[ bring him home ]

by lt. mac

Early morning fog was being blown about as rising winds announced the arrival of a rain storm. Bravo Company, tired, filthy and fed up with feeling like they'd prowled around the jungle for a whole bloody week for nothing, were struggling weakly up the side of a densely treed hill. It sat between them and the LZ. Choppers would be there to extract them at exactly 0600 hrs. There was an underlying fear in all the men that they would miss the rendezvous time. The Lt and Sergeant Anderson barked out orders to keep the exhausted men moving towards their goal in some sort of formation.

"Sargent, keep them moving, I'm to radio the birds and notify them of our e.t.a.," yelled Lieutenant Goldman waving Anderson on and turning to his radio man, "Horn, radio."

The two men squatted together, Horn pulled the receiver from his back pack, the LT glanced down at his watch. Thick banks of fog quickly obliterated their view of the departing troops. Horn strained nervously to observe the progress of his mates, but to no avail. The two of them were engulfed in white.

"Sir, I can't see the guys anymore." He said nervously as he repacked the radio phone receiver.

"We can't loose them if we just keep climbing. Come on." reassured the Lt.

As the two rose to their feet they both froze. The sound of half a dozen rifles being cocked around them was loud in the white silence.

"Lt?!" whispered Horn hoarsely.

"Don't move." instructs the Lt.

The Viet Cong troops drifted silently into their view. Panicked, Horn lunged for his rifle.

"Nnoo . . .!" the lieutenant began.

In a split second, Goldman was down on his knees with blood dripping from a mangle lip, split open by the handle of a pistol. Horn layed sprawled awkwardly on his back, unconscious, a bleeding gash across the temple received from the butt of a rifle.

Ruis glanced down the hill, hesitating a moment.

"What's up Ruis?" asked Anderson, seeming to see everything at once.

"Thought I heard the Lt. and Horn."

"They'll be along directly, Ruis, don't you worry none." he reassured his man in his comfortable Southern drawl.

Back pack yanked from his back, Lt was hauled roughly to his feet, the muzzle of the pistol digging painfully into his temple, as a gag was forced into his mouth and his arms were bound securely around a length of bamboo. He stood by helplessly as the Viet Cong soldiers pawed through Horn's clothing and dragged his pack from him. Satisfied with their looting rewards, the band of VC soldiers dragged the struggling Lt with them.

"I still don't see any sign of the Lt or Horn. What do you think's keepin' them, Sarg?" Ruis commented.

"You're right, even mother nature doesn't make this long a call."

"Are we gonna go back and check it out?" asked Baker as he squatted beside the Sarg.

"Ruis, Baker. Come with me. We'll do a sweep, they may have gotten themselves turned around in this fog."

The Lt knew he had to do something to try and escape. They would kill him, he would never come out of this jungle alive or end up in a prisoner of war camp and never be seen again. He had read the statistics on p.o.w.'s. He was scared and not paying attention to where he was going, stumbled, falling head long over a rock. Their leader barked at his men and Goldman was once again hauled to his feet, slapped repeatedly across the face as the little leader screeched at him. The party moved off deeper into the jungle putting distance between themselves and the Lieutenant's men.

Baker nearly missed Horn in the fog until the man moaned as he regained consciousness.

"Sarg!" Yelled Baker as he dropped to his knees beside his downed buddy.

"Horn? Horn, it's me man, Baker. Are you okay, man?" Baker lifted Horn's head onto his thigh as the Sarg and Ruis rushed to his side.

"Horn! Where's the Lt?" asked Anderson squinting into the swirling fog.

A groggy Horn managed to sit up, looking around confused.

"Sarg! The Viet Cong. They just came out of the fog. Outta nowhere. We didn't hear them until it was too late." he managed, working himself into a state realizing that the Lieutenant was not there with them.

"We've gotta find him Sarg." insisted Ruis looking up at Anderson.

