Anthony W. Pahl

BILL

IWVPA Bronze Helmet Award of Excellence: February 2001The call came through ‘bout half past five as we landed at the Dat.
A patrol out near Diggers Rest had caught some VC flack.
We’d just commanded an insertion in Albatross Zero One
so all the command radios had to be removed before the run.

The quick release catches never lived up to their job.
It seemed to take forever for the bloody things to move.
But move they finally did and we took the radios out.
I raced to get the litter while the blokes refuelled the craft.

We took off in a hurry, loaded with ammo, a litter and fuel
and headed east to Diggers Rest – towards the clearing patrol.
When we raised them on the radio, we told them to throw smoke.
They confirmed the smoke was thrown. God! We hoped it was a joke.

The smoke was red which meant that a winch job was required
and the pick-up area was insecure. We were likely to come under fire.
Robbo, the pilot, asked us all if we were prepared to take the risk.
We all agreed! Well we were there. It’d be a piece of piss.

So Shippy lowered the litter but it hung up in the trees.
The jungle canopy was too dense – we’d have to try a free release.
I held onto the litter while Shippy released the drum.
When forty yards of cable looped I threw the litter down.

The message came from down below that the first bloke was dead and cold.
The poor bastard that they’d strapped in was raised to create a hole.
But that didn’t really matter; the guy was just dead meat.
He’d received a burst of bullets from left shoulder to right cheek.

We lifted the covered body and shoved it behind the pilots’ seats
then sent the litter down again; so far – so good – no sweat.
The second bloke came up and we hauled him into the craft;
Five bullets in one thigh and three in the other calf.

He screamed as we lifted him from the litter to the floor.
“Hurry up you bastards! I can’t take no more!”
Shippy sent the litter down again to pick up the third guy.
But the second guy had fainted. I wasn’t about to let him die.

I took off my flak jacket and covered him with my vest
then sat on the floor of the chopper cradling his head upon my chest.
Up came the litter with the third bloke but it was swinging out of control.
Shippy leaned out and grabbed it and hauled it through the door.

Just as the litter was half way in we started taking fire.
“We’re out of here!” the skipper said, “Before we’re a funeral pyre.”
I grabbed the hand of the bloke I held and wiped his face with my sleeve.
His eyes turned up and looked into mine “I can’t die mate – save me please.”

I cradled his head in my lap and stroked his sweaty hair,
and gently squeezed his hand in mine – but all he did was stare!
A burst of seven rounds had come up through the floor.
Five had got him in his back, through my foot, the sixth had torn.

We found the seventh bullet lodged in the litter frame.
I’ve still got it somewhere and somewhere it can remain.
I can clearly hear the words and still see the metal tags
of Bill who died in my arms and went home in a body bag.

But my friend Bill, who I met just once, is a large part of my life.
I’ve dreamed and screamed and smelt and felt the pain of inner strife.
And now he is immortalized inside my heart forever.
For now I have exposed myself to the reality of his power.

Other powers still infect my mind from since I was just a boy.
And when I can cope with countless more… my mind might sing with joy.