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Unforgiving Jungle: The Vietnam War

~ a war scene by Vivek Subramanian (13 years old), inspired by World War II and the Vietnam War

The Two Thousand Yard Stare, by Tom Lea

In the scorching hot summer, the sound of crackling gunshots, chilling shrieks, and blasting grenades raged on. Mateo and his troops kept moving cautiously through the dense humid jungle. It was hard to see anything through the thick foliage. There were thorns pricking them, roots tripping them, and relentless insects biting through their skin. The disorienting labyrinth-like jungle made it so easy to get lost, which was what happened to Mateo.

He tried to retrace his footsteps but the jungle seemed to mess up his sense of direction. Every tree and bush looked no different from one another. The density of the jungle just made it more confusing.

After going round and round in circles, his head spun and he started to feel drowsy.

The little sanity left in him guided him to pull his canteen toward his bone dry mouth. Gulping two mouthfuls of the muddy water collected from the river, he licked his cracked lips, hoping the taste of blood would help him regain some focus.

Aimlessly, Mateo staggered on, until he heard a group of people talking in an unfamiliar language… Vietnamese?

Adrenaline rushed through his body, his arteries pulsated, and his pupils dilated. “Run!” he thought as he instinctively dashed and hid behind a bush.

“Bang!” Mateo heard a gunshot from the opposite side of him. He peeked to the side of the bush. “Thud.” One of the Vietnamese soldiers had bitten the dust. Mateo heard random shouts in the foreign language as the Vietnamese troop darted towards the sound of the gunshot.

Stealthily, Mateo moved to the side of the bush to get a better view of the scene. He lay flat on his belly and quietly took out his sniper.

“Not a sound now, not a sound” he thought to himself as he carefully took aim at the chest of a soldier's heart. “Bang!” right where he wanted. “Thud.” Another man down. By then, chaos.

The remaining Vietnamese soldiers caterwauled and scurried wildly for cover. Gunshot after gunshot, “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” as the Vietnamese fell down one by one like fallen domino blocks, until there was only but one soldier left.

The skinny underfed yet extremely quick survivor ran into an entrance of a tunnel system that was one hundred and twenty-one kilometers long. Michael, one of Mateo’s friends, tried to run into the tunnel. It was far too small for him, but it was too late. His waist was stuck, he tried to yank himself out but there was no point. Mateo and a few other marines came to try to rescue him. “Bang!” Michael groaned.

Joseph asked, “Have you been shot?” “Ah crap! Just get me outta here,” he cried. “On three we pull him out,” Sam yelled, “Ready? One, two, three!” Michael roared. No movement. “Dig around him to make the tunnel bigger,” Sam shouted frantically. The ground was parched dry and rock hard. “Damn!” Mateo barked as he used the butt of his sniper to pound on the ground. Parts of it cracked. He smacked it again, and it crumbled down. “Pull him out on three! One, two, three!” Finally, the troops managed to heave him out of the hole.

Michael lay on the rocky terrain, heavily panting. His body was covered in dirt and sweat. He looked below his waist, at his right foot. Blood trickled. Mateo took his glove off and pressed it against the wound and saw that Michael immediately scrunched up his face. The situation wasn’t ideal and they were in the middle of an unforgiving jungle with the merciless war continuing on. The sun was going down, and fast too. They had to reach base before dark.

“Joesph and Sam, hold him by his hands, Paul and I will carry him by his feet, and Seth and Nick by his waist.” Mateo ordered, “On three. Ready? One, two, three, lift!” Mateo and his troop carried Michael through the dense jungle. Their place slowed down as they tried to navigate their way back to base.

Darkness started to creep in making every step perilous as every rock, every root, and every ditch could twist an ankle, break a leg, or something of that sort.

“Guys look ahead, there’s light!”

“Ahh let’s hurry.”

“Nick go and call a medic, I’ll be able to support his waist without you.”

When they reached camp, there were cheers and claps from fellow marines and Michael was sent to the medics where he would get treatment for his leg. Mateo and his team were able to survive another day in the jungle… but who knew what was going to happen next?

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