P.O.W.+by+Rebekah+Schleppy

P.O.W. by Rebekah Schleppy

Everything around me seems to be in a daze.

“Alright men!” screams the Lieutenant, “ When I say jump, you get your ass out of this plane”

I stare at him trying to hide my fear. He points at me.

“Raymond you go first. You know what to do. Make our country proud!” He gives me a weak smile, and nods his head toward the door.

I don’t bother looking. I just pray. I jump.

Instantly, the Vietnamese started shooting at me. Bullets whizzed past me like hornets swarming their nest. I try to concentrate more on opening up my parachute. I go to pull the string, until a bullet lodged into me right below my chest.

Terror struck me as I looked down to find blood oozing out of the wound, and down my freshly ironed uniform. An uncontrollable scream started to escape my mouth. The pain felt as if it was taking control of my body. I look past the wound to find that I was getting very close to the ground, and that my speed is accelerating.

I am still screaming but my body feels paralyzed. It took all the strength I could find to pull the string.

But I was too late.

The parachute begins to coil around my body. It wraps around my face blinding, and suffocating me.

Finally, my body comes to a halt as it crashes into the ground, and everything goes black.

I wake up screaming.

I find myself rolling on the hardwood floor, cocooned in my blankets. I stop moving, and I try to calm myself down, but my heart is racing. I reach up, and turn on the lamp that sits on the desk next to my bed.

Light fills the room, overpowering the darkness.

My eyes find the clock. It’s only a quarter after two, knowing I have to be ready to leave by eight o’clock. I lean against my bed, and bury my sweat covered face into the palms of my hands.

I sigh, “ Jesus Christ, I’m going to die. I’m too weak.”

I brush my hands through my slick black hair, and think. What am I going to do? My Mother is heartbroken. For the past few day, every time she looks at me she starts to cry, and has to walk away. Father is a strong man, but you can tell that there is something wrong with him. You can tell by looking into his eyes. Sadness fills them.

My eyes start to water as I begin to think about my beautiful girlfriend, Maureen. The day that I told her the date that I would be leaving to fight in the war, she was speechless. The happiness drained from her gorgeous face.

Oh Maureen.
Her eyes are hypnotizing. As blue as the sky. Looking into her eyes always calmed me down. Her long brown hair that flows in the wind. I wanted to propose to her. I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life. But ever since war broke loss, the plan of proposing to her was ruined.

I just want to be with her. That’s all I want.

As I sit here, I slowly close my eyes. I take another deep breath, and try to get my act together. Tragic visions pass through my mind about what might happen to me.

And I fall into a deep painful sleep.

I am awaken by a faint knock on my bedroom door. It’s my mother. “ Raymond…” She says in a hoarse whisper. “ Sweetie, you should probably start getting ready. You leave in an hour.” “ Yes mother,” I respond. She looks at me, walks across the room, and sits on the edge of my bed. I lean up so I’m not lying on the floor. She takes my face in her shaking hand, and looks at me. I look into her bloodshot eyes. Her hand is soft, it reminds of when I was little, when I had to hold her hand everywhere I went.

She slides off the bed, next to me. She engulfs me in her arms, and rests her head on my shoulder, and she begins to cry. I myself begins to cry. I try to hold it back, but before I know it, warm tears begin to slide down the side of my cheek.

I walk into the bathroom, and I stare into the mirror. My emerald green eyes are now glassy, and bloodshot. I rub my chin, trying to determine if I should shave.

I finally agree with myself that I should shave.

After shaving, my face has a fresh look to it. I look like I’m fifteen, four years younger than I actually am.

I walk back in my room, and put on a white button down shirt, along with a pair of black work pants. I look in the mirror.

I’m very muscular, I was the star quarterback of my school, I also was a track and field star. You’d think I wouldn’t be afraid to fight, but I honestly am.

I finish getting ready, and I walk out to find Maureen sitting, chatting with my mother, and father with a cup of coffee. When she hears me walking in, she shoots straight out of her chair. I stop, and stand in the entrance of the kitchen. She stands there in her beautiful white paisley dress, staring at me, and I stare right back. She has already been crying this morning.

I give her a soft smile, and she starts to run after me. I embrace her in my arms, and I hold her tight, as if it will be the last time I hold her.

“Oh Raymond, I’m gonna miss you,” she says through the tears. “Please be careful!” I lean back, and look at her. “Don’t worry my love, I’ll be alright,” As I’m saying that, I’m thinking negatively about that in my mind.

