We Became Brothers One Night

It’s a shame to have to fight and stand up for the color of your skin when we are all Americans. Having different backgrounds, heritage, ancestors, language, and color of skin should not bring us into conflict against each other. Some of us learn it the hard way, but to keep an open mind is priceless.When I was in the army I really had to fight just for being Mexican American. My brown skin color isn’t something you hide, it’s something you wear with pride. All people should be proud of what they have become once they choose to fight for what is right. Once we choose our friends, it should be for the right reason, but for the color of the skin is not a good one at all.Sometimes it takes drastic measures to bring people of different skin colors together as it happened to three soldiers fighting for the same country. It wasn’t planned and the memories will linger forever even though it has become hard to find each other again. We went our separate ways once we got out of the Vietnam War and we had plans of reuniting someday. It’s been over thirty-eight years later, and nothing has been done about it. I write in hopes that the other two veterans are out there and with hopes that we can do it before we parish from this world, if it hasn’t already happened to my other two buddies.While we were in training the rest of the soldiers in our outfit would give me a hard time. I had many run ins with the other men because they just didn’t like my nationality, or skin color. I spoke good English, had my high school diploma, was born here in the United States, but because I had a Mexican accent, I was called a wetback. In those times it was someone who crossed the Rio Grande River from Mexico and got his body wet from swimming the river.I fought many battles during my basic training and down into infantry training too. I was in a state where brown skin stood out. My choice was simple, cry like a baby, or stand up and fight. I never cried while I was in training, so my scars before setting foot in the war country was legendary in my outfit. They didn’t like me, but I was respected because I never backed down when I was constantly picked on. I survived, but while in a real war battle our skin colors blended in well when our lives were at stake. Now I take you some thirty-eight years back to relive the brotherhood of three soldiers of different color.

