Wednesday, February 1, 2017
The Day I Will Never Forget from Vietnam by Ryan Gabriele
The Day I Will Never Forget from Vietnam
A young man named James Muniz walked aimlessly along the Vietnam Memorial Wall (VMW). He stumbled along an old man staring at the wall while sitting in a chair. James walked by as he mumbled to himself, “What the hell is wrong with that guy?”
The old man heard James and said, “Nothing is wrong with this guy”.
Then, he motioned for James to come over. As James walked over the man said, “See all these names, these men were my brothers, these men helped me get home. “Can I tell you a story?”
James replied, “Well I guess I have some time.”
The old man looked at him and pointed at a name on the wall; it read Major Jeffrey St. Peter. The old man said, “This man saved my life. He was there when all else failed and I thought my life had come to an end. It all started in Vietnam . . .
There was constant gunfire even though we were at base camp. The helicopters were constantly bringing in the wounded. I had just arrived in Vietnam, after being drafted six months prior. As I went to check in, Major Jeffrey St. Peter came up to me and said, ‘Welcome to Florida, the pool is over there, and the bar is down the hall.’
As I looked left to right he said, ‘Are you serious private? You are in Vietnam. You are not in Florida. ’
I started to salute the Major, and as I did that, he tackled me and said, ‘You are nuts. Private, there are snipers everywhere looking for majors and generals to kill.’
As he helped me up he asked, ‘What’s your name?’
‘Private Pastagal, sir.’
He handed me a paper, so I opened it and read my assignment. It said that I was a part of his regiment. The major then looked at me and said, ‘Get some rest. We move out at 0800. We’re going to the front line.”
That night, I couldn’t sleep at all. The only thing that ran through my mind was the thought of my possible death the next day. 0800 came, and it was time to move out. I grabbed my rifle and my gear, and we started to move out through the jungle. As we walked along in our formation, we heard animals screeching. We came upon an opening.
Major St. Peter said ‘Men grab your shovels and get digging.’
We dug out fox holes, there were two of us to each one. I was with Private Mason. It was so quiet that we didn’t even hear the animals anymore. Mason looked up to scan the perimeter. BANG The roar of gunfire broke out, and when I looked next to me, Mason was dead. I couldn’t believe it. I started to shoot back towards where the shots were coming from. I started to hear whistles through the air; it was mortar shells. They had us cornered. Then I saw our men turn and run, screaming ‘Retreat!’
As I got up to run, a mortar pierces my foxhole. I got thrown about forty feet. When I regained control of my body, I got up and began to run. The enemy was closing in. I ran through a bush then BANG. I felt a sharp pain in my thigh. I fell to the ground realizing I had been shot. I didn’t know what to do. I shot at a few men as they ran by. Then as one of the Vietnamese soldiers ran towards me, I attempted to shoot. I had no ammo left. He ran at me with his bayonet. I closed my eyes, there was nothing else I could do. I heard shots. It was Major St. Peter. He bent down and picked me up. As he ran he said, ‘No brother left behind.’ We were almost there, I could see base camp, then BANG. BANG. Major St. Peter was shot, he got up and kept running. We made it to base camp and the medics came to our aid. I was laying on the ground. I looked next to me, and Major St. Peter was dead.
I looked at his body and cried. He gave his life to save me. I couldn’t believe he did that. I was eternally thankful. When we got back here not many people were happy with us for fighting the war. I never forgot about Major St. Peter. When I heard they put this monument up, I had to visit it.”
James looked at Pastagal, and he said, “Thank you for everything you did, and I am very sorry for your loss, Major St. Peter is a war hero.”
James replied, “No problem, any time.”Then James walked away, and the old man said one last goodbye to Major St. Peter. Old Private Pastagal would visit Major St. Peter’s memorial on the same day each year and pay his respects. James had initially gone to the monument that day to do research for a paper. After listening to Private Pastagal’s story, James was excited to share what he learned for the project. James’ teacher was very impressed with what he had written. He told him he should make the story into a book so that others could learn about Major St. Peter’s courage and deeds.