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REQUIEM FOR AN

UNKNOWN SOLDIER


A NOVELLA




WILLIAM A. STEWART










This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

Copyright © 2017 William Adolphus Stewart

All rights reserved

ISBN: 978069290521









For the son of man has come to seek

and to save those who are lost.

Luke 19:10


A LONG WAY FROM HOME


At dusk on July 15, 1969, Private First Class Gary Owens stood alone in the drizzling rain, scrutinizing the hazy South Vietnam countryside. He wore a hooded green poncho over his soggy uniform and muddy boots. He was standing guard in front of the razor-wire gate that separated the small basecamp from the highway, with a loaded M-16 rifle in his hand. A rangy, brown skinned twenty-year-old, he wore a short afro and had a clean-shaven face. The rest of the first squad had taken shelter inside the dim bunker.

The platoon-size basecamp sat beside Highway #13, south of the village of Dinh Quan, in the southern part of Long Khanh Province. The small compound and dozens like it guarded both the highway and the northern approaches to Saigon. Although the army had trained Owens as an 81 mm mortar crew-member, his company commander had assigned him to a rifle squad. He had just began his second month of a yearlong tour of duty in South Vietnam.

The officers of Alpha Company, Fourth Battalion, of the 7th U. S. Calvary Regiment had named the compound Camp Nameless. The small basecamp had only four sandbag-reinforced bunkers defended by two squads of infantry. One of the company’s three rifle platoons garrisoned the compound and guarded the highway night and day, while the other two patrolled the jungle on both sides of the highway.

Owens was about to close the gate, when he saw a pair of fast-moving headlights come out of the misty dimness to the north, and rush down the highway toward him. Alarmed, he stood and waited, not knowing what else to do. He already knew most enemy ambushes occurred at night; therefore, all U. S. military vehicles had to be off roads and isolated highways by sundown. If the Vietcong had commandeered a truck, they could toss grenades or machinegun the compound as they drove by.

With growing apprehension, Owens watched the headlights grow larger and brighter. He closed the gate and knelt in the mud, rifle unlocked and ready to fire. The large truck sped by the compound with three people in the front seat, and disappeared into the misty darkness. He let out a long sigh of relief and got to his feet.


Owens stood and watched as a familiar, poncho clad figure sloshed through the mud and rain. As the glistening image approached the doorway of his shadowy bunker, Owens said, “What’s up, Sarge?”

“Lo’ Owens,” said Sergeant Billy Heyn. He was a slender man, in his mid-twenties, with brown hair, bleached blonde by the sun. “Why didn’t you stop that truck?”

Owens hunched his shoulders. “It was moving too fast.”

“Did you see who was in it?”

“It looked like three American soldiers.”

“They must have come from the village north of here,” said Heyn. “They didn’t want to stay there all night, so they headed for Firebase Blackhorse a few miles down the road. I hope they make it. Who else is in the bunker with you?”

“Homsted, Newell, Bishop, and Bouyer.”

“Where’s Foster?”

“Asleep in the next bunker.”

Heyn nodded and said, loud enough for the people inside the bunker to hear him, “Listen up in there. Second platoon is coming in tomorrow morning, and first platoon will move out. So pack your stuff tonight and be ready to leave at sunup.”

Regimental headquarters had detached Alpha Company from the fourth battalion to ambush small units of Vietcong, who were crossing Highway #13 every night. Since the failure of the Communist’s Tet Offensive, Vietcong, or VC units, had been moving west toward the Cambodian border to reorganize and reequip.

When no one inside the bunker bothered to answer, Heyn bawled, “You people in there! Did you hear me?”

“We heard you!” came a chorus of responses.

Only Billy Heyn, Specialist Fourth Class Dan Newell, and Charlie Bishop had combat experience. Newell and Bishop were beginning their fourth month in Vietnam. Everyone else in the first squad had been in country less than two. Most of the squad’s veterans were dead, wounded, or they had completed their yearlong tour of duty and been rotated back to the states.


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