“That was one heck of a camp-out by Spruce Pine Lake. We had three days of back-to-back-to-back fun.” spoke Marty in a whisper.
“Hey Marty, was that a Blue-marlin or a bass that yanked you out of the boat on the second day of our trip?” asked Curtis.
“Curtis my mountain buddy, you know it was a seven pound Small Mouth Bass.”
The USA was bogged down in the 4th year of the Vietnam War. It was January 1968, and the siege of Khe Sahn had begun 3 days prior. Khe Sahn was the furthest remote outpost of any American presence in Vietnam.
5,600 US Marines stationed there were used to being the hunter, but now were the hunted by the worst predator in all of Southeast Asia.
Curtis Whitecloud and Marty Toojack were Cherokee Indians who grew up in the Backwoods Mountains of Transylvania County, North Carolina. This was an area that was flush with Spruce, White Pine, and a plethora of some of the most beautiful hardwoods in all of America.
This was home, but home seemed light-years away for the 2 Marines fighting for their lives, as well as the lives of the other 5598 Marine brothers marooned in what seemed was the threshold of hell.
“Marty, do you remember when were in the 5th grade, and missed school for 10 days due to one killer snowfall after another? I think we had a total of 38 inches when it was all said and done.
That nine-foot snowman was something else! I can see the top of Feed-Rock Mountain all covered in a blanket of white bliss. I love snow.”
“You bring back some wonderful memories Curtis. I am so sick of the heat, smell of rotting food, and our dead Marine Brothers. I wonder when our time will come when we return home in a flag-draped coffin?”
“Marty, we are Christian Brothers, mountain brothers, and best buds. I heard a term from a Navy Officer when we landed. “Besties,” I think it was. I guess we are besties then.” whispered Curtis.
The intensity of the siege ramped up dramatically. Incoming mortars were exploding with a fury of orange and red flames that consumed anything or anyone who had the gruesome misfortune of being in their path.
The mortars and the bright grayish light of exploding concussion grenades, made it seem like the full wrath of hell had finally made Khe Sahn the official portal for a one-way ticket to hell on earth with no hope left for the Marines.
A combination of 40,500 Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army soldiers, were slowly encircling the Marine base in a grisly death-lock void of mercy. This was a sure recipe for the ultimate carnage for the 8-to-1 outnumbered US Marines.
“Please Dear Lord, either make this stop, or claim us as your own in Heaven,” pleaded Curtis.
“Brother, we need to keep strong in our faith, and trust that the Lord has our back.” whispered Marty.
About 20 feet to the left of the foxhole shared by Curtis and Marty, a series of mortar rounds landed in the foxhole of their Company Commander, Captain Malcolm Jackson and two Gunnery Sergeants.
The head of the decapitated Captain Jackson landed about seven feet from Marty and Curtis’ foxhole. A cold, lifeless-ghoulish stare emitted from the blood covered eyes and head of the deceased Marine Captain.
Marty began to pray. “Dear Lord, I know you are with us. We know that whatever happens will be your will. We do not understand why all of this is happening. We know that we are not being punished, but are being tested by fire to be made pure. Please dear Jesus, you have been with each of us all of our lives, and we pray that you, please do not forsake us in the worst hours of our young lives.”
The sudden quietness was like being in the eye of a hurricane; the shelling and bombing stopped.
Gunnery Sergeant Louis Rico jumped from his foxhole and commanded the Marines in his company to quickly move the bodies of deceased Marines to a designated area.
Within 30 minutes, the shelling and bombing commenced with a vengeance of 50,000 deadly assassins. There was an explosion, and everything went silent.
“Brother Marty, we made it home to Heaven!”
“Yes we did Curtis. This is where we belong, and it is far more beautiful than any mountain stream or any snowfall. Look, here comes Jesus!”
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