The blow came unexpectedly and Goldman pitched forward with a yelp. With arms bound, he was unable to break his fall and he landed head long with the wind is knocked out of him. The high pitched voices snarled twanged and chipped above him as he lay there gasping for breath, scared to death. Cold, fat drops of rain slowly began hitting the dusty ground at first then, in seconds the ground was turning into a sea of mud. The Lt was soaked to the skin in minutes. He watched as his captors donned ponchos above him. He looked around at the ground and realized that any tracks they may have been leaving were being washed away in the downpour. He paled at the thought. He was pulled to his feet and shoved into motion. He walked in the middle of the group, the barrel of a machine gun jabbed painfully into his ribs from time to time keeping him from slowing down. He was breathing hard around the gag when the leader signaled for the party to stop. A pair of hands grabbed Lt's collar and yanked him down into a squat. A pistol was leveled at his face and the message behind it was loud and clear. One sound and he would be dead.

The Sargent, Baker and Ruis crept their way down the trail they'd just come up. The pouring rain was frustrating them and soaking them to the skin. Anderson rose a fist and the three squatted where they were. The other two looking into the direction the Sarg was. A clump of bamboo rustled briefly and stopped. Anderson signals to the two men to stay put as he advanced on the bush. He came out grim-faced carrying a huge rodent by the tail.

The Viet Cong around the Lt. moved in unison and they were on the move again, moving deeper into the jungle, reducing the Lt's hopes of being found. Realizing this, he knew he had to make a move, now.
He swung around pivoting on one foot and booted the man behind him in the belly, sending the him and the men behind him tumbling backwards like dominos. He spun back around to clip the man ahead of him with the end of the pole his arms were strapped to. The man doubled over with a grunt as the pole dug into his stomach. The Lt. turned and began to sprint into the tall grass trying to cover some distance when the butt of a rifle cracked against the side of his head. His legs gave out and he fell in a dazed heap not five feet from where he started. He rolled onto his back trying to get unsuccessfully to his feet when a second blow, across the bridge of the nose sent him crashing into blackness.

The Sargent glanced down at his watch. They were running out of time to meet up with their air-lift. He had decided that he would stay behind and look for the Lt. on his own. He could not ask the men to do the same. They needed and deserved their R&R. He was used to being dog tired and asked to do 'just that much more'. This Lt. was worth doing it for. The man had become a friend as well as a good leader. Yeah, they had their differences about 'protocol' but they always saw things the same way when it came to their men. Myron was a man Zeke knew he could and would die for. He was going to do what he could to find his friend.

"Okay, you two. You've got to dee-dee outta here if you're going to make the rendezvous. I want you on that bird, do you hear me?"

"Sarg? You're not coming?" Asked Ruis looking at Baker to see if he'd heard right.

"I'm bringing the Lt out with me."

"I'm going with you, Sarg." announced Baker.

"No, Baker, you're getting on the chopper. You've earned this down time. You're getting on that bird." argued Anderson.

"You're going to need our help, Sarg." Added Ruis.

"I can't ask you to do that, Ruis."

"You didn't ask. Don't make us disobey an order."

"Well, y'know, I've trained him to just the way I like him, it would be a waste to loose him now." joked Anderson making light of his real concerns for his commanding officer, and friend.

"The Lt. would do it for us . . . " confirmed Baker.

"Okay. Let's go find him then." Anderson smiled proudly at his men. He hoped that the others would get on the bird and not miss their chance to get out of the jungle.