“Son, it’s about time,” my father’s gruff voice fills the room. “You’re gonna do just fine. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“Yes sir,” I reply.

He jokingly punches me in the shoulder, and hugs me. We depart from the hug. “You got this son.”

We start heading outside into the bright sunny day, and I begin to hide my emotions so I don’t get judged by anyone leaving on the same bus as me. By the time we get outside the bus is here to take me away.

“Be safe sweetie. I love you dear,” Mother says right before she hugs me for one last time.

“ I will, I love you too ma.”

I grab my luggage, and walk onto the bus. As I get on the driver stops me so I can go no farther.

“Are you Mr. Raymond Rodgers?”

“ Yes sir, I am.”

“Alright you can go on ahead,” He nods to the back.

I go and sit in one of the seats farther in the back. There are already a few guys on the bus. They nod to me, and I nod back. As I sit down, I see a small hand reach up, and tap the window.

It’s Maureen.

I open the window, and stick my head out. She tries to reach up to me, but she to short. My father comes chasing after her. He lifts her up onto his shoulders, and she leans in, and kisses me. The guys behind me start to chuckle, but I ignore them.

“Promise me you’ll make it home. Will you?” She cries.

“ I-I-I p-p-promise,” Oh no why did I just promise her.

“ Good. I’ll see you soon my love,” She whispers.

“ Come on you two, I can’t hold you up for much longer, my arm is going to give out,” yells a voice from below.

As father starts to put Maureen on the ground, the engine of the bus starts to rev up. Everyone is on the bus, and the doors close. The bus slowly begins to pull out, and Maureen follows it, and keeps up. She reaches her hand out like she is going to grab me, and hold on to me. So I stick half my body out the window, and reach out to her. By this time she is running at full speed.

“I love you Raymond!” She screams.

“ I love you too!”

Finally she had to stop running, so she stood there in the middle of the road, and waved. I look at her until I could see her no more. I got back inside, and shut the window. I slump into my seat, and off to Vietnam I go.

The trip to boot camp wasn’t to bad, I mainly slept the whole time. I met a few guys on the way there. Most of them were more scared than I was to go into this stupid war. But hey deep down, everyone is scared to death.

Larry Chaffin, was sorta like me, not looking forward to the war, but knew that it was the right thing to do. The thing was, is that he was worse than me. He would scoff about anything to do with the war. He would roll his eyes to the smallest remark about the war. I truly don’t blame him though.

Layne Parker, was a very out going man. He’s one that tries to encourage everyone that everything is going to be okay, and that America will end this war fast. He’s the type of guy that I’d like to call a hippie. Hippies are people that think everything will have a happy ending, and are usually against war. The thing is Layne isn’t against it. But hey, I guess we need to have people that are positive fighting in this war.

And then there’s Vince Bradley, the most cockiest son of a gun I have ever met. The first few things that he said to me was, “Oh whenever I get my hands on one of them Vietnamese, God only knows what I’ll do to the.” and, “Every one of them that gets in the way of my path will get shot instantly.” When I was talking to him, the only thing I thought was that he was going to get the snot beaten out of him if he acts like that during boot camp.

The first thing they did when we got there, was shave our head. They did that so we don’t have to worry about how our hair looks.
Afterwards, I looked in the mirror for one last time, and the war had already made a difference in how I look.

I never thought that ten weeks of boot camp was such a killer. I was lucky just to survive that. They would yell, and beat you for the smallest reasons. I just got yelled at for sighing, because of how stressed I got. The Drill Sergeants were watching every move you made, and one small screw up, they would snap.

“What the heck do you think you’re doing soldier?”, screams the Drill Sergeant, as he starts spitting on me. “ Do you think your gonna have time to screw up when you’re out on that battlefield?” I started to respond, but he cuts me off. “No you’re not! So do it right!” I look down, and kept working on what I was doing.

“Hey Raymond, what do you think about that crappy Drill Sergeant Miller?” Vince whispers.

“Ehh he’s not that bad he is just trying to prepare us for what we got ourselves into,” I just shake my head, and roll my eyes.

Larry, and Layne, just sit on the cots across from ours, listening, and nodding their heads every once in awhile

“Oh yeah? Well he started screaming at me for the dumbest thing, if he would have kept going on about what I did wrong, I would have knocked him out!”

