Broken Oath


The entire camp alerted once the initial radio call was made, “Taking incoming fire, one possible KIA, need assistance.”

It was a 30 man patrol that had left the general safety of the concertina wired compound the night before. They had maintained the two-hour report schedule, until they encountered an ambush. The attack was less than a click from the camp, so it was a complete surprise to the men in the field.

“Saddle up,” ordered the Major as Doc’s unit moved into the staging area.

It was obvious that there would be a rescue affected to repel the enemy and to bring the ambushed troops back to the camp. Quickly and quietly Company ‘C’ formed, each man carrying his Alice-pack on his shoulders and his rifle un-slung and ready to engage the enemy in the coming life and death battle.

The sun was starting to set as the unit picked its way through the high desert. Each Marine knew that behind each rock or every dip in the landscape could hold the possibility of another ambush.

It was within the hour that they made contact with the scouting party. The patrol had remained pinned down on a slight rise. They appeared to be surrounded by still higher rises that prevented movement from their location.

Several men were wounded and supplies from the Hospital Corpsman assigned to the patrol had long been extinguished. It was obvious to the major that it would be up to the relief patrol that they would have to send up medical aid.

He directed Doc to move to his position near the base of the rise. It was also the place that the major has selected as his command point. The Major was never one willing to send others to face the

danger of dying, unless he was presenting himself with the same danger.

“Okay, Sarge,” he said. “We’ll lay down cover fire but it’s up to you to pick your route.”

Doc looked up the hillside and realized that he might not survive as he selected which direction to proceed. He also knew that the men trapped up top without medical help might not survive if he didn’t try.

“Straight up,” Doc replied to the officer.

There had been enough time for the relief troops to spread out around the base of the hill. They had received fire, but proved to be the better marksmen. For each shot fired on them, they returned with five or six shots into the position from which they were attacked.

Doc lifted the three packs of first aid materials and draped them across his body. He left his M-16 at the CP and chose instead to arm himself with his 45 caliber.

“Hooyah,” he shouted to help steel his courage and evoke an adrenalin rush as he jumped over the boulder that led up the hill.

Several voices cried back, “Semper Fi!”

Behind him he heard those same men open up on every known position that surrounded him, laying down the cover fire promised by the Major. Doc didn’t dare look back; instead he pumped his legs as hard as he could up the sandy rise.

It was a matter of seconds before he discovered the first of the pinned down unit. All three men were wounded, having been shot close to where they now lay waiting for help. Doc stopped to provide each man with a personal first aid pack.

Now that he stopped, his cover fire ceased. Doc had to move in a crawl from rock to crag to avoid becoming a hard target for a sniper. The going was very slow.

It was less than a minute later that he realized he was being lined up for a clear shot from the hill rise to his left. The sand erupted near his face as he slipped between two large rocks.

Doc flicked two shots back in the direction from where the sniper had fired. He knew that there wasn’t a prayer in Hades that he’d hit the shooter, but rather he wanted to get the message across to the sniper that he wouldn’t go down without a fight.

The medic sprang up from his position of concealment and raced up the hill. He was approaching the summit when he heard a shout from his right side.

“Over here,” cried the voice.

It was the Hospital Corpsman. He was shot through the middle of his right calf and had managed to find shelter in a small cliff of rocks. Doc turned hard as if to avoid an oncoming tackler in a football game. He dove hard against the corpsman’s body seeking safety too.

The two medics quickly exchanged information and Doc removed one of the bags of first aid packets, giving it to the wounded sailor. He told Doc that he would distribute the first aid kits to the positions he knew about.

“Take care of yourself, first,” the Sergeant directed the corpsman as he rolled out of the low out cropping of rocks.

Doc was back on his feet and heading to the position where the majority of the unit had been pinned down and shot up. He only made 15 or 16 steps before he found what he was looking for; eighteen Marines, all wounded and dug in for a lengthy fire-fight.

He distributed the first aid supplies among the wounded and gave aid to those who were the most seriously injured. He quietly drew the Sign of the Cross on the forehead of three youths who had left the fight, fighting back.

