Clarymore Mine Friendly Fire ...
then ... and now

by: Pat Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt Inf Bde
Tay Ninh 12/1966-4/1967
Tam Ky 4/1967-12/1967

(Copyright © 1997)


Then: Fight To The End - Early 1967 in Tay Ninh Province my squad and I return from an ambush site, probably too early since daylight hasn't even broken, but we are tired of feeding mosquitos in the field preferring our own personal bunker mosquitos. The perimeter has been alerted that friendlies are coming in through the wire but all is forgotten when our point man stumbles across a trip flare and all hell breaks loose. First it's only M16 fire from the bunker immediately in front of us and then the M60 opens up from the next bunker over.
      Anyone that has never been through something like has experienced a number 10 pucker factor that can compress coal into a diamond. You don't know how small a hole you can crawl into---no matter how small an object, when the dirt is flying and men are crying, it's COVER!
      Unbelievably, I feel that I manage to flatten myself within inches of bedrock and with the flickering light of the flares, I manage to see what I have gratefully embraced as cover and can faintly read the words: *Caution! FRONT ... This Side Towards Enemy* ... Jesus!, I'm laying facing certain death, in the form of a Claymore mine with someone too busy firing his M16, and not thinking or realize the clikker in front of him could bring so much more death and destruction by one little squeeze.
      A lifetime of memories go through my head until someone finally gets the bunker line to cease fire ... but it is too late---I had been flung clear of the claymore mine, several feet, by the concussion of incoming mortar rounds, and my body had been torn by shards of METAl. I laid bleeding out, watching my life pulse and ebb away, fully conscience and believing death imminent ---the closest to the other side of The Wall I have ever felt.

Now: Fight To Win - Thirty years later, 1997, I sit in an office at a job I have managed to keep for 20 years, off and on. I've complained verbally and in writing of the safety hazards we have to put up with daily and it seems the company cannot, or will not, visualize the dangers---only the costs of safety. They are not there when fingers are lost, skin is torn and bones are broken---but I am, and when these things happen, my mind is back in 1967 and I need to take control.
      The injured are no longer fellow workers, but members of my squad and we must stick together. The accidents and constant trips back to my past are getting to me, and I push heavily for changes. Management have never seen injuries caused by failing to take safety precautions. I have. They have not seen death that can quickly follow these injuries, and don't realize the stress that it brings me personally.
      Fill out the correct paper work---that's all that matters to them. I continue to push for changes, until one day I'm called into the office, again, and this time I am told that my services are no longer needed. It's like facing that Claymore again ... I've been doing this work for 20 years... I'm 50 years old ... what am I going to do to support my family? Everything seems to crash down on me, until it finally clicks about what I had gone through thirty years before. I made it through then and I'll make it through now, only this time, instead of my platoon leader I'll have an attorney, and instead of my M16, I have my computer. I am at war again! I faced an enemy that tried to kill me thirty years ago, and came out ahead---and I'll be damned if I let anyone get the better of me now, in the present. I will win. I will fight to the end ... or go down fighting.

APVNV Pat(Beanie)Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt Inf Bde
Tay Ninh 12/1966-4/1967
Tam Ky 4/1967-12/1967

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