By Keith Nightingale

This piece originally appeared on my Facebook page in March, 2019. My friend, Keith Nightingale is a former U.S. Army Colonel who served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division (1/502nd) and the 75th Rangers Battalion.  Grunts will understand what he’s written here…


The Cherry

We need him.

We hate him.

He is here because others are not.

We hate what he means.

Why he is here.

We have to save him, so we don’t need more of him.

The uniform is so clean.

The weapon and gear are fresh and bright.

The boots are shined.

Overloaded ruck.

The cherry.

Glazed look.

Quiet, reflective. Haunting, inquisitive looks. A deer in the headlight.

Go to 1st squad. They are lightest.

Hope he sees daylight.

Getting dark quick. Burned daylight to get him.

Make him smart quick.

Overburdened hump to the perimeter.

What’s his name?


We will get introduced later.

Dark is quick. 1st squad has OP.

Pair the cherry with Davis. Get him trained quick. 

You lead. He can follow.

Stay with him. 

Fire. Explosions. OP Claymore touches off.

Do not go out there!

Arty. Danger Close. Down!

Bright flashes. Overwhelming noise. Mad minute.

Deathly silent. Now……….

Deep breaths. A panting perimeter. Silence shrouds.

OP status?

No status.

Do not move.

Wait for daylight.

Clear the OP.

Found Davis and parts of the cherry.

Bring in the log bird.

Shined boots hold the poncho.

Cherry inbound. Cherry KIA outbound.

What was his name?

Dunno. Ask Doc.

Not important.

Move out.


How many of you readers recall instances where you lost a fellow soldier within the first few days of his arrival and not knowing his name?

Thank you, again, Keith for writing another superb piece about the Vietnam War.  To read Keith’s other article, The Bush, click here:

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