Medina Memories
By Heckle and Jeckle

Corporal Thomas Nolan
                 
Hotel Company, 2nd. BN. 1st. Marines
Weapons Platoon 0351 Squad Leader
Vietnam, The Republic of: 1967-68

eMail: tnolan@stny.rr.com
Usually  in the Marine Corps, when  things  are going  along  too  smoothly…….be  nervous.  Nolan  and  Decker  had  just  stepped  into  the  ambush  site  when  word  came back ….. “ambush!”  Nolan  slowed  to  tell  Decker  and  whispered  back  to  James  “ambush,”  There  is  no  drug  on  earth  that  can  give  you  a rush  like  the  thought  that  death  is  all  around  you.  Nolan  and  Decker  were  so  aptly  named  “Heckle  and  Jeckle”  by  Cpl.  Hughes.  At  this  moment  they  were  not  arguing  for  a  change.  They  were  seasoned  Marines  and  they  knew  they  were  in  deep  shit.  When  it  started  they  would  know  what  to  do.  Your  learned  or  you  died.  They  weren’t   dead  yet.  They  were  almost  out  of  the  kill  zone  when  it  started.  Decker’s  aka  “Jeckle  nerves  were  tight  as  a  drum.  Quick  as  a  cat,  Decker  hit  the  deck.  He  then  started  firing  short  bursts  of  fire  to  cover  Heckle’s  butt.  For  some  reason,  Nolan  seeing  a huge  tree  with  10 ft. high  roots  decided   to  run  up  the  roots.  Later,  Decker  and  Tom  Holloran  would  speculate  Nolan’s  people  had  just  come  down  out  of  the  trees.  Heckle  was  now  10 ft.  above  the  trail  and  could  see  the  gooks  coming  thru  the  jungle.  And  they  didn’t  look  up  to  see  him.  Why  would  anybody  be  up  in  the  tree?? 

He  then  chucked  a  couple  of  frags  right  in  front  of  them.  Things  for  these  two  jar  heads  were  going  pretty  good  right  now.  This  always  scared  the  hell  out  of  Nolan.  That  prick  Heckle  was  never  happy  unless  he  was  bitching  at  Decker  or  his  side  kick  Tom  Holloran.  Nolan  never  let  anyone  know  what  his  real  feelings  about  the  guys  were.  This  is  when  things  went  back  to  normal  for  heckle  and  Jeckle.  Nolan  had  jumped   down  to  the  trail  and  a  limb  off  a  thick  vine  lodged  under  his  helmet  strap  and  hung  him  three  feet  off  the  ground.  Unable  to  break  the  vine  or  free  the  strap as  people  were  shooting  at  him.  He  turned  to  Jeckle.  Decker  looked  to  see  Nolan  hanging  and  Nolan  yelled  “get  off  your  lazy  ass  and  help  me!”  As  Jeckle  jumped  up  Heckle  yelled  “unhook  the  latch  on  my  helmet.”  Jeckle  who  could  hear  the  ak.47’s,  explosions   and  Marines  screaming  had  no  intention  to  stop  and  unhook  Cpl.  Nolan’s  helmet.   Heckle  dove  helmet   first  into  Nolan’s  stomach,  Nolan  had  become   a  tackling   dummy   and  Decker  thought  he  was  Lawrence  Taylor.  This  caused   Nolan’s  helmet  buckle  to  break.  The  strap  and  buckle  burned   and  gauged  Nolan’s  neck  like  he  had survived  a  lynching.  Seconds  later,  Heckle  slammed  on  the  back  on  the  ground  with  Decker  on  top  of  him.  Nolan  hit  the  ground  so  hard  snot  flew  out  of  his  nose  and  he  bit  his  tongue.  Heckle  had  a  second  to  think  the  pain  was  over  when  his  helmet  came  falling  out  of  the  air  and  landed  on  the  bridge  of  his  nose.  Anyone   who  knows  Nolan  knows  that  nose  is  a  pretty  big  target.

L’Cpl.  Decker  could  never   remember   being   complimented   for  any  reason  by  Cpl.  Nolan.  He  knew  now  he  had  just  saved  Nolan’s  ass  and  looked  fro  a  heartfelt  “thanks.”  But  what   Decker   got  from  that  maniac   prick  was  this…..you  “f__king  idiot  are  you  trying  to  kill  me?!,  I’m  on  your  side,  stupid.”  As  this  point,  in  a  moment   of  rebellion,   told  Nolan  “I  should  have   left  you  hanging!”  When  he  saw  the  nasty  smile  on   Decker’s  face  Nolan   was  at  a  loss  for  words  for  the  first  time  that  Decker  could  remember.   It  was  about   this  time  the  “pineapple”   came  running  up  to  find  Decker  laying   on  Nolan  with  his  head  in  his  crotch.  They  quickly  got  out  of  that   position.  As  Cpl.  Nolan  looked  back  down  the  trail,  he  knew  that  had  to  go  back  into  that  hell.  There  was  simply  no other  choice….those  were  their  friends  back  there.  Decker  saw  Nolan  look  back  and  hearing  the  screams  knew  what  Nolan  was  going  to  ask  him  to  do.  Decker  had  lived  so  long  with  Heckle  and  been  so  close  they   didn’t  have  to  talk.  Decker  was  scared  shitless  but  like  always,   he  did  what   he  had  to  do.  This  wasn’t   the  first  time  “that  prick  Nolan”  put  him  on  one  of  these  fixes.  If  Heckle puts  the  epitaph  on  Jeckle’s  grave  it  will  read “HE  ALWAYS  CAME  WHEN  OTHERS  DIDN’T  DARE.”
Some Days Are Forgotten But Never Medina
Elmer Berndt – Machine Gunner – Hotel 2/1

