Walt Philbin Remembers (continued)
Afterward, I remember finding a dud enemy mortar round near the lip of my hole, unexploded, and my pack outside the hole riddled with little pieces of shrapnel that tore tiny holes through a letter I had received from my little 10-year old cousin asking me to be safe.
And the trigger guard on my M-16 was blown away.
81s Forward Observer Cpl Joe "Coop" Cooper tries to dig in on LZ Margo. Cooper was wounded while firing bursts from an M-60 machine gun on targets across the valley. Recommended for a Silver Star for his actions, he received a Bronze Star instead. Photo by Eric Smith.
Cooper was this squared-away forward observer who always seemed to know what he was doing.
I remember trying to console him after the shit stopped, telling him he had a million-dollar wound (though not knowing what the eff I was talking about).
Really I was feeling bad that he caught the wound.
I remember holding Cooper up with another Marine and helping him walk to the LZ past all the body bags, because we were going to get our wounded out first no matter how long it took even if it meant sleeping overnight with our dead bodies by the LZ, which we did.
Cpl Eloy "Rod" Rodriguez was the 81s comm chief. After an action-packed year with 2/26, he had the good fortune to survive LZ Margo and to rotate home one landing zone later. Photo by Alan Green.
A few other things about the mortar battle on LZ Margo stand out in my mind.
I think Rod and I and maybe someone else shared a very small and very shallow hole on LZ Margo with Cpl Joe Cooper, a forward observer, who caught a wound in the ass from shrapnel either while in our hole or just before diving into our hole.
After another tour in Vietnam, Coop went back to college and then on to a career as an Army Ranger officer. Here he is a Special Forces captain. Photo courtesy of Eric Smith.