October 1970 somewhere in Vietnam

We were assigned to a killer team with a mission of search and destroy. Uncle Sam needed a good body count because the people back in the United States were restless that a pullout was not working so well. They didn’t have to tell us about what we had to do, we just had to look in the face of our leader who was to guide us in this secretive operative. Trust me, they didn’t tell us everything, only what we needed to know to accomplish our objective. If you were there, then you understand what all of this was about.A helicopter airlifted us during the night and dropped us somewhere we had no business being at, but with a map,compass, and fully armed, our mission was to kill as many of the enemy as possible. We were chosen because of our experience, and because of the speciality of our firepower. I wasn’t that great, but with having lost so many men in previous offensive battles while a member of different units, I was at the top of the list with valuable knowledge of the terrain we were in.I was ordered to be the lead man because I was the Mexican and I had no chance of refusing because of a court-marshal that awaited me if I did. The real leader didn’t like me either, even though he didn’t know much about me. It was no secret that I was the sacrificial lamb for the wrong reasons and I’m sure you have guest it by now.Only a person in my shoes could see it all coming because we usually took turns being the front man, but not on this night,or on this mission. I wasn’t that good, trust me, I was just one that obeyed and had the determination of getting back alive. Twelve men in the middle of the night in hostile territory was not a picnic. You could hear the other leaders recommending the Mexican with the cohones(Balls), or such was the illusion because nobody bothered to ask me how I felt.I knew the area well, but the dark night only evened the odds and it didn’t give us any advantage as I tried to express my view to my leaders. To further debate only brought confusing signals that maybe I was a sorry coward Mexican and so I obeyed knowing very well of the stupidity of the mission. Trust me, we made many mistakes in the Vietnam conflict and this was just one more.We moved cautiously under my observations and there was no verbal communication of any kind allowed because the sound of a voice travels greater distances at night. I knew the area well, my heart was beating like that of humming bird because I felt like it was the end of the line for me. I kissed my crucifix that I had hanging around my neck for good luck and I felt that I had to say a little prayer in case I met my maker.After about two clicks after exiting the helicopters that had airlifted us into dangerous terrain I stopped and signaled to the men behind me that I had detected a faint noise up ahead. I lowered my body to the ground to see if I could make out what might be up ahead. The swampy area provided an uncomfortable feeling and I wanted to take the leches off of my arm, but I knew it would only attract the attention of the enemy and give away our position.When we were in a safe and secure area we often lid a cigarette and burned the hell off the leches, but this was not a favorable environment to do it in. I knew many little tricks of how to lessen the pain of trying to pull those suckers off and so the second choice was to apply some mosquito solution from a bottle right on the lech that was sucking my blood and making it too bothersome to concentrate on the main objective.I left the other hungry leches on my uniform alone as I prepared to check the area for booby traps. I knew the enemy was ahead, I could feel them, I sensed them, I could smell them, I could hear tiny voices in my ears that no one else could hear. The more I searched for clues, the more I felt like we had been set up for an ambush. I signaled for the men to pull back slowly because my gut feeling was that we were already in deep shit.My leader,(whom I will not mention due to respect to his family) didn’t want to acknowledge my keen feeling for the ambush and forced another soldier to walk pass me as I stood still. He tripped a wire and a booby trap of sharp wooden needles came crashing across from a tree and almost made it’s mark on me. The soldier in front of me wasn’t as lucky as the pungy trap penetrated his body from the back.He screamed from the pain inflicted by the sharp pointed wooden stakes and hell broke the silence. We engaged in a fierce fire-fight as the barrels of our weapons pinpointed the position of each soldier that fired his weapon. The perfect ambush had been avoided due to some of the men that had taken my reasoning, but there was one soldier that was in danger of loosing his life. The enemy let him shout in agony knowing we would venture out to try and rescue him. He would become the bait, and we were to become the sitting ducks.We needed to pull back to a safer area where we could make a half decent defense for our lives. However, it meant leaving one soldier behind until it was secure to return. I made it clear that I would stay close and find a way to get our comrade out of danger. (With no malicious intend, I will describe the events as we felt them.) One of the Americans to stay was of white skin color, the second American was of a black skin color, and I was the other American with a brown skin color.We knew we were out numbered and it was evident that they wanted to out flank us and hit us from a direction we were not ready for. It was nothing knew to me, so I told my superiors of be ready for a second ambush. I also told him to try drawing most of the fire from the enemy once they were in a better situation and the three of us would try and get the wounded soldier out. The enemy by no means was stupid, they had an idea of what our goals were. However, with most of the firepower attacking the advancing troops, it would minimize the dangerous rescue we were about to attempt.Soon it was hard to tell who was inflicting the most damage and with gun barrels flaring with fire it would be hard to tell the enemy from your buddies. My experience could hear the difference in the sound of the AK-47s the enemy used, compared to our M16s. The battle was on and we carefully made our move as we crawled slowly, and careful not to arouse too much attention. Our intent was to make them believe we had made a stand further out and that we would return after the battle was over.The sound of our friend screaming in agony pinpointed the position we were headed too. However, they had a clear line of fire from where they chose for us to take the bait. Again, they were not stupid, it was a cat and mouse game. We proceeded dangerously close with our plan already devised before we approached them. We waited for the movement of their bodies until we sensed their exact position, then I unloaded my grenade launcher. It got their attention as a few of the enemy rolled over from the hit.The two other men with me quickly made their way to our wounded comrade. It was not easy dragging him through the dense vegetation without making too much noise. The barrels of the enemy were soon pointed their way. I fired more shots as my friends also unloaded their bullets in the direction of the fire flashes. We could hear some returning enemy soldiers making their way back to them knowing what our attempts were. By the time our wounded soldier was with us, we were almost surrounded by the enemy.We threw some hand grenades to try clearing a path and the wounded soldier and the other two made a run for it. I continued firing hoping to give us a fair chance until they could settle down and watch my back. When I heard them unload their weapons I quickly made my way towards them. Bullets surrounded us, but as luck would have it, we were still intact.Our second move had to come quickly because they were gaining ground on us. This time the white skin American stayed while the other three of us moved out before they could pinpoint us again. When we opened up with our weapons full force he knew it was time to make his way towards us.The black American took his turn too, and he battled on as we cleared our way out. We were able to join our other forces and it allowed him time to reach us safely. The enemy took many hits and they decided to pull out as we called in mortar fire. From where it came, it didn’t matter because it made them run. We thanked the mortar battalion for their support.I remember the three of us looking at each other and saying nothing for a long while. The wounded soldier made us realize what we had just done as he wanted to know who the three soldiers were. “We are just three brothers, that’s all you need to know,” said one of the other two soldiers. It didn’t matter who said it, it’s what he meant. We became brothers that day, and we continued serving our country. We made promises to make it back to the world (America as we called it.)

We Became Brothers One Night

oscarelizondo

Harlingen, United States

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Artist's Description

Another part of a battle in Vietnam.

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