It had stopped raining and the jungle was filling with shadows. Lt. woke himself up moaning. His head was killing him and it took a panicked moment to open blood caked eyes. Evening was setting in and the VC were setting up their camp for the night. He lay curled up on his right side, the arm having gone to sleep under his own weight. He discovered that his ankles were lashed together. Trying his other bindings he was alarmed to find that the ropes securing his ankles together was strung dangerously tight around his neck and any movement he made tightened the noose. He lay there helpless and scared watching the soldiers go about their business. Not knowing what his fate might be, he fought to keep his imagination from the worse scenarios. The VC more or less totally ignored their trussed up prisoner. Myron wondered if they knew that they had an officer as prisoner. Were they taking him somewhere where he would be interrogated? Would he be just thrown into a p.o.w. camp and sit out the remainder of the war. Would they torture him to death. Don't go there he warned himself. He must have drifted off because he was shocked awake when one soldier came over and kicked him sharply in the thigh sending the other soldiers into fits of laughter. Lt growled in pain around the blood and saliva soaked gag. A second soldier came quickly up behind him and landed a solid blow to his lower back. Lt arched away from the boot, crying out to the delight of the cluster of men that now stood around him. They'd found themselves some evening entertainment it seemed.

The three men dropped to a squat the second they heard the scream. They exchanged looks of speculation. Was that the Lt?


"I don't know." answered Anderson knowing what they were wondering.

"We're gonna go nice and slow. I think we may have the element of surprise on our side. Move out. Nice and slow now. And not a sound."

They all checked their rifles and grenades as they moved silently in the direction of the cries.

Lt. writhed in pain as the band of VC whipped, kicked and punched at him. Blood ran freely from cuts. Blood from lashes across his arm and back soaked into his shirt. The steady pain was no longer bearable and he slipped into unconsciousness. With their prisoner no longer struggling and squirming under their assault the VC soldiers quickly grew bored and turned to their dinners and chowed down on rice. Talking quietly among themselves, totally ignoring the prisoner, for the time being.

The three men lay motionless in the tall grass watching the party's 'guards'. The men they watched were very relaxed and seemed confident that they were in no danger of any attacks. Zeke, Ruis and Baker lay there in the cold mud like statues waiting for the shadows to lengthen into total darkness before they made their move. It took Zeke all his self control not to storm into the camp with guns blasting when he heard the last scream cut short. He thought the worst of course. That they'd killed the Lt. Tortured him to death. Well, he would at least make sure that the man's body got home in one piece. It was the least he could do if that was what happened. Ruis and Baker had similar ideas nagging at them since they heard that last weak scream come from the little clearing less than 30 yards away. Ruis patiently passed the time waiting thinking of how many of these animals he was personally going to blow away.

Myron came to in a daze, he was having trouble breathing. He's pulled the noose tighter around his neck in his struggles and the lack of oxygen was making him a little light headed and too weak to move. He shut his eyes feigning unconsciousness as footsteps approached. He gagged and moaned involuntarily as he realized that one of the VC had come over to him and was urinating on him. The VC giggled at this and took better aim. Lt heaved weakly at his restraints sending his offender into a fit of laughter.

"Sounds like we've just got ourselves a distraction we should be taking advantage of." whispered the Sarg. "I want you two to circle around. Get into position and wait for my move. Go."

Ruis and Baker slipped away into the dark. Zeke moved slowly closer until he had only a tangle of vines separating him and his target. His stomach clenched on him as his eyes fell on the prone body of Lt. Goldman at the feet of a urinating VC soldier. He had to blink back sudden tears of anger. He was going to kill these bastards.
Baker lay behind a tree in direct eye line with the Lt. He had no way of letting him know that he was there. He agonized for his leader looking at the bruises and the amount of blood that covered him. He doubted at first if the Lt was still alive until he saw the man still trying to work his ropes free despite the pain he was obviously in.
Ruis lay with his gattling gun perched before him trained on the cluster of VC stretching out for the night. It wouldn't be long now. He'd gladly fire at this bunch with no regrets.
Zeke waited for another hour after he was sure the last of the soldiers had drifted off before he moved. The sentries were dozing themselves and he knew that he would be able to extract the Lt. with success.
Raising silently to one knee, Anderson took aim and picked off the guard closest to him. Baker jumped up and took care of the sentry sitting against the tree behind Goldman. Ruis emptied his gun in the group of sleepers. The sudden explosive horror lasted for less than 30 seconds and the jungle

Myron lay gasping in fright and pain. Ruis made a thorough sweep of the area to make sure they would not encounter any surprises as Zeke rushed across the clearing and dropped to his knees beside the lieutenant.
Baker slipped from his hiding place mere feet away and approached them cautiously.
The Sarg pulled his knife out and cut the ropes from Lt's ankles and throat. He pulled the noose from around his neck. The skin there was raw and bleeding. He ran his hands carefully along his body feeling for broken bones.

