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By Pat Lisi/Southern Utah Vets Aid

We saw a lot of crap in Vietnam.  Dead and wounded enemy soldiers and Marines, destruction, pain.  After you had been there for awhile, and there was no ‘magic’ period of time for this, you got kind of used to it.  It didn’t bother you, much.  You became immune or numbed to the suffering and the horror.  You had to or you could die.  To survive your tour in Nam one had to focus only on what the current mission was and to hell with everything else.

Every once in awhile, though, you came across something that bothered the shit out of you, and no matter how tough you were or how many enemy you had killed up to that point, there were times when you were humbled beyond your imagination by the plight of someone else.

Such was the case one day in April, 1969 when our company (Echo Co., 2nd battalion, 5th Marine Regiment) had just finished an inspection of a small village for hidden rice caches and weapons and were heading out to a night defensive perimeter across the rice paddies.  All of sudden there was a loud explosion and all of us instinctively hit the deck for a second to figure out what was going on.  Usually, this meant one of us in the column of Marine “grunts” had been nailed by a booby-trap of some sort.  The intensity of the blast was a clear indication of what kind of device just went off, and if it was a large device like a buried and booby-trapped artillery round as opposed to a hand grenade, then you could count on several wounded men to medivac out of the field.

This time it sounded like a grenade, so most of us were on our feet and standing by for orders.  The word came up the column for me, Corporal Lisi, to come back to the vicinity of the platoon CP (command post) where I was to report to the platoon sergeant who at the time was Sergeant Bruce Olson.  I didn’t know what to expect as I made my way back to the edge of the village where the explosion had haulted our progress.

It was one of those times.  When I got to the CP group there was a circle of Marines hunched over a wounded person who was lying on the ground.  Getting close enough to see, I could tell the Navy Corpsman was working on the individual in an attempt to save their life.  I stepped right up to the circle as you can see from the photo in this story, and what I saw made me feel instantly ill.

The ‘doc’ was feverishly trying to help a small girl, a villager, who was writhing on the ground and bleeding from many puncture holes all over her tiny body.  My mind went blank and all I could do was stare.  Notice in the background a Vietnamese man who also is perplexed and worried about the girl.  I don’t know if he was related to her but he was obviously concerned.  The girl was dead inside the next 5 minutes.  I don’t even know who took this photograph, I picked it off the internet when I went to the Echo 2/5 website.  It speaks volumes of an instant in time that took the life of a young girl, a person who didn’t have a damned thing to do with how the war stared or how it would end.  She was just there at the wrong time in history.

My orders were to clear an LZ for a helicopter that was coming in to take the girl to the rear area in An Hoa.  After she died, however, the chopper was called off, and we moved out once again, heading to our next destination and mission.

 

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