“And that’s the crap that is going to get you killed out on the field,” Larry blurts out.

“Shut your damn mouth Chaffin! You ain’t any better!”

“Well at least I’m not cocky, and think I’m better than everyone else!”

People around us stopped what they were doing, and just watched.

I look over at Layne, and his mouth is hanging open dumbstruck. He looks back at me, and tries to say something but nothing comes out.

The argument between Larry, and Vince started to get physical. Vince jumped onto Larry, knocking them both on the ground. They both started swinging their fists at each. Blood starts to fly.

I motioned to Layne. “You grab one, and I’ll grab the other. You hear me?”

“Gotcha,” He shakes his head.

I start to grab the bigger guy, which is Vince. I try to peel him off of Larry. Layne does the same thing as me. Larry, and Vince Are still swinging fists, and one manages to hook Layne in the jaw, knocking him to the ground. He doesn’t move.

Great know I’m on my own.

It took a lot, but I managed to grab them both by the scruff of the neck, and I smash their heads together.

“Jesus, man! What was that for!” screams Vince.

I have both of them in a headlock, and they are trying to get out. So, I tighten my grip so they stop squirming, and quite down.

“Know listen you crackheads,” I pause. “None of us want to be here, but we have to suck it up, and live with it. We can’t be against each other. If we want to get out of here alive, we have to work together!”

Both of their faces are turning red, but I continue.

“Now this is the first, and final fight,” I sigh, “ You hear me?”

They both shake their heads to respond.

I release them from the headlock, and they both drop to the floor, gasping for air. Color slowly flows back into their faces. They look at me, and I express my anger. They scurry to get up.

“Great now that’s over, we need to get going to bed,” I say, walking towards my cot. I look over at Layne who now is laying down. He has a huge black, and blue mark where he was hit.

People continued to stop and stare. But, they weren’t looking at Vince and Larry, they were looking at me. I gaze back at them.

“Have your parents told you it’s not nice to stare? Get to bed!”

I felt bad as I said that, but I hate being the center of attention.

Ever since that night, I sort of became the leader of the pack. People would come to me for help, and I would guide them. If I said to knock it off, they would stop.

During boot camp they taught us how to assemble a machine gun, and how to load, and shoot one. They prepared us for the harsh weather conditions that could occur. We had to do multiple endurance tests, and pass those. They shown us what to do if we got captured by the enemy. They made us wear gas masks, and go into gas chambers to show us how to survive it. They warned us about the deadly animals, and people in Vietnam. They cracked us down, and made us sort of unhuman. My God, they pushed the limits, and it was painful. For me being the weakest one there, I turned out to be the strongest both physically, and mentally. Some of the men couldn’t handle it. A few had to drop out because it was to much on them. I understand that some people can’t handle it, but I find it kind of coward like if you drop out, Because everyone is truly scared.

Boot camp was a long, painful, and depressing experience. I feel that they have dehumanized me completely. I hate it. It makes me sick thinking about. Even the most positive, and caring of the bunch, Layne, has changed a lot. He isn’t very positive about things, and he is not as talkative as he once was. We all look, and feel different. The only thing that makes me feel sort of human again, is looking at the picture of beautiful Maureen, with her sky blue eyes.

But hey, if dehumanizing people gets the job done, so be it.

At the end of boot camp I found out that I was drafted into the 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with Larry, Layne, and Vince. I’m glad that we are all sticking together. That will make the war a little bit better for us four. The 173rd Airborne, is a combat team. They are paratroops. Since we are only a couple months into the war, we are one of the first army formation grounds to be deployed.

After boot camp, we had break for one week. But, we didn’t get to go home. Though it did fly by fast. Then we were sent to Vietnam for our first mission to War Zone D, also known as Operation Hump. I heard that about four-hundred men were going in.

Today is November 5th, 1965, the day we go into war.

I dressed into my brand new army uniform. I look down on my chest to see “Rodgers” sewn into the fabric.

I had to admit it, I think I look pretty good in it. It makes me look sharp, and stronger than I actually am. But I just kept that to myself, I don’t want people to think that I’m cocky.

About twenty of us were loaded onto a plane. Our little pack of friends stuck together. And off to Bien Hoa we went.

We sat in a close group, and talked. Then out of nowhere Layne starts chuckling.

“Man, what’s your problem?”

He looks beyond me. “ You see that guy right there with his hair sticking straight up in the back?” He is now pointing.

