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Watch Your Walk--Lessons from a Vietnam Vet  

Vietnam, 1968, Lai Khe (northwest of Saigon).

In the signature dank and darkness known only to jungles, infantry platoon Sargent Russ Caforio stepped warily.  Their mission was to set up an ambush along a known enemy route.  “There were ten of us,” he recalls. “We carried Claymore mines, M-16’s, grenades, a Starlight scope, and a radio."

That, and something much less flashy. “We also brought a spool of thin filament, similar to a fine fish line, which we strung around the perimeter of our ambush site about 100 feet out.”

A low tech surveillance tool, it was surprisingly effective.  "If that line got broken" (an enemy soldier leaving their sequestered position), an alarm I carried would go off."  But did it?

"About 10 pm, the alarm went off. I turned on the Starlight scope and surveyed the field across the route spotting hundreds of Viet Cong soldiers.  I prayed for wisdom and called for indirect fire support. I had our forces fire a ring of 81mm shells in a circle around me every 10 minutes all night until 6:30 the next morning.  That was a night of intense prayer.”

At dawn, Russ and his platoon finally broke ambush and returned to base camp, a very thankful group of men. At my request, Russ shared some pictures. 

I surmised it had to feel creepy wading through jungle swamps, insects, parasites, and every make and model of Asian critters in those waters. His reply:

“We never knew what the next step would bring in water or jungle or what we might find in our fatigues. Lots of leeches, snakes, booby traps. Not much different than our daily walk!"

One last detail.  This entire drama played out just six-tenths of a mile away from base camp.  Lesson: Trouble is never far away. Better watch our daily walk!

As for Russ Caforio, I invite you to join me in saluting this great American veteran.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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