Strength & Honor

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Nick Donvito

Selected Excerpts

Balls of Steel
Nick Donvito (US Army grunt)

". . . The next morning, January 28, we got our compass heading and moved out with me walking slack in the point team. Pepe hadn't been feeling well and so I had walked first on point three days in a row, stretching my luck. Warren was too inexperienced to be on point so I walked slack, covering Pepe on point while Warren stayed close behind me.

It was still early, about 07:30 and Pepe was moving too fast. I wasn't close enough to cover him as he topped a small hill and disappeared on his way down, so I stepped faster and power-whispered "Don't get so far ahead, Pepe," and just as I said that a couple of things happened that would change my life.

I topped the hill and looked down because something unusual caught my eye, and just as I heard Boom! I saw a corrugated steel roof and under it were huge pots of boiling rice. I knew in a heartbeat, Oh, shit, we stumbled into an enemy base camp with a big mess hall and just as I saw it they blew a Claymore on Pepe.

I ran after Pepe through the thick undergrowth while Warren ran after me. When I got to Pepe I bent down to him just as I spotted another American Claymore mine and yelled, "Look out!" to Warren while I instinctively turned my head and that's when it blew and sent one big pellet into my head just in front of my right ear, broke my cheekbone and came out just on the outside corner of my right eye. If I hadn't turned, the pellet would have gone through my head and maybe killed me. The blood on my face and chest came so fast it was like someone hit me with a bucket of hot water and it hurt like hell.

But I was the lucky one.

Warren Eskeridge, the new guy who looked to me for guidance, caught the Claymore's blast full on in the chest and stomach. He was torn up bad and as he lay there dying his last words were "Oooh, Nick!"

They were hitting us from all sides.

Pepe was dead. I wasn't sure if Warren was still alive and I was trying to drag him back out of the shitstorm when an NVA soldier in a tree shot me through the forearm; my ulna bone was now sticking out. They were everywhere, in the trees, in spider holes, everywhere, and we just walked into them, into their ambush on us. I tried again to drag Warren and they shot me in the hip and my leg was suddenly gone, I couldn't walk, couldn't stand up and I couldn't find my leg, then I found it up behind my head. It was weird, my leg was gone but I could wiggle my toes.

The gunfire was deafening but I was in my own zone, time slowed down to a fascinating slow rate. I tried to stay calm. I still had my pack on my back and was sitting up, they were still shooting at me but I guess my training kicked in and I assessed my wounds one by one. I could only feel my face, I couldn't see it, my ulna bone was sticking about three inches out of my arm and my leg was messed up bad. The pain was incredible but I thought I had a chance to live through it. Two medics were hit trying to get to me. Pepe and Warren were dead. The firefight was very heavy, ferocious. Guys were getting hit all over the place. . . ."

Photo courtesy of Nick Donvito
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