“No! I Want To See My Son!”
by SP4 David H. Cook, Shotgun49a, Senior Aircraft Mechanic and
Crew Chief, 221st Aviation Company
Assigned to the 221st upon arrival in Vietnam in July of 1965, I first worked at Bac Lieu Airfield. I enjoyed the assignment, and worked hard to ensure that our aircraft was always ready to fly.
I somehow got a fungus that Doc couldn’t cure, so I was shipped out to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. From there, they sent me to a hospital on Okinawa where I was treated for a fungus the doctor had never seen before. As six weeks approached, I heard that the CO, Major Modica, had requested me to return to the Company. I was very worried that I might not be sent back to Bac Lieu, so when I got back, I tried my best not to be seen by any personnel from the company. I was seen, though, and Major Modica learned that I was at Can Tho. He flew over, picked me up and we flew to Soc Trang via Bac Lieu. I was to report to Major Modica the next morning; I did so, and requested to return to Bac Lieu. I had a very bad and uneasy feeling about being in Soc Trang.
As that day, 21 November 1965, was my 23rd birthday, some buddies and I went to town and partied. We returned to base and went to the NCO club to do some more drinking. I called Bac Lieu and was told that the CO agreed to let me return. I asked, “When, tonight?” But, I was told, “No, first thing in the morning.” I yelled at him and said, “that’ll be too f—g late!” I slammed the phone down, showered and went to bed.
As I slept, for some reason I could hear things that sounded like mortar rounds being dropped down the tube and firing. Then, when the first round hit at 0132, I sat straight up in bed–stone sober. When the next round hit, it was out to my front left so I knew I had a free run out the back of the hooch to the bunker that was close to the CO’s office. I took off running towards the bunker when the third round hit in about the same place as the first two. I continued, but the fourth round came right down the path I was running on. It was so close I felt that I could reach up and grab it, but I heard its sound fade away in front of me. I continued to run in the same direction and that round that just passed over me just a few seconds ago was becoming louder as I approached it, then it was above me, and then its sound faded to my rear. (I had just run passed the same round that had just passed me). Now, I’ll make it, I thought. Then, the sound returned to my rear. I turned and could see the bunker about 15 feet in front of me, but at about 12 feet from it, the noise from that round went silent. I turned to my left, then to the rear, then at about six feet from me, the ground opened up and rocks floated in the air–everything was in slow motion. I found my self on top of the bunker with my legs over the front edge. I threw my self forward, slid down, and hit the ground. The fifth round hit next to where the fourth had hit. I could see nothing but blood in front of me, and then a buddy went sailing off into the darkness. I started crawling to him to give him aide, but my thoughts told me, you’re bleeding to death; get back to the bunker. I did, and as I sat there, others would run into the bunker and kick me–they kicked my leg up onto me. They even kicked me in the face several times. I pulled two guys to my face and yelled for them to give me a belt for a tourniquet, but no one bothered to assist me. I grabbed my leg and squeezed as hard as I could. I could feel the blood slowly moving over my fingers.
My life passed in front of me in such wonderful color, and then I saw it–the very small light a long ways away from me, and completely surrounded by darkness. I then felt motion. I don’t know if I was moving towards the light or the light was coming to me. The motion was constant and the light kept getting larger. When I reached the light, I felt that I would have to squint when I entered the all white room, but I didn’t. I looked all around and the brilliant white was so pure. Then without spoken words, a question was posed to me, and I yelled, “No, I want to see my son!” Instantly I was back in the action. All of a sudden I heard Captain Ogden, the Company XO, ask someone for a belt. I was lying on my left side in convulsions as he put it on my leg. I had lost my eyesight to the loss of so much blood.
“Son, I don’t know how to move you without hurting you,” Captain Ogden said.
“Just put my leg across my body and get me out of here,” I managed.
“Really,” he said, and he did, and he saved my life without question.
Sixteen days later on December 8, 1965, my son was born. I was never told that she was PG with a boy. Captain Ogden saved my life; my son gave me the will to live it.
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Additional note by Don Modica: “David Cook’s recollection about the attack on 21 Nov 65 is quite a story, and that was quite a night. I remember trying to get the medics to come and pick up David and Gust Callivas. They were under orders not to go out while the shelling was in progress, so we put David on the hood of one jeep and Gust on a second jeep and proceeded to the aid station at a snail pace with someone walking along keeping the wounded from falling off the hood. I must have expressed my dislike of the Medic’s orders not to evacuate while still under fire. I do not remember what I said, but it came back to me from much ‘higher’ the following day!”