I was the tail end Charley on Medina when hell came to visit.  I was carrying an M-60 machine gun and six hundred belted rounds that day.  A single word passed back down the line “ambush”.  My guts fell like mashed potatoes.  It’s long odds to survive one if you are the last man.  My poker playing buddy Maples could give the odds.  I wish he was here now.  He’s not only older but pretty savvy.  There’s a burst of fire in front of me.  I hit the ground and I face to the rear.  I almost shit – there coming down the trail is a squad of  NVA.  I’m just off the trail and completely hidden by hanging vines.  I opened up at the first gook and shot him about 10 times before he fell.  “What the hell is going on?”  The trail is about 2 feet wide and they are lined up like ducks in a row.  The ones in the rear are unable to see anything until they get up front.  Then it is too late for them.  I am amazed how much they take before dropping.

There’s no one coming now and I can hear the sounds of our guys.  It doesn’t sound good or likely any help coming soon. I now know I am back here on my own.  It’s scary when you are given time to think.  Occasionally I see gooks moving thru the jungle and the firing up front tells me where they are headed.  I see an NVA carrying something at about 15 yds.  I drop him.  About 15 secs. later there’s a big explosion.  That’s what he was carrying - satchel charges.  Theses guys are serious. I now know I am in deep shit.

There’s still heavy fire upfront and I am down to 200 rounds.  Short bursts only and at sure killing distance.
I’m pretty much scared shitless now.  I now look for anything hopeful.  I’m still alive and there’s some tough god damn Marines up there fighting back.  SauSau, Miller, Decker, Maples, Martines and Nolie are tough seasoned Marines.  I know they will come back for me.  SauSau because he was probally the greatest Marine I ever knew.  Nolan will come because I owe him $50 and he wouldn’t let me off the hook for any reason.  Don’t ever play poker with Nolan and Maples.

Nolie and I go back a ways.  Last May, a land mine got him and me.  There were 10 of us to start that day.  We split into 2 groups to trap some slant eyes we saw.  The other five moved off to get on the other side of them.  As we moved to set up, a new guy stepped on a land mine.  The blast blew off half his leg and killed our M-79 man.  I was blown into Nolie and he bounced off a tree and was standing up shaking with most of his pants blown off.  He’s got 15-20 holes in his leg and my smashed M-60 bounced off his nose.  Bet that hurt.  I look down and realize my legs are worse than Nolan’s’.  I have huge wounds with dirt blasted into them so there’s little bleeding.  Nolie’s only bleeding from a hole in his groin.  He stuck a piece of his t-shirt in the hole and is tending to the kid with half a leg.

I think Nolan was probally the most sarcastic guy I ever knew.  The 5th. kid had been posted to guard our rear and came running up and says “Cpl. should I go get help?”.  Nolie’s reply goes something like this “no you should stand there and watch us bleed to death you stupid idiot.”  As the kid stands there looking sort of dumbfounded, Nolie says “ I think I will shoot this moron just for laughs”.  That kid reached speeds close to forty.  My legs won’t support me yet so Nolie drags us all close together for safety.  His weapon is the only working weapon we have.  The green horn met D’Angelo coming back.  He had heard the explosion.  He was a great squad leader and took charge and called a med-vac.  When the chopper arrived two guys took security and Mike and three others carried out our two fallen comrades.  Nolie carries most of my weight.  I out weigh him by 30 pounds.  I am getting some of the feeling back and am able to carry my own.  About 50 yds. from the chopper Nolie drops from loss of blood.  I’m not sure what happened but  I somehow picked him up and carried him in my arms.  He pushes his shirt in the hole and off we went.  I dropped him on his head in the chopper and after he helped drag me in he chewed me out.  Our blood mingled that day and we are bound to be friends for life. 

Back at Medina -  I can now hear explosions and heavy firing coming my way.  God I hope it is us.  It’s not soon after that someone touches my foot.  My heart raced, my lungs stopped working and I almost screamed.  At first I didn’t know if I should kiss him or shoot him.  I’m sure he snuck up on me because – “ that’s his sense of humor.  It was that no good asshole Nolan.  He then tells me how bad it is.  I’m shocked by the losses.  I pull back closer to the guys and I can now see what had taken place,  It was the worst scene of horror and violence I have ever seen.  “Nuff said.”  Nolie sends a guy back to sit with me.  Just when I was pissed at him.

I watch a captain come up to Nolan and Decker.  His radio man is in shock and sobbing.  No one seems to notice.  I never heard that incident mentioned again.  The captain called in the choppers.  Nolan and Decker take charge of the dead.  They gently placed them on poncho liners for others to carry out.  One of our dead comrades wounds are so serious Henry Decker can’t touch him.  He looks at Nolie and makes a strange noise. They were close enough Nolie knew without words.  He gently picked up this poor soul by himself and lays him on a poncho.  Blood brothers one all.  I got the other guy watching the trail so I can see the other guys.  As I watch they all slowly carry out the dead.  The last two I see are Decker and Maples.  I am just about to get our two butts out when I see Nolie coming back.  The three of us guard the trail while the engineers blow up unexploded satchel charges. Finally we got our asses out of that jungle.

Later I would find out why the gooks were so hard to kill.  Nolan and Decker found needles in their packs and Maples says they were juiced up on something.  We didn’t need to be juiced.  Semper Fi - Do or Die!

That was one of the days I can remember from my past.  I know without my Marine training I could not have made my stand.  I also know that the knowledge Sau, Maples, Decker, Miller, Nolie and the rest would come for me gave me hope.

In Nam that was all you had – friends and hope.
Medina  Memories  By  Heckle  and  Jeckle
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