"Lt. Lt . . . Lt. Myron. It's me Zeke. You're going to be okay. Baker and Ruis are here too. You're okay." Sarg spoke gently to his fallen leader.

"Baker, help me with the rest of these ropes." Ordered Anderson, worried about Lt. He probed his stomach gentley causing the Lt. to twist away in pain. Zeke worked the gag carefully from Myron's mouth just in time. The Lt. suddenly gagged and with a pained moan threw up. He slumped weakly in Zeke's arms as uncontrollable shaking hit him, a desparate sob escaped him.

"He's going into shock." stated Anderson as he pulled with renewed gusto at the ropes with one hand, hugging the Lt. close to him with the other.

"We gotta get outta here soon, Sarg. Those shots were probably heard for miles." Suggested Ruis.

"We shouldn't move him." cautioned Baker.

"We don't have a choice, Baker. That noise will act like an invitation to a party."

"I'll be okay." piped up a weak scratchy voice in their midst.

The three looked down at the Lt. and saw him trying to smile around his mangled mouth.

"Can you walk?" asked Anderson as Baker pulled the remaining ropes away.

"Not without some help."

"Okay, let's go. Ruis, take the point, Baker, help me with the Lt."

"Water?" asked Myron hoarsely.

Anderson and Baker slowly helped Lieutenant Goldman to his feet. Once on them though, he immediately lurched forward and vomited up the water he'd just drank.

"Sorry." he apologized leaning heavily against Baker for support.

"S'kay Lt, you missed my boots." joked Baker. He was rewarded with a bloodied eye peering at him.

"Does anything feel broken?" asked Anderson.

"Yes. Everything."

"At least they didn't break your sense of humour."

Limping along with support from Baker, Lt. Goldman and his men left the camp sight under the cover of dark. The going was slow but they knew that they needed to get a lot of distance between the camp and themselves by day light. They had been moving steadily uphill for nearly two hours before the Lt. fainted. He slid to the ground quietly and couldn't be roused.

"What's wrong with him, Sarg?" asked Ruis, worry creasing his brow.

"The man's exhausted. We'll take turns carrying him. Come on, keep moving." He said before hoisting the inert body over his shoulder.

The sun was over the horizon when they finally took a break. Baker eased the Lt. to the ground propping him against his pack.

Zeke was concerned with the Lt's colour under the bruises and dirt. The man was in a whole lot of hurt. It was a good thing that he was out of it. He hoped that there wasn't anything wrong internally. The Lt. moaned and came to, still in a slight daze.

"I'm sorry. I must have nodded off," He apologized trying to rise, "We should get out of here right away." He commented a little disoriented.

"We've been on the move for about five hours, Lt." informed Anderson.

The Lt. looked at the three men in stunned silence. This was greeted by a ring of grimy grins.

"Are we rendezvousing with the chopper?"

"No sir, we're walking out of here."

"Won't make it. You guys can't risk your butts for me." he croaked weakly.

"Too late, Lt. The bird picked everybody else up yesterday."

"Damn it!" mumbled Myron.

He took Ruis's offered canteen and painfully swallowed a mouthful of water. He leaned back against Baker's pack and closed his eyes. Forcing himself to no feel the aches and pains that seemed to covered his entire body.

"I think we should put in another couple of hours then hunker down till dark."

"I don't think I can walk . . . " confessed Goldman hoarsely.

"Then we'll do what we've been doing and carry you out."

Myron suddenly doubled over in pain, vomitting up the water he just drank. Baker pulled him into his arms when he was finished and held him against him as Myron began shaking in shock. They were getting even more concerned.

