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Chapter 26

Do Not Shoot Us Down

The day had been worthwhile so far for Driver and Stan. They could not wait to get to the hospital and let Kyle know that they found out who had tried to kill him. Driver went through the hospital doors and headed for Kyle’s room. When he got there, Mr. S was already there and talking with Kyle.

Mr. S said, “Hey, Driver, any news on who did this?”

“Yes, Stan and I had a good afternoon, but it was Kyle’s plan that made the difference.”

“Tell us who did it, and of course you tell us how you got the information.”

“Okay, I will. It was as we thought. The commissioner was the one who threw the boulder down and someone at Scoma’s. He said the busboy called him when I left the restaurant. I will deal with him.” Kyle sat up on the bed.

“Did my plan to extract the information work? Well, I guess it did, being you just told us who did it.”

“No, you’re right. Your master plan worked so well. You should have seen him after we brought him back up. He had peed all over his pants and was crying like a baby.

Mr. S said, “Damn, I wish I could stick around and hear more about this great plan initiated, but I have a production meeting I must attend. I will catch up with you later, Kyle.”

“All right, S, I’ll see you later. Keep dry out there. Hey, Driver, pull up a chair, and let’s chat for a minute.”

“Sure, Mr. Stone.” Driver pulled up the chair.

“What is on your mind?”

“I just wanted a chance to talk to you and learn something new about you. Tell me, how did you get involved in this establishment, and why do you go by ‘Driver’?”

“It’s a long story.”

“Not a problem. I will be here for a while. I am a captured audience. Go ahead.”

“I guess it started with my brother. He had been working in Portland as an activist, and I think he was working for George Soros. It seems that he got hooked up with the wrong people and got into some serious problems. Our uncle was in the Family, and our mother gave him a call, and I guess it was decided to help him out at the cost that he would become a driver for my uncle.”

“So that was the connection?”

“Yes, but while driving for my uncle, he got into a crash and was killed. I was just turning twenty-one and was offered to take over after my brother died.”

“I am sorry to hear about your brother. That is really too bad.”

“So I have been driving for a few years now, and everyone kept calling me Driver. Where is the driver? Have you seen the driver and so on, so I just took the nickname, and it stuck?”

“Did you say you spent any time in the military?”

“I wanted to Mr. Stone, but the way things happened, took away my chances while I was young. What about you, I heard that you were the youngest officer to be commissioned, is that true?”

“At the time, Driver, it was true, I don’t know about now though.” Driver, “I think I would really have liked the military. Did you see any action while you were in?”

Kyle looked right at him, “Boy did I, let me tell you about a couple of times I just about got my ass shot off.”. It would come after a long day on patrol in the I Corps. I had thirteen men with me, and we are heading into a valley that was known to have North Vietnamese strongholds in this region. As they made a right turn around this large rock, small-arms fire crackled in the air as the bullets ricocheted off the rock. We immediately hit the ground to see where this was coming from so that they could return fire. Corporal Grace took two men to set up the right perimeter, and Sergeant Casey did the same for the left perimeter. The firing of 50 caliber machine guns was nonstop as the rest of the patrol hid behind the large rock they passed, coming into the valley. I checked in with Sergeant Casey to see if there was any room over there for the patrol to move to before initiating a counterattack. As soon as he hung up the field phone, there was a large explosion on the right perimeter. Sounds of screams filled the air as I made his way over there. Out of the jungle came Private Horn on fire, screaming in tremendous pain as he ran to me and two others, the smell was horrifying. Once they reached him, they put him on the ground and put the fire out over 3⁄4 of his body and administered morphine immediately to quiet his screams. L left one of his men with Horn and took the other soldier to where the men were attacked to see if they were all right.

Moving into the jungle, they could see where the explosion of the mortar shell had hit, and fifteen feet to the left were the bodies of Corporal Grace and Private Shell. Dead, lying there without an arm and an open bloody gash to the stomach, bodies all over the ground, some bleeding and some dead, was the outcome of this horrible attack on the patrol. The small-arms fire and the mortar shells kept coming in as I was getting his squad back together and made a decision: back out of the valley and head to a landing zone to get the hell out of there before all were killed. I did not like retreating from a fight, but this one, they were outnumbered, and there were not any troops in the area to help in the fight. A decision had to be made, and I made it, saving the lives of all the rest, I thought.

