Jim Anton Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
Staff Sergeant Sanchez Dies
I crawled back to the tree and looked over. John was on his side facing me. I asked if he was hit. He was. His butt had taken several hits. He said Sanchez was bad. I told him I'd be back and took off running uphill for a corpsman.
I didn't make it very far.
A round landed just the other side of a waist high stump. It felt like I was hit in the throat with a bat. Luckily the green towel we all hung around our necks in the jungle absorbed the cutting edge of the rock that hit me.
I was on my knees but got up and tried again. No better the second time.
I hadn't gone two feet when there was a big roar and I felt like a giant hand grabbed me and threw me straight back. I remember my boots kicking the back of my head.
Because the hill was so steep I fell a long way. I think I was unconscious for awhile. I came to on my back with my head downhill.
My back was killing me and I couldn't seem to get my feet under me. So I started crawling back up. I'd flown far enough that I was well below the tree where John and Sanchez were.
I finally made it back where I started and again looked over the log. John was startled to see me. He said he thought for sure I was dead. Told him I was fine. Not a scratch.
By this time the mortars were still falling nearby but no longer seemed aimed at us. I told him I still had to find that Corpsman. I crawled and kneed my way to the top and scrambled into the big bunker the Captain was sharing with our two Corpsmen. I explained the situation and started back down when the Captain grabbed me. The mortars were again close and he didn't want to lose anyone else. We'd wait it out.
One of the corpsmen, Doc Kennedy, I think had been hit in both legs. They were both broken. I tried to make small talk about his hometown, but it felt forced. I wanted to get back to John.
The impacts slowed and then stopped altogether. Somewhere between the two I was out and down the hill. I got John on his feet and with another guy's help got him back to our foxhole. I put a battle dressing on his butt, told him to hold it tight (the strings on the bandage weren't long enough to go around his waist), gave him his rifle, and headed back to help Sanchez. He was badly hurt. But we carried him up to the top. Fighters and choppers were on the way. The corpsman took over with SSgt Sanchez and I headed back to my position.
Some firing broke out. Cannon and Shepherd, in the next hole to my left were firing. I found my rifle in several pieces so took John's and started firing at the few NVA troops who were testing our line. They finally pulled back. A lot more of them stayed where they fell.
I helped John make it to the LZ. He was the last good friend I had there and I hated to see him leave.
SSgt Juan Sanchez. Photo courtesy of Larry McCartney.
Soon a big Sea Knight came in and loaded all our wounded. The bird was badly overloaded. It got up but couldn't seem to gain any altitude as it headed for the trees. Then fuel began pouring out of the side tanks and up they went. The pilot thought fast and dumped fuel to lighten the load. That was the only time I saw that done.
I wandered back to my hole, found my shirt, now full of holes, and walked back downhill. I had to see where I'd been before the voice told me to move. It wasn't a pretty sight. I'd have been very badly hurt. Likely I wouldn't have made it.
By the time I got back to my position we got the word that SSgt Sanchez died on the chopper. I remember that he was married and had a little girl.