"You're gonna be fine Lt. We're here for you." He said as he hugged his superior closer still.

"I. . I, . . I d.ddon't know wh, what's wrong." mumbled Lt.

"It's shock Lt. You're going into shock. We gotta get you out of here."

Baker worked the weakly protesting lieutenant over his shoulder and the four men moved on. Ruis waited for the others to catch up to him and pointed into a shallow cave that he figured they could hunker down in for the day until it got dark enough to keep moving. The cave was dry and hidden behind a natural screen of a bamboo bush. Baker settled a now unresponsive Myron on the ground and tried administering some water. It just ran off his lips and down his chin.

"Sarg, I don't like this. He hasn't had anything to drink."

"Let him rest Baker. I think he needs that more now than water."

They took turns dozing throughout the day. They ate their K rations in silence. Goldman lay by them struggling with disturbing dreams. Mumbling to himself ocassionally then slipping deeper into himself.
An hour after full night was upon them they gathered up their packs, Anderson took Goldman on his back and they headed out. The night air was cold and the night sky was heavy with rain clouds. Before too long, a cold night rain was coming down on the American soldiers. They were soaked to the skin before they pulled out their ponchos. Anderson draped his over the Lt instead of wearing his himself. Ruis signalled to stop and the men froze. They crouched silently and watched a Vietnamese farmer lead a wayward goat back to his farm all the way chastizing the dumb animal for having wandered away on such a horrible night.

"Think they're VC, Sarg?" ventured Baker.

"I don't feel like finding out do you?"

The Lt. began groaning and struggle in Anderson's hold and he laid him down on the ground.

"Lt? Are you okay?"

"Sargent?" He came to in a fog, not sure where he was.

"Right here, Lt."

"Where are we?!" He looked up at his men not aware of how awful he looked.

The bridge of his nose and jaw were deep purple. His mangled lip swollen and crusted with blood and vomit. The rest of his injuries were covered in mud and God knows what.

"Anderson. The men need to rest. Bunker down for the night."

"All do respect Lt, we've been sleeping during the day and travelling under the cover of dark."

"Oh, good. That's good. Carry on." He smiled weakly and drifted into semi consciousness.

"Gotta keep moving Sarg. If this guy's VC we don't wanna be anywhere around here in case he gets some company." warned Ruis.

"Yeah, we gotta boogie. We've got another two full days ahead of us before we see friendly faces again." agreed Anderson.

The three moved out making a wide birth around the farm, Baker fireman carrying the Lt. over his back. They were dead tired when first light started to brighten the sky and they found a hole to bug down in for the day.

"We're getting low on food, Sarg." observed Baker as he dug through his pack.

"Take mine. I'm not hungry." Anderson tossed the man his own ration can, not having much of an appetite.

"Shouldn't the Lt. be drinking or something?" asked Ruis looking concerned at the motionless Goldman.

"You're right. Get him up. I'll try and get some water into him."

"Lt. Come on, man. You gotta wake up." Encouraged Ruis, pulling the Lt. up against him.

Myron protested weakly but eventually accepted the water. They waited to see if he would throw it up as before. Happily this mouthful stayed down. Reassured they let him go back to sleep. The three others slept in shifts themselves until the jungle was in total darkness and they were once again free to move on under the cover of dark.

"Pack up guys. Time to head out."

"Zeke. Some water, please." Asked a slightly more coherent Lt.

"Lt!" He dropped to his knees beside him.

"I'm dying of thirst." He reached out for the offered canteen.

"Don't drink too much or too fast."

Myron swallowed deeply from the canteen and gave it back reluctantly. The other three watched him tentatively, waiting to have to jump out of the way if it all came back up.

"What's wrong?" asked Goldman noticing their stares.

"How you feeling Lt?" asked Ruis.

"Like hell, but better."

"Think you can walk?"

"I think so." He clutched at his stomach as he tried to rise and the three lept back like they were on springs. Goldman looked up at them cringing.

