Lights on the Water/Impressions in the Sand: A Motorcycling Odyssey

La Cua Outpost South Vietnam Early 1970
La Cua Outpost, South Vietnam, Early 1970
Residence June 9, 2001, Storm Allison

Lights on the Water Revised Cover 2 Final

After I had been in Vietnam several months and had earned my Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star for Valor, I alone—my five-man mobile advisory team reduced to one due to SONR (soldier out, no replacement)—liaised with a South Vietnamese popular force platoon manning a squalid, rat-infested outpost. It was during the dry season, and I got trapped in the outpost by a brush fire. I felt there was little danger; nevertheless, the fire set off all the claymores—antipersonnel mines consisting of six to seven hundred steel projectiles propelled by plastic explosive in a sixty-degree fan-shaped pattern. Explosions were nothing new, but as I had nothing to fight against, I sat on the ground with my back to a bunker wall, leaned my head between my knees, and cradled my head in my hands.

As the fire burned it scorched my virility. With every explosion my body quaked.  I couldn’t  control  myself and  was  embarrassed—me,  a  “tough” infantry officer flinching at explosions posing no danger. It was because there was no way to retaliate. I felt helpless … impotent, the same feelings I experienced during the flood. The water kept rising, assaulting me and my possessions, and there was nothing I could do to stem the flow. In a microcosm I relived my life with all its vulnerabilities and losses as if confined in a delicate glass bubble.

2 thoughts on “Lights on the Water/Impressions in the Sand: A Motorcycling Odyssey”

  1. Jack, with the exception of SONR (my team was 3 with an RF Inf Bn) I experienced the same. When there is nothing to strike back and you can’t control anything, my thoughts were, why me. On my Pan AM flight home, we left Guam and after 30 minutes in the air, the pilot comes on speaker and says, “Guys, I don’t know how to tell you this but I have a signal indicating a fire in my left inboard. We’re dumping fuel and returning to Guam”. I remember telling myself, “You have got to be s******g me. I go through a year in the boonies and I’m going to die on a plane taking me home.” I was never so scared in my life. Nothing I could do about it. It turned out to be an electrical malfunction

    1. Hi Carlos … I appreciate your note and obviously am glad you made it home safely. While I didn’t have the plane electrical malfunction you did, I remember being extremely anxious that something was going to happen that would prevent my coming home. The last few days on the ground were tough, weren’t they!
      Welcome home and thanks for your service.

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