How I Earned My Purple Heart
©1998 Sarge Lintecum
I remember when I earned my Purple Heart. We usually were packed up and ready to move out at first light, but for some reason or another we were just getting the order to move out and it was broad daylight. I had just finished packing everything away in my back pack when Charlie opened up on our position with a burst of full auto, AK-47. An early morning wake up call!
After a quick and close inspection of the ground I looked behind me, because some guys were getting ready to move out there before Charlie's wake up call, and I wanted to see that they were alright. About five meters behind me was a guy in the standing rest position. (That's when you hike your back pack up high to get the weight off of your shoulders and you bend over and hold your knees. This is how we would rest whenever we would pause going down the trail, but not have time to sit down.) It looked like he was feeling his chest and I thought he was hit. By then it was becoming obvious that Charlie had hit and run because nothing had followed that original burst of fire. I yelled to the guy behind me asking if he was hit. He was still messing with his chest and then his hand came out of the chest pocket of his jungle jacket, holding a pack of American cigarettes. That pack of smokes had a clean hole in one side and out the other. He had come less than an inch from getting a Purple Heart, or more likely having one delivered to his folks back home along with some very bad news.
Well, the officers decided that we couldn't let Charlie get away with abusing a great American icon like cigarettes, so they sent out a patrol, of which I was a member, to avenge RJ Reynolds. None of us felt good about that patrol knowing that Charlie loved to get you to chase him and then lead you into an ambush. It wasn't long until our worst suspicions looked like they may have been correct as we broke out of the bush into a big clearing. Across the clearing was a large hill, cluttered with huge boulders and there was Charlie just disappearing into the boulders. Well, ambush or not, we all lined up side-by-side along the edge of the clearing. Then we started walking slowly together toward the hill putting out all the fire power we had, and that was a lot. Charlie had the best position and as we got about half way to the hill I felt a serious impact on my right knee.
I knew I was hit, and in the same instant I knew I was still walking on that leg, but I was afraid to look down at it. I knew that if I looked at it and it was very bad I would stop walking on it, and the most important thing in an online asault is to not fall behind. (If you are in a shoulder-to-shoulder line and you fall behind, you will be shooting at your own guys ahead of you.) We never even got to the hill; we ended up falling back and calling in an air strike on the hill. I finally looked at my knee and it was two holes-- one where it went in, then bounced off the bone, and made another hole where it came out. Anyway, all the guys were jealous as hell of me and I rubbed it in all I could until the chopper got there to take me to the land of clean sheets.