"I need a hand up." he admitted painfully.

Smiling, Anderson leaned over and helped Myron to his feet. He was a little shakey and swayed a bit but he was able to stand unassisted.

"Let's get the hell outta here." he said accepting Baker's arm for support.

They walked all night, making good progress. By first light, Goldman was pale, shaking and weak and was glad to stop and rest.

"We'll camp here for the day. We should be able to make it out of the jungle by the end of tomorrow night." said Anderson sholdering out of his pack.

Myron almost immediately fell into a light, dream disturbed sleep. He broke into a heavy sweat, mumbling himself awake with a start. A reassuring hand on his arm or shoulder from one of the guys eased him back down into sleep.
By the time the four of them got on their way, the Lt. had taken in and kept down more water and 3 of the crackers they shared that Ruis found in the bottom of his pack. The men could feel the excitement building in them as they drew nearer and nearer to their own territory. The Sargent had to keep reminding them that they were still not out of danger. That there was still the chance that they could still be blown to kingdom come and that might be by their own men. For some strange reason this set them all off on a laughing jag, the stress of the last 3 days out in enemy territory taking its toll. Ruis took point again in the last stretch of their trek making sure his guard didn't waver just because they were almost home. He heard the twigs snap before he saw them. His fist came up to signal the others as a bullet zipped inches from his head. He dove for cover as an unseen shooter fanned the area with machine fire.

"Cease fire!!!" screamed the Sarg recognizing the sound of an American gun. "We're friendlies. G.I. Bravo Company."

They waited in breath-holding silence.

"Anderson?" Came a call through the dark.

"That you Marshall?"

"Roger that. What the hell are you boys doing out there?!"

"Just out for a walk." wisecracked Zeke.

"Come on in." Ruis climbed over the barricade into welcome arms with Baker close behind. Anderson carried the Lt. over with him and supervised as the boys hussled him off on a gurny to the dispensary.

"We heard that three of Bravo Company had missed the extract 3 days ago. What happened out there?" Asked Marshall, Anderson's counterpart.

"There were 4 of us that didn't make the rendezvous actually. We went back to find our Lt. when he and the radio man didn't show up."

"Well from what I hear, those boys of yours nearly had to be locked up to keep them from going back out there themselves for you all. Sounds like you've got a great bunch of men working with you, Zeke."

"You can say that again Marshall, You can say that again. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna see how the Lt. is doing."

He stepped into the medical tent to find Ruis and Baker already there, both staring down at a cot. They watched silently as a doctor worked on the man lying there. Anderson shouldered his way between his two men. The state the lieutenant was in had not been so noticable while they were in the jungle but here lying on a clean, crisp white sheet, stripped down to his skivies, the damage was hard to fathom. There were huge deep purple and black bruises all over he body. Cuts, scrapes and scratches, puffy and red rimmed looking infected criss crossed his upper body. Anderson glanced at Ruis who stared in disbelief at what he now saw the Lt. had been able coping with, without complaining once. A look at Baker showed squeamish awe as he took in just how much suffering the Lt endured.

"Hey, you two. Go get yourself some grub and a couple of long hot showers. Your starting to stink up the place." Anderson gently shoved the two stunned g.i.'s out of the tent and returned to the doctor's side.

"How's he doing, Doc?" asked Anderson as he moved to squat by the head of the bed.

"It's a miracle that nothing's broken. He's banged up something awful. What the hell happened?"

"He was taken by the VC . . . "

"Holy Shit!!"

Zeke watched the doctor work in silence. The doctor gentley rolled Myron on his side to examine and clean the wounds on his back. Without being asked, Zeke held the Lt. that way for the doctor as he worked. Myron cried out in pain and jerked away as the doctor pressed against a livid bruise over his kidney.

"Sorry about that, soldier. You're going to be okay. Just relax. I've got to check out the damage, I'll be as careful as I can."

Goldman groped for and found Anderson's hand and squeezed.

