Adrenalin and our training kicked in—at least for three of us—and without realizing we had moved, we found ourselves a heartbeat later prone behind telephone poles positioned about thirty feet inside the wire to offer some form of protection in the sort of situation we had just found ourselves in—as exposed, easy to hit targets.
But one of us was missing. Once the flare floated to earth and fizzled out plunging us back into darkness, we went in search of our missing Marine and found him trapped inside the barbed-concertina wire stuck to the barbs. He was lucky that when he jumped in the wrong direction, he didn’t land on one of the mines. We plucked him off the barbs and off we went to the medic.
The third incident was on another all-night patrol as the sun’s early light was sneaking over the horizon and spilling across the rice paddies. We were on our way back to the base camp moving along a dirt road through the hills. There was the sound of a grenade spoon popping and the thud of a grenade hitting the ground.
The patrol—except for one—reacted as trained. One instant we were on the road spread out in the proper formation, and what felt like a heartbeat later I found myself in a ditch twenty feet away. And I still don’t know how I got there.
Looking up, I saw only one member of the patrol in sight as he stood frozen staring at the grenade sitting in the dirt in front of his feet. The rest of the patrol, like me, had vanished into the terrain on either side of the dirt road, and I couldn’t see anyone else.
Fortunate for that human Popsicle, the grenade turned out to be a dud and whoever threw it was in no mood to start a firefight with the patrol—he could have been a ten-year-old boy who had no other weapon but that one grenade. You see, in most of the world outside of the developed West, children are often not children—not as we think of children in the United States. They are just smaller people and just as dangerous as adults.
Why did these three Marines forget their training? Was it the parents, environment and lifestyle they had come from? Was it something genetic? Or were they just fortunate, klutzy dingbats?
Return to or start with Forgetting basic training and jumping in the fire: Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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