Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Wayne Robert FELDE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Escape attempt - Vietnam syndrome
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 20, 1978
Date of arrest: Same day (wounded by Police)
Date of birth: March 25, 1949
Victim profile: Thomas Glenn Tompkins (Shreveport Police Officer)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Caddo Parish, Louisiana, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Louisiana on March 15, 1988


by James J. Klaus (aka JJLee)

What is Past is Prologue

Anti-war Demonstrators shouted, "Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?"

Those were times of frightening, near revolutionary turmoil in America.  Charismatic President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before he was able to bring the American troops back from Vietnam.  Few Americans believed the government's version of the murder. His brother, Bobby, planned to run for president, and end the Vietnam conflict. He was also murdered. JFK's Vice President escalated the war. The more President  Lyndon B. Johnson increased military presence in Vietnam, the more citizens hit the streets and campuses to protest. Anti-war protesters crashed the national Democratic Convention in Chicago hoping to muscle some influence on who would become president in 1968.  Demonstrators, clubbed and maced by helmeted Chicago Police, shouted as TV cameras rolled.

"The whole world is watching!" 

Many believed a conspiracy of wealthy global families and influential persons in the military industrial complex had taken over the government.

The Armed Forces Examining Stations were inundated with young men. Many whose draft lottery numbers had been called breathed a sigh of relief when they were rejected for military service. Others were strongly motivated to stay in college to keep  their draft exempt status.  Canada became  haven for some who preferred to surrender their United States citizenship rather than face  war in Vietnam.  By April 1969 there were 543,400 U. S. troops in Vietnam.

Reports continued to filter back. In several Vietnam hamlets, U.S. Army forces allegedly brutalized and massacred several hundred unarmed civilians, the majority women and children.

United States "Police Action" in Vietnam  was condemnatory by the American people. 30, 610  Americans were killed in action by the end of 1968.  The Pentagon reported  503,926 incidents of desertion by U.S. troops occurred between 1966 and 1973.

Influenced by news media, Americans believed the conflict in Vietnam was a stalemate.  The  public had a stomach full.  They influenced the government to abandon the war. High ranking officers were frustrated because they felt victory close at hand. During the Vietnamese Tet Offensive the enemy lost ten soldiers to every one American casualty. Civilians, troops, and veterans as well, felt the sacrifices and the losses American forces endured were in vain because of the early withdrawal.

Many Americans saw men and women in our Armed Forces as brutal cowards and baby killers. Returning troops bore the brunt of their embarrassment over America losing the war, and disgust concerning American troops alleged treatment of Vietnamese non-combatants. The troops were not given a homecoming welcome as heroes, but were treated  with total disdain and disgust by many. 

As Bob Dylan sang,"The times they are a-changin"


Chapter 1


"Here comes our ride, guys."  The bravado in Wayne's posturing and commanding voice belied the fear building in his gut. He and five other green replacements,"Twinkies," "FNG's-Fucking New Guys," were  fresh meat from charm school, the brief orientation given to arriving recruits. They were apprehensive as they watched the Huey drop tail and flare in. This is the real deal, he thought, no more obvious lessons like learning that Victor Charlie is radio parlance meaning VC, Viet Cong , Charlie, Chuck, the enemy. No more practice; we're going in. The man in the door waved them forward. Under the swirling rotor noise they ran in a crouch to the skids. They pulled off burned, bloodied, stinking corpses and body parts before sliding across the chopper's  aluminum deck slick with gore.  Fighting rampant emotions of grief, revulsion and fear, Wayne kept his head down. He tried to control his  tears and the heaving in his gut. Men don't cry. The rush of air increased as the chopper nosed down before lifting into flight.  Too soon, squinting through his tears, he saw greasy black smoke seamed with crimson flames rising from the jungle.

The flight seemed far too short before the chopper dropped in low and hot next to the tree line. The man in the door swung his M60 out of the way. The newbies piled out and entered the war.

Before their boots hit the ground, the chopper again nosed  down, then lifted quickly above the trees and was gone. An agitated figure in camouflage  gestured with his rifle. The Newbies hauled ass to the cover of the trees.  Over the sound of distant, sporadic streams of machine gun fire and explosions came a powerful command voice, "Drop your packs! Lock and load!" They headed into combat.

Medevac choppers quickly removed the wounded. Their constant whup, whup, whup , was a welcomed sound to overwhelm the sounds of distant explosions. Downward windstorms reignited small scattered fires in areas already burned over by the erroneous airdrop of napalm. The enemy was dead-or gone. Exhausted survivors moved benumbed, their inanimate  faces smeared with smoke and grime, collecting  bloody, burned, remains of their comrades to send back on the choppers.  Wayne gripped the blackened pants leg of an American GI to  put the depressing remains in a rubber body bag. Skin covering his broiled legs slid off the muscles beneath.

Wayne pushed a fist into his gut.  It churned and spasmed made ill by the stink of burned and mutilated corpses.  He repressed the nausea. He continued his job trying not to think. The choppers loaded a sickening accumulation of ghastly cadavers. He rubbed his neck, then swallowed hard, hoping to ease the burning still present after dry heaving. The acrid taste of bile still fouled  his mouth, a sour reminder of the horrifying sight and smell of war-torn corpses.

"Hey, can one of you guys help me get this poor bastard into a bag?"

Coming through the smoky haze, tears washing white stripes down his face, a robotic, weary, soldier silently stepped forward  to help.  He gripped his unrecognizable comrade under the arms.

"Let's just roll him into the bag," Wayne said with more nonchalance than he intended to convey. 

Wayne thought of the whippings his father gave him.

I can still remember how bad that leather strap stung, and it was damned embarrassing, too. But,no matter how much he laid it on, he couldn't make me cry. I never showed him how scared I was, I'd never show him. Men did not cry.