"Go ahead, Doc." assured Anderson, squeezing back.

Baker and Ruis came to their feet as Anderson, freshly showered himself, drags himself listlessly into the tent they were bunking in.

"How's he doing, Sarg?!" asked Baker, worried, the sight of the Lt. still in his mind.

"He's hurt bad. But he'll live." answered the sargent distracted by what that might mean. He liked working with the young lieutenant. The man was fair and actually getting very good at what he did. Selfishly he hoped that Goldman wasn't sent home, too injured to recover here and see more action.

"We better get some shut eye. We're getting a ride back to LadyBird base at first light." He crossed to a free bunk and sank down wearily onto it.

"Is the Lt. coming with us, Sarg?" asked Ruis.

"Don't think so, Ruis. I think they're going to air lift him to Honolulu."

"Man, that means it's really bad doesn't it, Sarg?"

"I don't know, Baker. Now get to bed. That's an order."

"Yes sir." mumbled the private.

In the morning the Sargent left the two privates sleeping and slipped into the medical tent to check in on the lieutenant. Goldman lay sleeping on his side. An I.V. of fluids feeding into his arm. Bandages covered his back and shoulder where the deepest gashes were. Butterfly plasters held stitches in place over his eyebrow and on his lip. Zeke sat on an empty bunk across from Myron's and just watched the man sleep. Almost as if feeling the gaze upon him, Myron stirred and woke to meet Zeke's tired smile. He tried to smile back but the lip only allowed a lopsided smirk.

"Good morning, Sir." saluted Anderson.

"Good morning, Sargent." He croaked sleepily, looking at the I.V. feeding into his arm and back at Zeke.

"So, are you going to live?"

"Much to my chagrin, I'm afraid. Did Horn make the pick up?" Zeke helped him sit when he couldn't do it alone.

"We found him and got him up the hill in time."

"Good," The two were silent for a moment.

"So . . . they sending you home?" asked Zeke cautiously.

Myron looked into the seasoned soldier's eyes for a long moment, seeing the admiration and devotion in their depths. He was taken aback by the older man's exposing his dedication to him like that. That look said he was making a difference for some of the men under him. He was needed out there. They respected what he was doing. The look the sargent was giving him said it all. He cleared his throat and looked away moved by the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm him.

"And let you manipulate some newbie lieutenant that they send in to replace me? Hell, not on your life!"

"That's good, cause I'm just about done molding you."

Goldman smiled, as best he could at the remark. The two looked away self consciously. An unspoken bond strengthening between them. The Lt. cleared his throat awkwardly.

"I'm starving. What's for breakfast?" asks Goldman lightly.

"Anything you want, Lt. Anything you want."

The noon bird was revving up and the men were getting ready to dee-dee out, back to Ladybird Base. The three took a quick detour into the med tent before hopping onto the chopper. Myron was propped up against a pile of pillows dozing when they came in.

"Up to receiving a couple of visitors, Lt?"

"Ruis, Baker. Good to see you guys." He said wincing as the two shook his hand vigorously.

"You too, Lt. How are you feeling?" asked Baker.

"Sore but better. I . . . uh, . . listen, I, uh . . .don't know how to . . ." He stumbled awkwardly.

"Don't have to Lt. We know you would have done the same thing for any of us guys." Ruis waved off his attempt at thanking them.

"We'll tell the rest of the guys that you'll be back with us ... soon?"

"If I get the green light from the doc, I'm thinking I should be back in about a week." reassured Goldman, seeing the same sort of look he saw in Anderson's eyes reflected in the looks of the two men standing over him.

"Okay. Ruis, Baker - our chariot awaits. Let's go give the good news to the rest of the men." ordered Anderson ushering his two men towards the door.

"Zeke . . ." called Goldman. Zeke turned to face him, smiling. They two look at each other for a long moment in silence.

"You'd have done it for me." said Zeke to the unspoken gratitude.

He turned and heads out to the chopper.

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