Jim Anton Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
The Death of My Friend
I started running down the ravine, past my cave, in the direction other guys were headed. I went by Corporal Schroeder. He was on the left side of the ravine floor, just standing and staring. I could see his eyes. He was seeing things no one else could see. [Editor's note: Cpl Pete Schroeder had himself just taken a badly wounded Marine through the explosions to the LZ for Medevac.]
I kept going and saw Delon Hunter, one of our gunners. He was laying on his back with a huge smile on his face. I called out his name as one of the guys bent over him. They rolled him over and I could see half his back was gone. He'd died instantly. I think his real name was Joachim or Juan or something like that. Neat guy with a contagious smile. I forced myself to keep going as they carried him out.
A Corpsman was working on another guy. He asked me and whoever was behind me to get the wounded man to the LZ for Medevac. We carried him all the way back to the slope by the LZ with the other wounded and headed back to help the next guy.
I got back to the same Corpsman as he finished bandaging my friend, the man I had shared my chewing gum with earlier. We carried him back toward the LZ.
I went by Schroeder again. He hadn't moved. I yelled his name right in his face. No response. He'd be okay later but for now he was in a different place.
We carried my friend the rest of the way to the staging area. We laid him down and he started yelling for somebody to help him. I got down next to him and told him he'd be fine.
He got up and tried to run, but I got him back down. I lay sideways with one arm behind his head and the other on his chest. It kept him down and allowed me to shield him if more rounds came in.
I told him he'd be going back to Philly.
Told him a lot of gals would be impressed with his stories.
Told him he had a million dollar wound.
He'd be in a hospital soon.
I kept babbling and he calmed down so I kept talking to him. Don't know how long we lay like that but I remember looking up and the same Corpsman was treating a guy close to me.
We made eye contact and he said, "He died 20 minutes ago."
I was stunned. I don't know if something wasn't bandaged or if he went into shock. Or maybe I held him down too firmly. Or he was hurt worse than the Corpsman thought.
But Harry Rivers was dead.
LCpl Harry Eugene Rivers. Anton had shared a soggy piece of gum with him minutes earlier. Photo courtesy of the Virtual Wall.
And I feel like I've carried a debt for a lot of years.
I've apologized to him at the Wall and at the Vietnam Memorial in Philadelphia. I don't know if I missed something or didn't do something. I just don't know.
There was no time to mourn then. There was a lot more to do. I left the wounded area and headed for the LZ.