Hock's Night Out
by David N. Muxo
I remember one day we
stopped humping early, maybe three or four in the afternoon. We hadn't had any
contact for a while, and we were in the middle of nowhere, so we were not expecting
any trouble. We put out security and dug fox holes, cut poles for overhead cover,
filled sand bags and covered the poles. Then we put up our shelters by snapping
two ponchos together and hanging them over a rope tied between two trees. This was
all a daily routine, and we had gotten pretty good at doing all this fairly quickly.
The previous night it had been pretty dark out, almost no moon and cloudy. So we
figured that it would be darker, with no moon. We ran string between the shelters
and the fox holes, and between fox holes so that we could move around after dark
without problem. Then we put out trip flares and claymore mines. It was still
light, so after we ate we cleaned our M-16s (not everyone at once, of course). I'm
sure that there was a red-haired guy, from Texas I think, in the fox hole with me,
and Hock. "Red" (I can't remember his name) was new in country, and was nervous
about making sure that his weapon was clean, because he had heard stories about
the M-16 not working when it got dirty. Anyway, I checked it for him, and it was
Night fell, and we bedded down for the night, with "Red" on guard in the fox hole.
Hock and I went to sleep, I thought. Well, apparently Hock had forgotten to
answer nature's call before we settled in. Before I go any farther I have to say
a couple of things about Hock. He wasn't a bad guy, but he shouldn't have been a
grunt. He couldn't move without making noise. If he had been an indian in the
old west he would have died young. The fact that he survived and went home (way to
go, Hock!) had to be the biggest stroke of luck during the war.
Well, it was quiet, too quiet. I was just about asleep, when I heard a shot.
Even though I wasn't fully awake, I knew that it wasn't an ordinary shot. Didn't
sound right somehow. It turned out that Hock had gone outside of the perimeter, in the
dark, without making a sound... I'll let that sink in for a moment. Remember, this
is Hock we're talking about. Somehow he got by "Red" on the way out without "Red"
knowing about it. Once out there, Hock did his thing, and then realized that he
didn't know where he was! It was so dark he got turned around and didn't know
which way to go to get back. He panicked and started stumbling around and making
so much noise that "Red" thought there was an attack in progress.
"Red" had a round chambered already, so he fired. Well, if you know anything about
the M-16 you know that the spent shell casing flies out to the right through a hole
in the right side of the rifle after the bullet fires. So the right side is
the weak side. Luckily most of us had our cheek on the left side, and that was the
case with "Red". The right side of the rifle blew out, and the round never left
the barrel. That's why it didn't sound right, but we didn't really know until the
next morning how extensive the damage was to the weapon.
In the meantime, Hock had made it back to the foxhole without getting shot at by
anyone else. I'm convinced that Hock would have been dead if the rifle hadn't
blown up, because it turned out that he had only gone out a couple of yards. I
don't think he was even out beyond the trip flares, because he didn't set any of
End of story, right? Well, not quite. Seems that the Army, represented by the
company CO, decided that the rifle had blown up because it was dirty. And it was
dirty because "Red" hadn't kept it clean. They wanted to charge him $140.00 to
replace it. I made a lot of noise about that, and swore up and down that the
weapon had been cleaned that day. The CO decided not to charge him, but he was
mad at me for a while. I didn't care. "Red" was one of my guys, and it was my job
to take care of him, just as others had taken care of me. That's the way it was