by Ed Tieman
The Dream Weaver

Am I The Missing Air Force Pilot?

Vietnam: Vietnam a land and spirit not to be forgotten

Vietnam: The land of the Blue Dragon and its people believe themselves the descendants of a Goddess.

Vietnam: The land of water, rice, and Invisible Warriors.

Vietnam: A reflection of its self, which is as old as, time.

Vietnam: Too much on my mind.

Vietnam: A feeling of being disconnected.

Vietnam: Being adrift in a feelingless sea of utter darkness.

Vietnam: This wasn't a normal day or was it!

I went to OPS that day and logged my flight plan, and again that feeling of uneasiness and apprehension came over me as I prepared to leave OPS and joined the others on the Crew Bus.

The ride to our planes was a quite one, which was quite unusual. Arriving at my plane my Crew Chief saluted me with a "Good Morning Sir!" Then he continued with the normal chitchat as he preflight the plane. Most of his talk was about his families back in the States. He is married with two children a son Mike who is two years old and a daughter Mary who had her first birthday today, and how he missed them. I too have a family back in the States so I know how he feels. He is as dedicated to his plane as he is to his family, but my second thought was, you can't make the same kind of love to a plane as you can to your wife and you certainty can't play with a plane as you play with your children. I could just see him tossing the plane up in the air and catching it or crawling in to bed and kissing his afterburner.

He took personal pride in his work and took TLC of our plane. Our names were side by side with his name first because he was with it more than I was. Our plane was the only one like that. He nicked named it Baby. Maybe because he always told me before every flight to take good care of Baby and to bring Baby back home in one piece, "Ya-hear."

With our ground preflight completed I climbed the ladder...settling into my seat as a wave of uneasiness overcame. My hands started to shake as I strapped in, adjusted my helmet, and nervously tugged at the top of my nomex gloves while flexing my fingers. My eyes scanned the instrument panel lights turned green and amber as I flipped switched and set my radio. Before taxi check list complete. I checked to see where my ground crew was before starting my engines. A slow whine of the engines began before they roared into life, chocks pulled thumbs up and a snappy salute from my crew chief. I eased the throttles forward to 50% released the brakes to begin the taxi to my take off position. The canopy closed as a sudden wash of uneasiness came over me, could it be that there wasn't the normal chatter from the controllers. Normally we had a little joking BS session during taxi out, but today was different, why? Usually the joking was about how deep the shit is in the rice paddies or how many farts it takes to burn a hole through the seat of my flight suit or some dumb blond joke that would almost cause me to fall out of my seat. Ever try to read your flight instruments laughing your ass off while tears fill your eyes. There ain't nothing worse than a bunch of smart ass controllers, but not to day!

The palms of my hands began to sweat, brakes locked before take off checklist complete and takeoff clearance received. I pushed my throttles forward to 100% released the brakes and the plane began its take off roll. The planes nose lined up with the center stripe feeling the engines' vibration through the seat. The acceleration of the plane sunk me back deep into my seat. Moments later I was free of the ground.

Wheels and flaps up I pulled the stick back and to the right making a long sweeping turn skyward. Leveling out above the sparse clouds I made my last check and headed to my assigned run. Four hours of fuel, hour and a half in and an hour-n-half back, it was to be a typical day mission. Ground support when requested.

The coastline on my right gilding past, thick jungle greenery and watching the Mekong River off my left wing. The Mekong River runs about thirty miles south Sigon coming from the Highlands that is covered with elephant grass. The lower part of the Mekong River flat green lush that runs into the ocean called the Mekong Delta, which is a living breathing floating city on water. What ever you want you could find it there, from sex to drugs.

This land was so full of fox holes and bomb craters I'm surprised that there is any greenery or life left. The endless bombs from B52's and the thousands of rockets. Napam dropped scorched the land burning everything to nothing it touches send great plums of hot black smoke skyward sucking oxygen from the ground and air nothing left but a black spot on the earth. Agent Orange sprayed by the C130's over thousands of acres to defoliate the jungle. Then come the Engineers blasting and clearing areas for landing sights and forward positions. Ten years of being bombed by us and that doesn't count the years the French were there.

All was quite for the moment The call came in to help clear a ridge for a landing sight for an Evac., that they were under heave fire and had to fall back.

I watched the lights turn red as I flipped on the arm switches telling me my weapons are armed. I pushed the stick forward heading earthward following the ridge line releasing the first of my rockets I watched them as they headed earthward toward their target an exploding blinding flash.

Bright blackness hit me. My mind exploding: everything going around and around spinning earthward. Blinding flashes: numbness creeps through me, then silence. Bright embers in my mind fading. My mind lost control of my body.

The: darkness: is very thick: and darkness was what I last remembered.

The warm ground of June awaited me: as my plane spiraled deep into the thick jungle of Nam.

As time passed: I searched the wall for my name. At times almost forgetting my name. Sometimes I would find a name I liked and pretend it is mine. However, for that moment I felt found. Some of those moments there were someone reading or looking and or feeling that name. I tried to imagine they were my family or a friend. Some times flowers and or notes were left, but it was flowers and or notes left for there love one not me. When they left my emptiness would return. Sometimes I would loose myself along the wall. Then I would feel lost out there again.

At times my memory would fade in and out. Time has a way of being lost. I wonder about the jungle of Nam its relentless clutches greedily hanging on to me. Not knowing why, hanging on; like a forsaken lover has in its own way buried and protect the men and women till their names can be found on the Wall, to prevent them from becoming unknown.

Many times I would return to the loving arms of the jungle because there I would have a name and be in the memories of others, and my emptiness was gone.

I could sense others there; could it be their reason for staying the as mine, or was it because they had no one and found peace. Though it could be that they are still wondering because they haven't found peace or have some one to love them? How many of them I don't know but I wished I knew.

We lived through the spirit of the jungle we are alive and vibrant. To live as a name on a wall or head stone soon fades from all memories to be only remembered once a year, but to live in the minds of men or loves ones is to live forever.

They came, all spit and polished: Insertion of the key: handle of the door echoed within the chamber as brilliant light of the sun flooded in: I wondered about the others lying there: Only to have the door echo close and brilliant light shut off forever. Do the memories of those live in the spit and polish those who sharply march by and those who come by to visit or are we just a curiosity?

Now that I am found how long will it take for them to forsake me. Years have passed and the visits are getting fewer and farther between. I am feeling that I have been forsaken here as I have forsaken those I left behind in the Nam jungle. The feeling of being unloved here is beginning to weigh on me. The spirit of the jungle is calling for me to return to be with the others to share the warmth of the jungle, to be with those whose memory still live on in the memory of man.

Written by The Dream Weaver If you like these stories and would like to provide feedback to Ed, use this link.