The Suicide

 The Suicide - image copyright John (Fats) Spizzirri, 2000, All Rights Reserved

Like so many other days in my tour, it was a day unlike any other, and yet, like all the rest. It was in the evening hours at the Ben Luc bridge, on which we sometimes pulled a night security detail. Part of that detail was to send around two squads of men onto two barges beneath the bridge. The purpose of this was for our men to regularly throw some C-4 explosive charges into the water of the Ben Luc River, this being done to cause an explosive concussion in the water, presumably to kill any enemy divers who might otherwise be able to reach the structure beneath the bridge and set explosives of their own.

On this particular evening someone had called my attention to a new guy who happened to come from the same geographic area (maybe even neighborhood) as I did and who was, without a doubt, the most frightened person I had ever seen during my tour. When first introduced to the man, it was visibly clear to me that something was just not right. He was crying and visibly shaking and was strongly trying to make his case that he was not ready for Nam.

I was so moved after talking with this man that I approached the C.O. (commanding officer), who was at that time meeting with the officers and senior NCO's to discuss the upcoming night's assignments, and asked that the man be assigned to my squad, at least for the night. One of the officers, an Artillery officer who many of us called "Wrong Way," (not a term of affection, but one assigned to one who mistakenly calls in artillery onto his own men by an error of his own doing), immediately jumped on my case. He questioned my judgment, asked if I were given what he called "special treatment" on my first night with the company, pointed out that the man would probably be incarcerated for not performing his duties and said that he man would probably just get over it. I persisted and began to draw the anger of the C.O. for interrupting his meeting as dark was fast approaching. "Wrong Way" then brought up the fact that I was on shaky ground due to an incident that had happened on the previous night, and for which he felt I should be brought up on charges.

On the previous night I had fired on a group of VC crossing a road. By viewing with a Starlight Scope, (a night vision device), I had seen they were equipped with both rifles and RPG's (Rocket Powered Grenades). In the morning upon returning to the company I was confronted by the C.O. and told that I had shot into the Village chief's hooch and killed an innocent civilian, "Wrong Way" happened to be standing around listening to all of this. I had replied that if it indeed was the village chief that was killed, it was because he was in the road, at night, with a squad of VC armed with some heavy duty weaponry. While the C.O. knew me well enough to believe me , "Wrong Way" did not.

Under these circumstances I made the horribly wrong decision to back off and return to my duties rather than try and plead the man's case any further with an increasingly irate group. I was by this point in my tour very much disgusted with the Army, and very wary of so-called "military justice." To this day that decision still haunts me, for within a few hours of being assigned to the barges beneath the bridge, my squad on one barge and the new man's squad on another, the new man committed suicide by holding a block of C-4 to his head and letting it explode. I felt so deeply depressed by this news that I even thought to mimic his actions, after all, had I not given up pleading his case, I might have been able to prevent the loss of this poor man. I was prevented from repeating his actions only because another squad member threatened to shoot me unless I threw the lit block of C-4 into the water rather than killing myself. I felt that I owed it to my fellow squad member not to mess up his life any more than Nam had already messed up mine, so I complied. This was the first time suicide presented itself to me as an option to escape the pain that was, and still is Nam. It certainly wasn't the last

Sadly, I cannot remember the name of the man, to whom I dedicate this page, nor the date of the incident. - SGT.FATS

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