I will only die one time

The deep-red sun was just clearing the horizon.

Lyndon Kessler
3 min readOct 15, 2021
“Tombstones” Alex Duffy on Unsplash

In flight from a mountain outpost, BOSS came on Com.

It was hard to hear over the Whop-Whopping of the blades, the turbo whine of the engine.

“We’re going in for a Medi-Vac. Two miles out. We have ten squads pinned down. Heavy fire from NVA and VC. In the middle of a rice paddy.”

COP came on COM, “BOSS, just fly. I have the COMS and Internal OPS. Two Cobra Gunships, incoming, three minutes out. Artillery, incoming now. Our landing zone is Yellow Smoke. Stay away from Purple.”

The nose of our Huey dropped to pick up speed. Straight ahead were clouds of colored smoke.

Our Huey headed to a cloud of yellow. Further ahead, a vast, spread-out area of Purple Smoke.

Our Huey slowed. Straight forward was our yellow smoke. We hovered two feet above the ground, shy of the yellow smoke. Two hundred yards ahead, purple smoke was spread across an outcrop of the jungle, the other side of the rice paddy.

Incoming ARTY screamed overhead. Antipersonnel and high-explosive rounds were pounding the Purple. White Phosphorus rounds exploded. White-hot burning sparks burst into the air, raining down burning everything they touched.

Our Huey was the first chopper to arrive. Two Cobra Attack Gunships flew over us. One Cobra split to the left, the other to the right. Hovering low to the ground, the Cobras opened fire. Four Mini-Guns were firing 4,000 rounds per minute. Four 40mm Automatic grenade launchers opened up, Firing every 2 seconds, high explosive rounds. The Cobras split the out-going enemy fire while they destroyed the enemy.

The Arty stopped. Air Traffic Control ordered the Cobras to withdraw.

Jets and Fixed-Rotor Planes began their attack runs. Skipping Napalm bombs were falling from above, I could feel the heat of burning Napalm boiling in the air.

Chief was yelling at me to unplug my COMS, “Fetcher, push the Sixty away, get on the Skid, bring on the wounded!”

My feet slipped, I landed on my butt. I stood up and saw a Combat Medic and a wounded Grunt coming to me. The medic was half carrying the wounded Grunt. The grunt was hop-skipping on one foot. The grunt was spitting blood. I helped the medic lift the grunt up to Chief. Chief drug the grunt to the back of the Huey.

Thwack…Thwack…Thwack…ThwackThwackThwack. We began taking rounds from Charlie. The medic tossed two canvass bags to Chief. “Bandages and Morphine, Morphine is for the screamers. I’m going back for Triage!”

The medic got shot twice as he turned to leave. Once in the left shoulder, once in the stomach. I lifted the medic up to Chief. As Chief was dragging the medic, he got shot through his left calf. Chief tied a Field Dressing Bandage around his calf to stop the bleeding. We continued to take on more wounded.

Chief stepped into the doorway to wave off the medics with more wounded. He hobbled over, tapped BOSS on the shoulder. Pointing up he yelled, “We’re Outa Here!” Chief sat on the deck next to me. Chief started laughing and clapping me on the back. “Look at that!”, he yelled.

Squadrons of Hueys were landing to take on the wounded. Air-Mobile Infantry mopped up the enemy. This was a total victory for us.

In less than 25 minutes, I discovered the one thing I know for sure. I will only die one time. I will live every day until the end of my time. Every day is a promise of the best day of my life. Life is a promise fulfilled every day.



Lyndon Kessler

I am a Vietnam Vet, my wife and I retired to Arizona December, 2013 after a lifetime living in California. I use Apple computers since 9/11.