Infantry Assault

by: Chuck Hawkins
(© Copyright 1997)

Infantry Assault

Violence moving up a hill.
Short dashes across light years of jungle.
Bits of angry split the air, and kill,
Leaving lonely.

If you could see them as I have,
(And some of you know what I'm saying)
If you could look deep into their hearts,
You would see -- no, you would feel
Their fear and their love,
Binding them tightly to each other
In an unbreakable bond.

No one wants to be here
In this hour before the assault.
But none will leave now,
For they will not forsake each other.

Soon there will be another test,
Another trial of body and spirit.
For some, it will be their first time,
For others, their last.

If you could hear them as I have,
(And you old hands know this)
You would hear only silent whispers,
The soft clink of ammunition,
And a rustle of gear being made ready.
Most of their time here is silent time,
But soon that silence will be shattered
By horrible war.

There is a casual way men have of relaxing,
Yet full of tension, wound tight
Like a coiled spring, full of unleashed energy.
My job (one of many),
Is to release that terrible, lethal energy
At the right place and at just the right time.
Then, they will do the work of demons,
And I the same -- just another soldier.

Stealth now, as we move forward
Treading on cat feet, looking with cat eyes.
We spread out, by platoons, and then squads
To the release points, to the jump off positions.
That old, familiar feeling washes down our spines
And settles in a tight knot in our guts.
Impatient now, we wait for the artillery to fire.
Then we will plunge into Hell.

Violence moving up a hill.

The coiled spring is released,
Adrenaline floods the body.
God, we are in Your hands now.

Short dashes across light years of jungle.

Feet and legs churning, lungs heaving.
Hot fragments shred brush and shatter trees.
A three-second rush forward is an eternity.

Bits of angry split the air, and kill.

We chase our exploding grenades into the maw of the Devil.
His hot, sulphurous breath consumes friend and foe alike.
This day we are successful -- mostly, that is.

Leaving lonely.

One man is down, a hole through his heart.
One more shattered life that doc cannot save.

And one more widow, one more fatherless child, at home.

Think about that. It is pure insanity. No sane person does such a thing. And no person who has done such a thing remains sane.

Chuck Hawkins,
Fire Base Ripcord
2d Bn., 506th Inf., 101st Abn. Div. in 1970-71