New York Skyline: World Trade Center, 9-11, by Don Poss, WS LM-01.
Jungle City

by: Michael Herrera
© 2002

On the evening of Tuesday September 25th, 2001, which was exactly two weeks after the terrorist attacks on our country, I was walking back from a Denny's Restaurant near LAX International Airport at about 8:10 in the evening. A young man who appeared to be a gang-banger, judging by the baggy clothes and stupid hand gestures he was making, approached me and asked, "Are you a die hard?" I didn't know what he meant by that so I ignored him and continued to walk back to my place. He started to walk alongside me and asked, "Hey man, is there anything you're willing to die for?" while still gesturing with his hands the way gang-bangers do. I continued to ignore him.

"What would happen to you if you died tonight?" He asked.

"Go to heaven and be with Jesus."

A smug look came on his face as he said, "I have a gun in my pocket, which I am going to show you in a minute." And he slapped his right pocket area. I heard a metallic thud, which indicated to me he really had a gun in his pocket. Then he asked me, "But what I want to know is, are you willing to die for your wallet?" Now I was beginning to get a little scared and started to walk faster, but he only kept up with me and kept repeating the same question tauntingly. I started to pray silently wondering whether this is how it was all going to end for me. I tried to remain calm to hear what God had to say. He said that I was going to come through this all right. However, I knew I would not get through this without a fight, so I started to look for an opening to launch a preemptive strike, but not in a way he would notice.

When we reached a dark street corner, he sternly gave me this ultimatum, "Look, either you hand over your wallet to me right now, or else I kill you!" I assumed a neutral stance and looked at him to see what he was going to do next, and neither of us spoke. After a few moments he perceived that I was not going to comply with his demand. He sighed deeply, rolled his eyes around, and shook his head in mock disgust as if to say, "Well, I guess that means I am going to have to kill you." He put his hand into his right pocket with a smirk as if to say, "Now I'm gonna get you, sucka!" As soon as his hand was deep in his right pocket, I shuffled toward him and delivered a blow to his throat rendering him unable to breathe temporarily, immediately following up with a smashing blow to his face, and then my left knee came up like a battering ram into his abdomen. He fell to the ground and then I followed up with blows and kicks to his body depending on what was the most accessible target. He was totally discomfited and didn't know left from right, or which way was up. He managed to get away from me and I pursued him with kicks to his body until he got out of kicking range, then he took off in full retreat.

I continued to chase after him, but then remembered that he had a gun and ran back to the street corner. He was half way down the block when he stopped to look at me. I defiantly assumed a fighting stance. Sheer terror filled his eyes as he threw up his hands in front of him and shook them vigorously indicating he had had enough. I then ran back toward the Denny's where I called the police. Sometime later they arrived--a male and female officer from the LAPD and they took my report. While taking my report, the male officer asked me whether I was a martial arts expert. I told him, "I am better. I am a Vietnam vet." Smiles slowly came across their faces when I said that and they nodded in agreement and admiration. The male cop said, "Well, it looks like he messed with the wrong man, and you obviously still have it after all these years." I can't deny that. The war has stayed with me on some level of consciousness after all these years. Besides, I don't think God allowed me to survive Vietnam just to be taken out by some punk!

When I got back to my room, it dawned on me that this country is pulling together. Americans are volunteering their money, time, talents, and prayers, and support to the victims of the terrorists' attacks. There is a wave of patriotism unparalleled since World War 2, and with it, an appreciation of our brave men and women in uniform who have been sent over to fight.

When I reflected on all this, it really angered me to think that there is an element of scumbags in our society, like that punk, taking advantage of the fear experienced by so many Americans since September 11. Nevertheless, I was glad God allowed me to defend myself, and this country, against a domestic terrorist. I also realized that the fear and terror he tried to impose on me backfired on him big time. Now I was the one with the smug look on my face! Hopefully, he will never pull a stunt like that again and realize that God gave him a second chance.

In the days following this incident, I told all my friends and fellow Vietnam veterans what happened to me. They were glad I was safe and delighted with the outcome.

I will conclude by saying that we Vietnam veterans are still a force to reckon with and we will continue to defend our country against all enemies whether foreign or domestic. The last part of the following poem expresses my sentiments. A fellow Screaming Eagle wrote it back in 1968 that served with the 101st Airborne Division. Although he had the 101st Airborne in mind when he wrote this, I include anyone else who served in combat over there. He was expressing his contempt for antiwar protesters but it applies to criminals as well.

"This man means trouble for all your kind,
You shrinkers and cowards with a sick soul and mind,
Beware his temper that you do not burst,
For he is a fighter from the 101st."

My name is Michael Herrera and served with the 101st Airborne and the First Cav as a field medic. My tours of duty started on 18 December 1967 and ended on 24 August 1969. I was assigned to a medical company, a rifle company, and then another medical company respectively. Logo