I scan the place. I think I found him. “ That guy standing there all alone?”

“Yeah, That’s the one. You see his hair? It looks like a rooster tail.”

Vince, Larry start to laugh. I just cringe.

They laugh at the dumbest things anymore. It’s ridiculous.

I turn to look at the guy again, and I start to whistle to get his attention.

It took a few tries, but I finally did.

He looks at me, confused.

I put my hand up, and motion him to come here.

He walks over cautiously. “ Yes?” He responds in a soft, deep voice.

“Sit down,” I say cheerfully. “What’s your name?”

“Jerry… Jerry Cantrell.”

“ Well hello Jerry, my name is Raymond,” We shake hands. Then I go down the line, and introduced everyone else. “And that’s Vince, Larry, and Layne. We’ve been together since the beginning of bo–”

Layne interrupts.

“I’m a call you Rooster for now on,” Layne continues to chuckle.

“Why’s that?”

“Because your hair is sticking up like a rooster tail in the back.” Vince now buts in.

He sheepishly brushes his hair down with his hand. But shoots straight back up, and we all just laugh.

Two hours passed, and then we hear the Lieutenant yell to get in line.

Instantly I start to get nervous because the dream started to replay in my mind. Oh the terror. How I want to get out of here. But, I can’t. The only thing I do is think about Maureen. I want to be back home with her so bad.

We all begin to strap our parachutes on to our body, and our helmets on. We prepare our machine guns, and one by one we jumped.

I was towards the back which that was a good thing. It calmed me down a bit. Vince was in front of me getting all excited, and Rooster was behind me showing no emotion.

“You alright?”

“Yeah I’m fine, just a little nervous.”

“Me too.”

It was my turn to jump. I nodded to the Lieutenant, and out the door I went.

It isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Most if the shooting went on down on the ground. Some bullets flew by here, and there.

As I got closer to the ground, I deployed my parachute.

I hit the ground, I had a nice, and easy landing. I unhook myself from the parachute, and I run for shelter. I run, and hunker down behind a small hill, and ended up next to Rooster.

We look at each, “Here comes Rooster!”

He just smirks, and we start to aim, and fired.

Oh God, please help me make it through. Please?

Whenever I killed my first enemy, a painful feeling shot through my body. As I continued to kill, I felt like it was nothing anymore. Like the man I just killed meant nothing. It made me sick that I felt that way, but I didn’t care anymore.

I worried about the other three guys. I worried about my family, my Maureen. I worried about what was going to happen next. What if I don’t make it.

We were fighting for three days. We barely ate anything the whole time we were there. Vince got hit, but nothing too major. It just skimmed the tip of his ear. I told him he should have left his helmet on but he’s stubborn.

Viet Cong had the advantage Because they stood at the tops of the hills, making it easier to spot us.

The heat was miserable. Along with the strange animals that roamed the jungles. Them Vietnamese are nasty people. Some of the things they are doing to kill our men, is unbelievable. It makes me sick. After seeing that I didn’t care that I killed a couple dozen Viets.

The nights were even worse though. We were not able to see anything surrounding us. The whole time I tried not shooting in the dark because I feared that I would kill one of my men.

Only forty-nine of our men died. I don’t care how many Viet Cong’s died. I Just want out. It finally ended, and we were exported to an army base about thirty miles away.

We won the battle.

We were welcomed to the base, and we were taken care of. Though I wasn’t hurt, I felt as if my emotions were sucked out of me. Along with Layne. Him, and I have been close since the battle. He is going through the same pain as me. He as well, was going to propose to his girlfriend, Demri, but the outbreak of the war ruined it too.

Eight and a half months have passed, and We have fought in five battles. I saved Rooster’s life. He started walking, and wasn’t watching where he was going, and he was getting ready to walk on a landmine. So, I ran after him, and knocked him out of the way.

I have changed even more.

I’m tired, I’m broken. Will I ever feel like I once did?

Today we go into battle for another round. I have started to get noticed by my peers for my actions of bravery, and helping others, and they are thinking on giving me a position as a sergeant after I get back for battle.

My feet hit the battleground, and I take cover by climbing into a tree. I get a better view of everything from up here, and I can give signals to my men that are on the ground.

Two weeks have passed, and we are still in this stupid battle. I am on the ground fighting more physically now, because Viet Cong is starting to overpower us.

Vince comes running after screaming.