“What the hell happened here?” Doc asked a Lance Corporal.

“The Gunny is on the other side of the hill, shot to shit and we’ve been trying to get to him,” the Lance Corporal answered.

Doc understood immediately the call to recover a fallen Marine. He felt certain that all branches of the military had the same standing order to not leave a man down, but he had never failed to see the Marine’s fight to the death over a body of any servicemen. The thought momentarily choked him as he asked for direction to the body.

“What, do you think you can get to him when we couldn’t?” one of the wounded men asked.

“Either that or die trying,” replied Doc.

Doc picked up a rifle and filled an empty ammo pouch with as many magazines of ammo as it would hold. He slipped the pack over his head and slid out of the communal fighting hole towards the other side of the hill.

The rise was less than 30 feet from where he had lain and then fell sharply away. He peeked between two large rocks and down the hillside. The Gunnery Sergeant’s body was no farther than 10 feet from him.

Further down the hill though Doc caught the faint hint of movement. It was an enemy shooter all set up to snipe any movement towards the body.

Doc rolled over on his back and double checked the M-16 he was holding. He then rolled back onto his stomach and slipped the muzzle of the rifle out from between the two rocks.

Slowly and methodically he lined up the sniper over the end of his weapon. Doc waited for the sniper to expose himself again. The wait was less than two minutes, yet felt like a life time to the Sergeant.

Then it happened, the target showed himself. Doc squeezed the trigger and the rifle let lose three rounds. There was a sudden pink mist that filled the air where the enemy had been positioned.

Doc could see movement as the sniper was suddenly dragged from his emplacement. In this instant Doc squeezed the trigger again. And once again there was a mist of pink, showing that he had hit an enemy defender.

He took advantage of the momentary confusion that he hoped the enemy was feeling, to jump up from where he had been laying and rushed to the body of the Marine. He grabbed the fallen man’s Alice webbing and hauled on him as hard as he could. The body jerked loose from the rocky ground it had fallen into.

The surrounding earth erupted around Doc as he struggled to lift the Marine over the rocks that he had used as a place of concealment. The dead man’s body exploded from the impact of bullets as the enemy tried to kill Doc.

He dropped the dead Marine and retreated back over the same rocks that held him up from recovering the man’s body. Doc realized his surprise attack had worn off and the enemy’s confusion was now refocused on him.

The fire-fight continued long after the sun had set as Doc moved from place to place firing into the half-dozen enemy positions. He was soon joined by four members of his own company. Doc directed their fire into the enemy.

It didn’t take long for Doc to take advantage of the added fire power. He moved around the outside right of the rocks that had prevented his success in the initial recovery of the dead man.

He quickly lifted the man up and over his shoulder and packed him back over the ridge to the site where the 15 surviving Marines had holed up in defense of their own lives. He laid the Gunny next to the three men who had died earlier in the ambush.

Doc wasn’t certain as too what he had expected when he returned to the surviving Marines, but the jubilation he had felt was short lived as the men looked on the body of the dead sergeant with a sadness he had never witnessed before. He stopped long enough to look to their wounds, then return to the defensive position he had just left.

Then to the east and north the rocky hills exploded as artillery shells dropped from 13 miles away. The bright flashes left Doc blinded momentarily, yet he proceeded to the two rocks he had used to defend the body of the Marine sergeant.

It was quickly realized that the enemy, who had held them at bay for nearly 18 hours, had melted into the darkness. Unfortunately for them, they were forced to leave behind the bodies of their fallen.

The following day, after the area with its hilly terrain was secured, it was found that 27 enemy soldiers had been killed while attempting to retrieve the dead Marine’s body; 23 had died in the area of the sniper’s nest. Four Marines had lost their lives in the ambush and 25 had been wounded. Only one Marine, a corporal had fought through the ambush without physical harm.

It was also the first time that Doc had picked up a weapon against the enemy. However it would not be the last time. He had broken the oath of the Gorpsman and he couldn’t go back.

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