Driver, like a little boy with big eyes, listening to every word, “what do you mean, you thought?”

“I was thinking that all we had to do was get to the designated landing zone and we would be on our way home, but I was wrong,” Kyle said.

As the squad approached the designated pickup point, they started to take on small-arms fire again and fell into defensive positions, establishing a perimeter. I called in on the radio to change the LZ to a hot LZ so that the pilots of the choppers, who would carry them out, would know and take defensive measures while lighting up the area with their M-50 machine guns as they came closer to the squad in trouble. The squad surrounded the LZ as they could hear the blades of the schnook coming in. The enemy fire increased, bullets bouncing off the ground and now, mortar shells being sent in for maximum damage to the American troops.

“I sent the word out, spread the word that as soon as the chopper gets close to the ground, start running and jump in. Do not hesitate. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Sergeant Grace replied, “You got it, Captain.”

As the order was given to run for the doors as the aircraft started to hover just four feet off the ground, the smell of gunpowder filled the air. I tried so hard to get all my men in so they could get the hell out of there as fast as we could. Any more time on the ground would only mean more dead soldiers. As we lifted off, we became a bigger target for the North Vietnamese we could see on the hill. Anxiety was so strong as they watched the ground get farther away so that we could relax and take a deep breath. The farther we got from the ground, the bigger was our smiles.

Corporal Hastings asked me, “What are you going to do when you get home?” thinking all was good and we would be home soon. I could not answer him; I was immersed in this horrific action now ready to explode into something very deadly. It became pure fear inside as the tail end of the chopper was hit by an RPG causing the bird to spin. Death at the chopper door, waiting to claim its next victims, and the fear you could cut it with a knife. It was everywhere and on everyone’s faces.

You could hear the sound of metal being ripped away and sent flying in the cab hitting Corporal Thomas in the eye from the RPG that was fired from the ground hitting the tail section of the aircraft. His screaming was horrible, several of the unit tried to help him but we were going down and every man for themselves. Smoke could be seen coming from the tail section as more bullets ricocheted inside the bird, tearing holes in the metal, sending the craft into circles, out of control, and going to crash. I am telling you Driver, I have never been so scared, felt so helpless, in my life. I could only count on adrenaline to react in a split second.

It was the moment of decision as the helicopter started to fall out of the sky. I had to decide to ride it down or wait until it just about hit the ground and jump and roll away from the blades, I knew the boys were waiting for my decision, and there was no time at all to ponder. If you wait, you could be killed from the explosion of the fuel tanks and burn to death. If you jump, you could break your legs or be cut in half by the blades. With that in my head, I stood in the open doorway holding on tight as we spun in circles and watched the ground get closer. I made the split-second decision to jump, as others were yelling, “Captain, what are we going to do? Jump or go down?”

“It’s your decision. I am going to jump,” I screamed inside the loud, smoking, burning chopper. It all happened so fast, free-falling, smoke, fire, spinning, men screaming, and I hit and rolled on the ground with my M16 in my hands, praying that I would be away from the blades that could chop you in half in seconds. I landed on my neck and rolled to the left where I was on a bloody severed leg, as Corporal Ashton continually screamed, holding on to his blood-gushing stump. To the right were two others lying close, dead, did not make it, nor the others who stayed and rode the aircraft down. Now, just a huge ball of fire and black-gray smoke that acted like a blanket covering the dead; thrown all over with the wounded. If that was not enough, we started to take on more fire, and mortars being launched at us, an easy target as we lay there next to a burning bird.

