Point Man Up
Why does a homeowner have a U.S. flag hanging on their front porch? Is he a veteran, perhaps has a family member in the military? Is the flag moving because the wind blows it, or could it come from the last breath of a soldier or sailor who died protecting it? Most veterans understand.
What passion would drive an angel to suddenly appear in July 1967 in a dangerous place like Vietnam in the city of Khe Sanh? This was a hellhole, unkind jungle, so amazed the Marine grunt could only mutter a prayer: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light and guide.”
The wounded Marine was hit with shrapnel and bleeding badly. He and his friend were hit and losing blood rapidly. For more than 15 months, he was fighting the Viet Cong, patrolling in this wet, unbearably hot place, sometimes reaching 129 degrees. At times the patrols would last 80 hours and without sleepp in swampy 5-foot-high elephant grass while trying to avoid snakes and blood-sucking mosquitoes, enduring bloody blistering feet.
The only reward at day’s end would be a few hours rest in a moldy platoon tent. Fighting these is much different than hunting back in the mountains of Pennsylvania. This prey shoots back. He was a short, his time to go back to the world was near and now with his chest ripped and leg hit by the shrapnel and losing blood rapidly the dream of going by to the world and his home and girlfriend was filling his head.
Soon the Western Union Telegraph arrived for his parents to read. “Your son Walter T. Steinbacher was wounded.” The book, “Point Man Up,” has so much more about one Marine’s memories of Vietnam. It tells how emotional it was to have his first visitors at the Naval Hospital in Philaldelphia. Only a few days after he arrived in the ward, my parents and I visited. My father James and his father Walter were brothers and I had just returned from the Navy serving on a ship overseas. The book really gets in your head. Letters to Wally’s girlfriend Diane add so much to the emotional true story. I think Otto has this book.