We were supposed to be listening for sappers in the wire, but the rain was coming down so hard we couldn't hear anything but our own hearts beating. We strung a shelter half over our hole to keep the rain off, but we were both soon moist with sweat from playfully wrestling over our last c ration. Our army tee shirts were soaked translucent in the dim light. I let Garcia win, but showed him how to use a bit of C-4 from a claymore to heat it up and we shared it, alternating bites with his bayonet which was the only clean thing we had. I playfully tousled his rich black hair as he looked up at me.
A week later our patrol ran into a massive NVA force. We kicked them all over the Mekong Delta but as our platoon was falling back I had to leave someone behind, covering a rice paddy as we withdrew. Without thinking I sent Garcia. We handed him extra ammo and told him to give us 15 and then follow behind, but in the dark a squad of NVA wandered onto his position and he engaged them. The next day, Garcia was just a stat line in Stars n Stripes. One American kia in an action south of Siagon, 3 NVA kia, 6 wounded. I never even knew Garcia's name until after the war, but I have played that scene over and over in my head. Me handing Garcia an extra magazine and ordering him to cover the paddy. He turned and looked back as we were nearly out of sight... "Why bob?" I see him mouth to me. Why? Why did I order Garcia to cover the withdrawl? It was only years later that I finally realized the answer... Why, garcia? Because you always followed orders.