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.