“I knew if we stayed there, we would all be killed. Reaching for the field radio, I was able to puff smoke and call in napalm on the VC on the ridge where they were taking mortar rounds from. I then threw green smoke for them to be picked up by the next evac chopper. In no time, they saw and heard the blades as they came over the hill to pick them up along with help from a hellfire gunship laying out the rounds, killing them in the hills who were blowing up and taking the lives of the young warriors. I was reminded not to get too excited about the evac until it was out of the way of small arms fire or worse an RPG. Up and over the ridge, on the way to base camp, now we could relax, and a small smile would be okay. The pure hell of war, so prevalent that afternoon, one that would never be forgotten. What are we fighting and dying for? Was the question on the minds of those who were lucky and did not die in that valley that day Driver. I have another story of an ambush where I threw a grenade at a VC in a tree and blew him the hell up, but that story is for another day. You know Driver, I have several sad stories from my adventures in Nam, but the one that still gets me is that when I returned home, I was refused the one thing I had been dreaming about.” He was fresh off the battlefield as a captain, gone for a year, and looking out the window at the magnificence of the city as his cab stopped at the curb. Finally, he was now at the bar and going to enjoy a moment in his life that he had been consumed in, a very cold, foaming beer. The barkeep asked what he wanted to drink, and Kyle did not have to think about it, but before he could get the words out, he was asked for his ID, and he pulled his military ID out and gave it to the bartender and then heard the words that would nullify all the dreams.

Driver, “that was a hell of a story boss, I could not even imagine having to go through something like this and especially being only eighteen.” “It is a hard story to tell Driver, the memories are burnt into my skull, the sounds of screaming never leaves you once you have been through such a horrific situation.” “I am sorry boss; I did not mean for you to have to remember those days. Is there any other happier memories of your childhood?” Kyle, pondering the question, “in order to lighten it up a little, there is one silly story that made an older woman very happy.” “Well if it does lighten it up, that would be great, that was a hard story,” Driver said.

Kyle, taking a drink of his coke, “I agree, I did not realize how much it still bothers me. I must say that I feel every day for my brothers who fought and now have the nightmares haunting them. Okay the lighter side, it was not long after my father had been buried that my brother and myself were going to go fishing with the baseball team we played on. We went to the Coach’s house who owned a fishing boat and occasionally, he would invite 5 or 6 of the team members to go fishing with him and his three sons. This entailed spending the night on the living room floor of the Coaches house with sleeping bags. We were not the only ones there that night, the Coach also had a daughter and she had her friend over, the oldest of all of them. That night found the boys playing outside running around acting crazy. Now Pam, the Coaches Daughter, and her friend Rachael were playing in Pam’s room watching the boys outside. Kyle knew that he was being watched so he started to show off. Soon there was a knocking on the bedroom window and Kyle looked over to see what they would be wanting. They were motioning him to come over to the window, so he ran over to see what they wanted. What he found was they were acting silly by bending over and pulling their sweaters down and then would run and jump on the bed. This kept going on for a few exciting trips to the window and it was obvious that they were enjoying this game. About the fourth time he ran over there, they were telling him to come into the bedroom. Kyle could hardly contain his excitement, so he decided to take it further and move this fun indoors. He told his brother that he had to go inside and would be back in a minute. When he got close to their bedroom, they opened the door and hurriedly rushed him in and closed the door. He soon found out that they had invited him in to see if he was excited. These two girls wanted to play nasty, Pam being one year older than Kyle, and Rachael an exciting 3 years older, had bet each other to see if he was going to be visibly excited when he came into their room. The stares were now all about the crotch of this young boy, the girls wanted to see a bulge growing under those boys’ jeans. Kyle seeing this, new he had his shirt out of his pants and there was not anything they wanted to see with the shirt out. He did not know why Pam had bunk beds, but it did not matter now because both girls were sitting on the lower bed. Rachael was hot with long brown curly hair and big knockers standing out ready to be touched. It was hard for him to take his eyes off her, but sitting next to her was Pam, a little skinnier and real nice with short blonde hair. Both were acting silly but in a good way. As he stood in front of them, Rachael was teasing him to take his pants down, Kyle just kept getting embarrassed but also excited as they tried to convince him to show off. However, it seemed that he was saved by the bell. It is time for dinner for all,” her mother yelled out in the hallway. Kyle, “what kind of timing is that did you guys pay her to say that?” Pam, “really Kyle, I bet you were going to chicken out anyway.”

