Eleven Eleven Eleven

The eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year happens once a century.  On November 11, 1911, the progressive former President Teddy Roosevelt was discovering that the increasingly conservative Republican Party no longer welcomed his moderate views about regulating corporations.  Hmmm.

Coincidentally, today is also Veteran’s Day, which derives from the signing of the peace at the conclusion of WWI on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Romeo 18I don’t remember Veterans Day in 1969, and I doubt whether my fellow soldiers in Vietnam paid much attention.  By then, the drawdown of troops had begun even as the war protests in the US accelerated.  On November 3rd, President Nixon had delivered his famous “silent majority” speech, and on November 15th, over a quarter million protesters descended upon Washington for the largest anti-war protest in US history.  Just as we were oblivious to Veteran’s Day, my comrades in K Company Rangers stationed at Camp Enari near Pleiku paid little attention to speeches and protests back home.  We had more immediate issues, and for us the geo-political ramifications of the war were of little concern.  It was around that time in 1969 that Ranger team 18 was formed—call sign Romeo one eight–consisting of (left to right) Billy Powers, yours truly, Mark Estopare, and Gary Heald.  The four of us stayed together as a team for four or five months.

Prowl paperbackSome of you know that I have published five short stories based upon our experiences, and today I announce the release of a compilation of the five in a book entitled Prowl.  Prowl is available as a Kindle eBook or paperback here, or in other eBook formats here.

The title is based upon the following passage:

Survival depended upon stealth. The black and brown stripes smeared across our faces matched our tiger fatigues, and we prowled silently and slowly. Unseen and unheard, we would be hunter and not hunted.

In slow motion, I lifted my combat boot over a rotting branch and gingerly stepped to the soft ground on the opposite side. Momentarily straddling the fallen limb, I scanned the brush from left to right before dropping my gaze to the forest floor ahead to plan for my next footfall. When I was satisfied, I shifted my weight forward and lifted my trailing foot over the branch. Again and again, the methodical process was repeated as I silently crept through tall ferns, low-hanging vines, and suspended air plants of a mountain valley in the central highlands of Vietnam. Behind me in five to ten yard intervals, my three Ranger teammates mimicked my actions. LRRPs on patrol.

We stalked men from the north, soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army, searching for signs of their highways or hooches, hidden from the eyes of our helicopters by triple canopy jungle. But who stalked us?

In the branches above, a noisy flock of flycatchers bobbed and weaved for bugs, while the seed-eating finches flitted here and there in the low grass and brush; the birds didn’t notice us nor we them. Birdsongs and chattering squirrels said all was as it should be; silence would sound an alarm.

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