. The mortars could start again any time. Neither of us cared.
We approached the clearing the shadows and pall, with the setting sun ahead of us. Even while Kaiser brought us over the tall trees, I felt no adrenaline. I sat up and squared my shoulders, put my hands on the controls, but I felt no anxiety.
Rubenski fired suddenly into the trees to our right.
‘Get him?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know for sure.’
‘That’s nice.’
Kaiser brought us to the ground with scarcely a bounce. The clearing was a miniature meadow surrounded by tall trees. The grass was short – like it had been mowed. I stared out the canopy. Across the lawn, ten men lay dead in a neat line. One man’s abdominal cavity was emptied around him, his remaining arm buried under his own guts. Another man seemed to be sleeping unscathed in the shady meadow. I stared at him while the grunts scurried toward us carrying five men. Ah, I thought, as I noticed the pale gore behind his head. Not sleeping. Brains blown out.
Two torn men were loaded on the back before the mortars returned. As the mortars struck, the grunts hit the dirt, carrying their wounded with them. Aw shit, I thought, another delay.
I noticed that there was a lot of orange light inside the explosions, silhouetting clumps of black dirt at the bottom of the funnel of expanding gases and shrapnel as mortars exploded a hundred feet away.
The grunts must have been as tired as we were. After the first few rounds, they got up and loaded the three other wounded while the mortars continued bursting ahead of us.
I looked back as the last man was lifted onto the deck. He was missing a leg below his knee. A tourniquet kept the blood mostly stanched. Rubenski blasted the tree line on our right flank. How long had he been doing that?
‘That’s it, Yellow Two. Watch out for a machine gun ahead of you.’
Kaiser lifted the collective. I radioed, ‘Roger.’
A mortar exploded at two o’clock, fifty feet away.
Kaiser pulled the ship’s guts so hard that the rpm warning siren screamed in our ears. He let off enough pressure to silence the alarm and turned left to avoid a machine gun the grunts had warned us about.
As we crossed the edge of the meadow, I heard Rubenski’s gun blasting away, and then tick-tick-tick. Ah, must be another machine gun. I nodded to myself. Three rounds passed harmlessly through the sheet aluminium and lodged in the hell hole.
It was peaceful again. I lit another cigarette and watched the sunset.
‘You guys really impressed that grunt commander,’ said Nate, back at the Rifle Range. ‘I heard he’s putting you in for a DFC.’
‘Wrong medal,’ said Kaiser, already drunk. ‘It should be the “I Don’t Give a Crap” medal with a V device for valor.’

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1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Chickenhawk” by Robert Mason ~~Wrong medal~~

  1. Robert Mason is an American born on 20 March 1942. He piloted the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) helicopter in the United States Army, serving a one year tour in Vietnam between August 1965 and July 1966.

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