With the helicopter hovering over the rice paddy, Rahn and Jack, for the first time since arriving on the battle front, are faced with using what they’ve learned in basic training.
“Hey, come on man! It’s no different here. We’ve done it before.”
“Yeah, but never over water.”
“He had to have come this way! Keep looking!”
Jack secures his medical backpack, grabs the rope and works his way down the nearly 200 feet of rope before letting go just above the water. Rahn follows and they run into the woods to look for the wounded.
“Over here, Rahn! I found one!”
The men run into the woods with the howling of the blood hounds’ scaring away birds and small animals as they search.
“There! Over there,” shouts Jimmy’s dad.
The search party spots the young man attempting to hide half submerged in the swamp.
“ Hey man, you gonna kill me? No gun! See! Won’t hurt you man! My leg…it hurt.”
“Don’t move!” Rahn shouts.
Jack reaches for his medical pack as Rahn tries to calm the young Viet Cong soldier who looks to still be in his teens. Jack pulls his Army knife from its case on his side and turns to face the enemy. With eyes wide, the young soldier attempts to push himself away. “No kill me, please. No kill me!”
Seeing the fear in the eyes of the young man, Jack assures him, “I won’t hurt you,” and proceeds to cut the pants leg revealing a bullet wound gushing forth blood.
Splitting up, the men surround the young man with their rifles and blood hounds. Jimmy has remained several feet away and shouts, “Don’t hurt him dad!”
Jimmy’s dad seems to ignore the pleas of his son and grabs hold of Rodney, yanking him up to his feet.
Mister, I only say hi to Jimmy’s sister. I do nothing to her.”
“You were behind the store and I saw you touch her, Niger Boy!”
“No, I only help her up. She fall down.”
“Black boys don’t touch white girls! Ever!”
Jack points to the name on his uniform and then to the Viet Cong soldier. “What is your name?”
“Americans call me Charlie.”
Both Jack and Rahn laugh as they know that is the nickname for the enemy fighters. Their laughter seems to put the young soldier as ease as he asks, “I be okay? You not kill me?”
“No,” assures Rahn. “We will take you to our hospital.”
“Thank you, sir.”
No other wounded are found and so the three wait for the helicopter to return.
The white men with Jimmy’s dad grab hold of Rodney and move him to an old stump beneath a low hanging limb. Jimmy watches as his dad takes a rope he has been carrying and throws it up over the limb.
Rodney makes eye contact with Jimmy who he spots standing several feet away.”Jimmy, I not do anything to Jenny!”
Jimmy runs up and grabs hold of his dad’s arm. “Dad, I’ve known Rodney since we were kids. He wouldn’t have done anything to hurt Jenny!”
“Nigers aren’t even supposed to talk to white girls, son.”
Rahn radios the helicopter pilot to let him know that they have one wounded enemy soldier to transport to the hospital compound. While waiting, Rahn looks over at Jack, who, just prior to leaving basic training, dedicated his life to serving God. “Jack, I think our Dad,” Jesse points heavenward, “is very pleased with you.”
“I just hope that we can all someday get to the point where we are willing to help each other, no matter what our skin color.”
“Yeah, it’s too bad about what’s going on back home between our two races. Maybe someday, Rahn, we’ll be able to be seen as brothers.”
“We are brothers, Jack.”
As the rope is placed around Rodney’s neck, he knows he isn’t going to be able to convince Jimmy’s dad and the rest of the white men that he was only helping Jenny up after a dog had tried to attack her. Rodney makes eye contact again with Jimmy who is standing in the background crying and still pleading with his dad to let Rodney go. Just before a white man pushes him off the stump, Rodney tells his friend, “Someday this will change, Jimmy. See ya.”
“Jimmy,” says Rodney’s sister. “I wish he could be here to see us get married today. A lot has changed since the 60’s.”
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