We stayed in that Montagnard village twenty-five days before the NVA finally
got sick of it and hit us two nights in a row. I was God damned amazed. What
those bastards did wasn’t humanly possible. From the floor of canyon
below us, those sons-of-bitches actually scaled the rock walls of the hill
that village sat on. The bastards crawled up the side of the cliff, their
weapons at sling arms, and when they reached flat ground were right in front
of us lobbing grenades, screaming like banshees and coming at us. Dug
in, we had cover and concealment, so we just hunkered down and picked them
off. I don’t know how many of those poor fuckers stood up at the
edge of that cliff, got hit, and then fell over backwards. We were up
half the night until they gave it up and things finally quieted down.
- Even though in imminent danger of being killed or wounded, his
empathy for his enemy was evident. The huge number of NVA Marlin
and his teammates killed were indirect threats to his own physical integrity
and a traumatic stressor.
The following night, they came after us with an attitude. Apparently,
they’d had enough of us and our Montagnard friends, because they opened
up with an 82 mm mortar and tried to dismantle our hilltop stone by stone. Between
incoming rounds, I looked across the valley and spotted the enemy mortar crew
on a little rock outcropping. I put a burst of .50 on them and took them
out, but their buddies obviously had orders to follow the mortars in, because
when the tube went quiet, the shit really hit the fan.
- That night and the following morning, Marlin Jackson met both Criterion
A conditions for posttraumatic stress disorder. He witnessed and experienced
numerous events involving the actual or threatened death or serious injury,
or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
Within seconds, the God damned NVA came at us from all directions. We
called for artillery and told them to keep tossing it in until we said to stop. Four
hours of the most intense, close combat I’d ever experienced, they crested
the hill five at a time and came at us, and we clicked off just as many rounds
as it took to drop them. The firefight lasted half the night, and who knows
how much ammo we put through that .50. The next morning, when the sun
topped the eastern foothills, we stuck our heads up and took a look around. Everything
around us had been shot to shit, and I mean everything. All the sandbags
in front of us were torn up, and even the machine gun tripod had nicks in it. Later,
the Montagnard headman reported he lost a few people, but no American even
got a scratch.
- To permit Marlin to react in accordance to the threat, Marlin’s brain
pumped large doses of neurochemicals throughout his neocortex. However,
the chemicals that motivated him into self-protective action had an immediate
and deleterious effect on his still-developing brain.
When the clouds lowered, I took a couple Montagnards with me and patrolled
the perimeter. As we came across dead NVA, we tossed their bodies over
the edge of the cliff. I wondered how many more already lay on the floor
of the canyon. For all I knew, there could have been a carpet of dead
gooks down there, but one thing was certain, I really didn’t give a crap.
- The threat to Marlin’s physical integrity was reinforced when the lull
in enemy activity and weather conditions made it possible to assess the battle
damage. Fear for one’s own life traumatizes as well as witnessing
taking the lives of others. This holds whether the maimed and slain are
friend or foe, even when cognitively it is vehemently denied. After
this battle and even for the rest of his life, Marlin would not or could
not acknowledge how the deaths of so many of the enemy affected him.