I am under water and my feet go above me as I turn upside down in the water. I lose my rifle as I try to turn upright and realize the weight of my equipment is dragging me headfirst closer and closer to the bottom. Complete panic sets in as the darkness closes in on me and I frantically try to loosen my web gear but the terror of drowning overrides any sense of logical thinking. Just as I touch bottom I reach out and try to claw my way back up but my hands just dig holes in the mud and I go nowhere.
Still trying to rid myself of the pack and radio, I tear at the webbing and then remember I have a knife and can cut myself free. All the while knowing I won’t get it out in time I reach for the knife just as the web gear releases its hold on me and finally I start towards what I think is the surface. The knife is lost as I bump into the bed of the river again and kick away from the bottom in complete and utter terror hoping I’m going the right direction this time.
Finally, as I am about to give up my face breaks above the surface into the warm rain and I struggle to the nearest bank and drag myself partway out of the water. As I start throwing up dirty water and bile and don’t know if it is river water or because by this time I am sick with fear and self-loathing for being so afraid and in an uncontrolled panic. I don’t know exactly when it happens but I fade into a peaceful unconsciousness and when I awake it is dark and the warm rain is peacefully falling on me.
For a moment I don’t know where I am and then the memory returns and I know no one heard me go under because of the noise of the rain falling on the river. If they had missed me by now they would be searching for me or maybe just bedded down for the night thinking I would catch up and would move on tomorrow.
Knowing the policy is not to backtrack I take stock of my situation and find a good place for the rest of the night. Now I realize I must have stepped into a bomb crater under the water and know it is too deep to search for my equipment so I take stock of what I have left. Searching my pockets, I discovered a bag of M&M’s, 1 WP grenade in a shirt pocket, a Colt. 380 pistol in a holster under my shirt and an old straight razor I carry as a joke.
When daylight breaks through the trees, I feel the jungle around me is safe and I start making my way back to the village wondering how I will explain the loss of all my gear. Me, who never screws up just did a major screw up. I know there will be many river crossings before it is over and just hope I will be as lucky next time.
This happened in 1965; I did not remember it until I dreamed about it yesterday and woke up from a nap. 38 years.
©Copyright July 16, 2003 by Ray Holcomb
Author’s Note: The M&Ms were from Phyllis Diller, along with a photo of her in a bikini over a wet suit.