Just as the girls had worked themselves into a flurry of young desire, there was a knock at the door. Everything stopped, a voice came through the door sending all the children back to reality; “Girls, I said it was time to go, come on.”

Kyle thought he was done with the Coaches house and the two vixens, but he had left his glove at his house and he should get over there and get it before the game tomorrow. That afternoon he took his bike to the house after his last class at school. It was a five-mile ride and he was thinking about what had happened the last time he was there when he spent the night with others for a fishing trip. Pulling his bike up her driveway, now standing in front of the door, ringing the bell and nobody was answering so he pounded harder with his fist because he did not want to have to come back again. Finally, he heard this voice yell out from inside the house, “just a minute” and immediately he thought, no not Pam, not sure if he could take it again, thinking back about that night. As Pam opened the door Kyle told himself, “That little nymph is going to try and do it to me again”. She stood there bare footed, her white blouse only buttoned at the last three buttons, collar up on neck and hanging over her unsnapped jeans, and a devilish grin on her face. Not sure what he had interrupted, he followed her back to the bedroom trying to tell her why he came over and what he needed to get, he stood in front of her room scared to walk in and telling himself to man up and be the tough guy they think you are and stop shaking. In a demanding voice he heard “Come in” and upon entering the room he glanced at the bunk bed and immediately felt fear come over him as he saw Rachel lying on the lower bunk with only the sheet covering her breasts. He stood there, fixed on this beautiful girl as Pam steps out of her jeans and takes her blouse off then slides under the covers lying naked next to Rachel. The mystery of what Kyle interrupted was soon over and they must have known he was coming over because his ball glove was on the dresser. The sight of Rachel throwing back the covers to expose the gorgeous curves and velvet skin all to try and make this little man go crazy again and it was starting to work. Kyle was soon being told to get naked and get in the bed and if he did, they would take turns doing it with him. “Why do my legs have to shake, and my stomach has butterflies, he thought, as he looked at the two girls. What more could any guy ask for in his life, how much better does it get, but not today. To the amazement and disappointment of Pam and Rachael, Kyle grabbed his glove from the dresser, Kyle said, “not this time girls, enjoy each other, catch you later” and ran as fast as I could to my bike and rode it like crazy all the way home with the thoughts of those two girls wanting me.” Driver was just sitting there laughing over this silly story of playland. “I made my mother proud that day, turning down sex, but for me, it would be an experience I would never forget and would spend the rest of my life wanting a second chance to do what I should have done Driver.”

It was not long after that experience that Kyle, months away from his 18th birthday, really did not think about joining the military. He was not interested in talking with the Navy Recruiter being he had grown up in San Diego and always laughed at the Sailors on the beach with their tight bathing suit and a tee shirt with a pack of cigarette rolled in the sleeve. Rock, his childhood friend that he lived with for a short time in high school, had decided on joining the Marines; Kyle was curious about the Army. Not sure what to do, what happens if Rock goes into the Marines, he will have to move again, where would he live, was the thoughts going through his head. Maybe he should join the military, it would give him a home for a while, that would be good he thought.

He found himself in front of the Army Recruiter’s desk who was working hard to excite this young man to join and serve his Country, the same Country, whose involvement in Vietnam, with thousands of American Boys being shipped back to the States in body bags. Knowing this, Kyle was not interested in joining them to fight in this war. The Recruiter was feeling his hesitation, even though he had scored very high in leadership tests showing he had what it took to be an Officer in this Army but that still did not excite Kyle, so he came up with an offer that would excite him and give him a new family who would care about him and be there when he needed them. He had never thought about the military this way before, it was all seeming to make sense, and what is wrong with a family who cares about you?

“There is your story of my younger life Driver, it was crazy, but I don’t know if it is crazier than my life now.” Driver with a smile on his face, “thanks for sharing that, I do feel closer now that I know more about you and in our field of endeavors we need to be connected in so way.”

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