" Hold on to this for me, until I get back "
Jan.26, 1969......about 5:00 am. The grenade went off and suddenly all of us were wide awake. The VC had managed to sneak close enough to our perimeter and toss a hand grenade. Fortunately no one was injured from it. Most of the men were in a prone position sleeping when it went off so no one was hit by any shrapnel. We were lucky this time and we immediately went to full alert.
Our platoon was short a few men, many of the old timers had left and we had not gotten any replacements in a while. This left us with 19 men in our platoon, down from a total of about 26 a few weeks before. We had not seen any action for awhile since we had gone back to the bush 2 weeks before. On New years we had been on a firebase called Fat City to defend it in case of any new Tet assaults like what had happened in Jan. of ' 68. Now we were back in the bush again.
We were now on full alert this morning after the grenade incident. We put out our listening posts and observation posts (LP's and OP's) and just settled down in our defensive positions. But as the morning wore on many of the guys who were not on any watch decided to play a little game of cards next to this little trail running through our position. I wasn't doing to badly in the card game and I had a little pile of military play money in front of me at around 11:00 am. All of a sudden a very loud SWOOSH sound went over our heads followed by a loud explosion and it seemed like all hell broke loose. I hit the deck, along with everyone else and grabbed my weapon and ran toward the CP (command Post).
I headed for my best friend Doug Sykes whom I found in a little depression in the earth. He had a small hole in his back from the shrapnel and he was bleeding. The wound did not stop him from getting up and all of us were firing our weapons in the general direction of the Rocket, yet no one really knew where it had come from. Fortunately 6 men were only slightly wounded from shrapnel and a medevac was called in to remove the walking wounded.
Doug was one of the last to get on the medevac chopper and just before he left he handed me his wallet with some of his pictures and personal stuff and asked me to "hold on to this for me, until I get back". Knowing that sometimes the rear had a tendency to lose personal stuff he wanted me to hold onto it for him, and I did. At that Doug left on the medevac. Little did I know I would not see him again for 20 years and 6 months.
Once back in Chu-Lai hospital the shrapnel was removed from Doug. But as luck would have it for Doug he developed a burst appendicitis and during the night was driven by Jeep to Danang and flown to Japan for an operation on his appendicitis. From Japan he was flown home. His tour of duty was over. I was unaware of these things and was waiting for Dougís return. I carefully wrapped his wallet in a plastic radio battery bag a put it away in my rucksack. I spent 9 more months in Nam and more or less forgot about the wallet and I never gave the wallet another thought until I got home. I did not know his address so I put the wallet away.
June, 1989.....I was on second shift working at a Ball Bearing plant in Laconia NH. A friend of mine was going on Vacation to Miami, Florida to visit his parents who lived there. His dad was a Miami detective and so I mentioned my friend Doug whose last known address was Miami. I did not have a street but I knew he had said he was from Miami so I asked my friend if he could possibly ask his dad to help find Doug for me. I wrote a letter to Doug in case he was found and gave it to my friend, never really believing he would find Doug. In the letter I said I still had his stuff he had given me to take care of. I never really thought that he would be found but it was worth a shot. I had included my telephone # in the letter. My friendís detective dad found him.
About a week after my friend went on Vacation I got a telephone call from Doug and we had our reunion. He flew up from Miami and I presented him with his wallet and personal stuff from 20 years before, and we had a most joyous reunion. We went on a canoe trip to an Island on a Lake in Northern Maine for three days and had a great time. WE have had several reunions since then and we call each other on a regular basis. This is what brotherhood is all about. During the 20 years Doug had been trying to find me and he even checked the names on the wall to see if I was one of them. This became one of the greatest moments of my life. Finding my friend once again.
Submitted by: Pointman