Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty Characters and situations do not belong to me. I simply enjoy playing in their sandbox.
Summary- Doc Hockís POV in the wake of the Phu-an massacre.
Thank you to my betas and supporters- Doc, Mel, Witchbaby and Snowy. Lovely ladies all.
I had told myself that when I came here to Vietnam, I was going to see things I didnít want to. Things that I would take with me the rest of my life. Things that would be impossible for me to ever forget.
For the second time since I got here, I found myself on my hands and knees, retching. After Lt. Millerís death and the other guys who I didnít even know, I couldnít help it. There behind McKayís slick, I heaved till I was senseless. It was because of the foolish waste of young lives. There one moment and gone the next.
I didnít know who those villagers were either. I just stood with Goldman and the others, shocked and horrified. And stared.
A ditch was filled with bodies and littered with M-60 shells.
Oh my God! What had we done?
Women and children. Old men. Babies even.
Civilians. Innocent, unarmed civilians.
There in the jungle, in the empty silence that was filled only with the sound of the buzzing insects. No one moved. We could only stare in disbelieving shock at a ditch filled with nameless Vietnamese people.
I found myself looking into the lifeless eyes of a child. A girl. Maybe all of eight years old. And I realized I was trembling. Shaking uncontrollably. The buzzing of the insects magnifying to a roar in my ears, I found myself twisting and stumbling away. Almost tripping over myself, I was on my hands and knees once again, retching over the horror of it all.
I didnít know those men the first time I went out with Anderson and Millerís platoon. I didnít know the villagers, yet I couldnít stop heaving. I had dug my fingers into the soil but I couldnít stop. I could feel the sweat soaking my shirt. I shook and retched and cried uncontrollably.
Someone knelt beside me. A gentle hand on my back, and I flinched in shame and confusion from the contact. I almost fell over but Anderson quickly grasped my arm. Instead I sprawled onto my backside, shivering in misery. He simply continued to kneel there and I could do nothing but stare at him, swallowing at the acid taste in my mouth and scrubbing at the tears that I couldnít stop from spilling down my cheeks.
His eyes were so dark and filled with simple sympathy. He waited as I tried to find myself. Waited as I blinked rapidly and continued to swallow the foul taste.
I donít remember getting to my feet. I donít remember when I finally and hesitantly climbed down among so many dead bodies. Itís strange how some memories about this day will forever elude me, but others will be crystal clear forever. The way each body lay twisted in the heavy heat of the sun. The way the blood pooled and soaked into the ground from the hundreds of gaping wounds. The empty look in each set of lifeless eyes. The storm front that growled in the distance.
Those are things I will remember till I die. Vivid and achingly clear.
I donít remember anyone telling me to search the bodies, to look in the off chance that somehow, someone could have survived that. But the sound of the insects buzzing, the clouds of flies and the shimmering heat of the day, the stench of death and the silence of Goldman and Anderson and the rest of the teamÖ I will have with me forever.
I donít remember counting that there were forty-seven bodies. Forty-seven women, and children, and babies and old men. Forty-seven lives gone. I do remember standing in the middle of that ditch, in the middle of the tangle of silent bodies, shaking and staring at the L-T.
I wonít ever forget Lt. Goldman. How he stood gripping his rifle so tightly his fingers were white. How huge and dark his eyes were. How he looked at me like a wounded animal, completely unable to say anything.
I wonít ever forget the menís shock and bewilderment as it spilled over me in ceaseless waves. How powerless we all felt as Roo and Danny tenderly started to lift the bodies up to the rest of us so that we could lay them out.
And the most vivid of all these memoriesÖ the image that keeps playing across my mindís eye more than any other- of the dead villagers all neatly laid out in the sun and of Anderson kneeling by a young woman and Goldman standing behind him, head lowered.
With each body we carefully laid down there on the ground, I could sense Goldman retreating further behind his shattered walls. Felt another part of him slip further away from Anderson and the rest of us.
With each child Danny carried up out of that ditch, I could sense an aching numbness settle around him.
Rooís sullen anger.
Taylorís confusion and Johnsonís sorrow.
And Andersonís betrayal.
The rain came in a few hours ago, pouring over the camp with the approach of night. Almost ironic, as if Nature herself decided she would wash away the blood for us all. And the memories and horrors with it.
I canít stop shaking. I couldnít on the chopper ride back. And the rain keeps coming down. Iím soaked clear through and I canít seem to stop shaking. Iíve got my arms wrapped so tightly around myself that I know Iíll have bruises come morning.
I came here to this sorry excuse of a country because I thought I could make a difference. I could contribute in some small way. I thought that by not carrying a weapon, and not taking a life myself, I could somehow come away from all of this clean and untouched. That I was just that much better than everyone else for it too.
How stupid could I be?
I will never feel clean again. I can never feel clean again. I am covered in blood and all the rain in the world canít change that for me.
Nothing can ever be the same again.