“We need to get everyone out Raymond.”

“What?”

“Get to the phone to call the helicopters in so they can get us out. That’s an order we were told!”

I understood by that point. I scanned for the phone, and found it. I look back at Vince, and he goes falling backwards as blood spews out of his left arm.

I start after him.

Larry, and Layne go sprinting after him.

I keep going after him.

Rooster gets in front of me, and turns me around.

“You gotta go man,” he exclaims, “ Get to that phone, and get us the hell out of here!”

“But what ab—-”

“Don’t worry about him, he’ll be fine! Now go!”

I sprint over to the phone, and start to call.

“Hello? Yes! Get the planes in now, we need to get out!”

“Hold on, they will be there in a few.”

“No we need out now! Now hurry!”

It took a few minutes but they finally came. I went to help with Vince, and we were one of the first ones on a plane. Vince’s chest was heaving uncontrollably like he couldn’t breath.

“Alright we need to get him help”, The Lieutenant says. “Cantrell! Chaffin! Parker! You stay here, and help with Mr. Bradley! Rodgers! You, and a few men are going to need to go back down there, and help. Know line up! Rodgers in the front!”

“Alright men!” screams the Lieutenant, “ When I say jump, you get your ass out of this plane”

This feels very familiar.

I stare at him trying to hide my fear. He points at me.

Oh my God!

It,s… It’s my…

“Raymond you go first. You know what to do. Make our country proud!” He gives me a weak smile, and nods his head toward the door.

It’s my dream! It’s actually happening! Oh my God!

I don’t bother looking. I just pray. I jump.

I fear for my life but I remain calm.

Instantly, the Vietnamese started shooting at me. Bullets whizzed past me like hornets swarming their nest. I try to concentrate even more now on opening up my parachute. I go to pull the string, until a bullet lodged into me right below my chest.

Terror struck me as I looked down to find blood oozing out of the wound, and down my freshly ironed uniform. An uncontrollable scream started to escape my mouth. The pain felt as if it was taking control of my body. I look past the wound to find that I was getting very close to the ground, and that my speed is accelerating.

Why is this happening to me?

I am still screaming but my body feels paralyzed. It took all the strength I could find to pull the string.

But I was too late.

And I had the feeling I was too.

The parachute begins to coil around my body. It wraps around my face blinding, and suffocating me.

Finally, my body comes to a halt as it crashes into the ground, and everything goes black.

I unwrap myself from the cloth that covers my face.

I’m bleeding, and I don’t know why.

I don’t know what just happened. My vision is blurry, and I’m dizzy.

There’s a women standing in front of me and she looks very familiar. She reaches down, and picks up my hand. I know that hand from anywhere.

It’s Maureen!

“Maureen? Is that you?”

She shakes her head, and is now lifting me up.

She starts to lead me deeper in the woods. The pain from my wound hurts, but I power through it, just to keep up with her.

She probably walking me to the nearest base, to get to safety.

“Oh, God only knows how much I missed you. Every minute of every day I was thinking about you!”

I can only see her outline, but she starts to cock her head to the side, like she doesn’t know what I’m talking about. She doesn’t say anything.

“How’s everyone? How is mum, an…..”

She cuts me off by resting her finger on my lips.

We continue to walk in silence for the longest time. She would breath very heavily at times, which didn’t sound like Maureen.

Maybe, something has happened to her since I’ve been gone. But, I don’t bother asking about it.

Eventually, I see a faint outline of a building in the dark. She brings me closer to her, when we get to the door.

She knocks.

What seems to to a man, opens the door.

“Hello?”

Nobody answers.

She guides me into the building, and I hear the doors lock behind me as they sit me down. The room is made out of bricks, and it’s lit very dark.

Everyone in the room is silent, and I believe they are looking at me.

Maureen, and two other people stand in front of me. While two others stand behind me.

“Hey Moe, what’s going on? Where are we?”

I heard a few people murmuring around me, but I couldn’t understand a thing they said.

I start to get an uncomfortable feeling, so I start to rub my face with my hands, and begin to blink rapidly.

A few minutes later, and my vision is nearly back to normal.

I look up.

“Hey Maur—-” I’m speechless, “ What the he—-”

My jaw hit the floor, as this women that I thought was Maureen, uncocks her head, and a sinister smile slowly grows on her face.

I sat there for a few, and thought.

Then it clicked.

“Oh my God…”