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— Then I went on another operation with a company of the 91st. We got into a world of hurt, and I got shot in the arm, trying and failing to save the life of a guy I'd just met. We had six choppers down on and around the LZ (landing zone) and about 30 percent casualties. We were surrounded by at least a battalion of NVA. The next day we fought our way from that LZ to another that wasn't surrounded. Chuck had scrounged choppers from all over the Corps area to get us out.

He was at the hospital when I got there. We were pretty sure I'd lose the arm. I didn't, thanks to the great job done by Doc Taylor, Delta's chief medic. Even so, it lost a lot of motion and strength.

That was the end of my military career. Chuck retired a few years later. He started a publication called the National Vietnam Veteran's Review. I wrote him a few pieces, and he reviewed my books.

In 1983 I shattered my pelvis on a skydive in North Carolina and spent a few weeks in the Ft. Bragg hospital.

Parenthetically, Ft. Bragg probably has half the paratroopers in the U.S. Army stationed there, and I was the only parachuting injury on the orthopedic ward. Everybody else was there for motorcycle injuries.

Chuck picked me up from the hospital, literally. I was having a hard time getting out of his Mark IV Continental, and he reached in and snapped me out like a mama cat picking up a kitten. I am 6´2´´ and weighed 200 pounds at the time. He took me to his home and the next day took me to the plane back to New York, where I lived and worked at the time.

The last time I saw Chuck was at his home in Fayetteville, North Carolina, last September, for the 50th anniversary of Special Forces. His hair had turned silver, and he'd grown a goatee. He'd lost about a hundred pounds, maybe more. He'd had a foot amputated due to diabetes and was confined to a wheelchair. But he still had the same moral force, sardonic humor, his great love for life and for the world of elite fighting men that we had somehow survived. I am so glad, so very glad, that I got to see him that one more time.

Usually pieces like this end saying, "We shall not see his like again." But we will and have -- in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Something about the ideal of freedom makes courage and dedication a renewable resource. His body has gone to the ground, his soul has gone to heaven, but his spirit has gone back to Special Forces.

Airborne!

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