"Great. We've come this far and now we're stuck," spat Jonesie. It had happened--we'd gotten through the jungle only to find ourselves in front of what was obviously a minefield. It wasn't very wide across, but it we'd seen the telltale signs enough to know that it would be less-than-smart to traipse across the stretch of dirt in front of us--I could even see some of the treacherous green devices on the ground ahead of me. Despair was as thick as the humidity as we set our packs down and drank for a minute from our canteens. I looked around the group--a ragtag platoon out here in the hellish nightmare of Vietnam, stuck between impending Vietcong action on the other side of the jungle and a treacherous minefield in front of us. Talk about a rock and a hard place! It was me--Spendlove--, Jonesie, Smitty, Burt, and Cap'n (Captian Scott Buckman); we'd lost the other half of our little band in the jungle and to enemy gunfire. We were dirty, sore, almost out of ammo, and doing our best to not lose hope.
I thought of home, my mother and father, my brothers and sister, my friends, the folks in our town who frequented our family store where I'd swept and stocked shelves and counted change before I was drafted. It all seemed so far away. I had gotten over the tears long ago, but I couldn't help wondering, once again, if I'd ever see those faces again. I leaned up against a tree and sighed heavily as Jonesie got up and began to pace.
"What're we gonna do? I mean, it's not like we have any metal detectors or anything!" He was right. It's not like we were equipped to make it through unharmed.
Burt laughed and said, "Hey Jonesie, we could throw a rock over there and see what happens... or your helmet!"
"Not funny, man! we're stuck! And it ain't like the VC're gonna give us a break so we can figure it out!" He was always getting hyped up about things like this. Heck of a soldier, but his people skills were definitely lacking.
Then Cap'n stood up and said, "Well, if you girl scouts have done enough bellyachin', I think we'd better get to it. Not like the field's gonna clear itself. Look, boot camp wasn't just so they could make you cry--this was one of the situations you practiced back then. Remember? So let's get our big boy pants on and get out there and show these VCs who's boss!" I always appreciated his gusto. Kicked in in the clutch.
It was a tedious process, scouring every single inch of the field, making sure we were very, very careful. Cap'n went ahead of us because, he said, he was the only one who wasn't wearing a tutu; obviously he was the most experienced, but I also knew how much each of his men meant to him. He was already hurting that so many had been lost in the jungle thus far and I sensed his care for us, even if it was wrapped in brusqueness and colorful language. We knew we would only be safe if we followed exactly in the tracks of the man in front of us; any deviation to the right or left could, and indeed did, prove fatal.
Just as we were nearing the edge of the forest on the other side of the field (nearly 3 hours later), gunfire and rockets burst from out of the trees behind us--the VCs had found us. We all hunkered down and tried to hide ourselves in the tall grass, all of us that is, except Jonesie. He swore at the enemies, picked up his machine gun, and started to shoot back. We yelled at him to stop, but he wasn't listening. He strafed off to the left of the path, despite our shouts and even when Smitty tried to tackle him down, but it was too late. Just as we had feared, there was a soft beep as his foot depressed the detonator followed by an explosion and a column of fire. Jonesie was gone. Holding back the tears and the urge to get revenge, we commando-crawled into the jungle and were able to return fire and seek refuge.
I've often thought since about the lesson I learned that day. We who followed in the path of our leader were safe from the dangers of the minefield. Jonesie chose otherwise and was left to himself. I did make it home to my family and now I have a family of my own. I'm grateful for our Great Minesweeper, Jesus Christ. I know that when we follow in His path, we will be safe from unseen dangers and we will make it home in one piece.