They struggled to maneuver the burned corpse into a rubber bag. Head down and turned away, the other man did not see the tears pouring down his face. 

The robot glared at him.

Wayne realized his mistake and tried to show some empathy. "I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean nothing. What happened here?"

He recalled the horror of the ambush.  The soldier's fist punched the air; his eyes were wide with anguish.  There was no missing the agony in his crazed stare. His voice cracked, and he choked on the words,

"Damned rookie C.O., should have fragged him... always in a rush, led us into an ambush! Slopes flanked us. Cut us off from behind. Bobby beside me, his guts spilling out, screaming 'til he died. Everybody in my squad died, or was hit bad. Damned gooks on all sides. How long was it?  Four hours?  We were damn near out of ammo before somebody called in the air strike on top of us."

Wayne struggled to control his emotions; dying was not the issue. He  was frightened he would not perform well; afraid  he would let his friends down; scared they would know how frightened he was. He was not a coward.

He heard, "Move out."  Five newbies joined the line of ragged, combat savvy soldiers.  They moved toward the gunfire through brush turned to ash and blackened  shattered trees. The bodies of enemy soldiers were reminiscent of crumpled, charred, burlap bags. The smell of napalm, gunpowder, and smoke overwhelmed the senses and carried a tinge of something that could be mistaken for frying bacon. Wayne's stomach tried to heave into his throat again, as he looked away from the  smoldering corpse of an enemy soldier.

Two men hustled back along the line. The tallest, a black soldier, Carl, was smiling; his eyes  bloodshot and dry. He seemed to be enjoying himself-- happy to be there, but  anxious to keep moving. His massive left bicep was wrapped with a tattered bandage stained darker than his skin. Large blotches on his pants matched the filthy stains on the bandage. He carried an M60 machine gun effortlessly.  A lanyard with a dozen VC ears hanging as souvenirs was looped to his vest.

"C'mon, let's have some fun. You Twinkies on me. We gonna flank them hooches up ahead while Sarge's rifle squad keep on drawing  fire. Tha's my main man, Junior, over there,"  Carl said, grinning and pointing to the surly unshaven man with him. Carl's  brutish looking A-gunner, Junior, a short, burly, white soldier was also smiling. They seemed on their way to a party, and were anxious to get going. The ammo belts  and grenades hanging from Junior caused Wayne to feel  ill-equipped to plunge into combat with experienced men like these. 

He wondered, are these guys for real? They could be psycho or stoned...or both. I hope they know what the hell they are doing. He tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but  there was no saliva.  He wondered, Can they hear my pounding  heart? Can they tell I'm scared?  Wayne was not a coward. He wiped a forearm over the film of cold sweat on his forehead. Determined,  he tightened his fingers on the stock of his M16 until his knuckles were white, and prepared to move out.

"Listen to  me.  You might live through this," Junior rasped.  He jerked a thumb over his shoulder and said, "You new guys fall in behind me, a man every ten yards. Stay quiet." The smile on his face got brighter, and he angled an elbow toward Carl. "We get in position, the M60 opens up. You open up. Y'all keep your heads down. Most of the gooks are in them hooches. We're gonna git some."

The line of newbies and the bloodied warriors strung out.  They moved to the right for a time, obliquely away from the charred area. Wayne cursed mentally.  The matted thorn bush snatched at his gear and ripped his face and hands. Ground creeping vines pulled at his ankles.  He thought, How can we stay quiet going through this?  I can hear  guys on both sides of me.

When the hand signal came back down the line, the string angled  to the left through clumped bamboo.  With the heavy brush behind them, they advanced in a silent, staggered line toward the village. As they came closer,  the spasmodic cracks of  AK47s  and lashes of automatic fire were  answered by  M16s and carbines from approaching grunts near the tree line to the left.

Wayne thought, Damn! What is that smell? Is that what Charley smells like? Them gooks are close. As he glimpsed  the corner of a hut ahead, he wondered what he was supposed to do.  A string of deadly gook lead barked the tree nearest  to his face-- thunk-thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. Chunks flew, and leaves shredded  around him. He knew the bastard  was shooting  at him. He was so  scared  he thought he was going to crap in his pants. He would rather puke. He didn't want the other men to know how frightened he was. As he dove face down, a launched  grenade arced in and exploded in the hut. The firing in his direction  stopped. He was so aware of his thumping heart he barely heard Carl's M60 open up.

When he saw two figures burst from the burning hut, he thought, We gotta kill all them rat bastards. He picked them off like deer bounding through an open field. One disappeared, the other  figure in black pajamas staggered into the clearing and crumpled.  Wayne tried to breathe the fire out of his chest as he emptied one clip, then another, at  flashes coming from the only other hut that he could see. The flashes stopped as bursts from the M60 ripped into the hut. Grenades exploded throughout the village.  Figures running through the smoky clearing shuddered then fell limp like stringless puppets as Carl continued a blistering wall of gunfire. The cacophony went on until most of the huts in the village were ablaze-- until no more gunfire was returned from the huts. It  was all over in minutes, but to Harry, lying face down on the jungle floor, paralyzed with fear, it seemed much longer. He stayed down while most of the tension left his body.  While his heartbeat and breathing slowly returned to some semblance of normality, he justified to himself the killing he had done as self defense. Wayne enjoyed the hushed gunfire for a moment before rising  to join his squad.

Flankers and Sarge's squad, wary as they approached, reviewed the carnage. More than two dozen bodies littered the village. The squad searched the enemy bodies, and collected weapons  from seventeen uniformed VC soldiers. They also found  many dead  women, children, and an old man in the burning huts and in the clearing. They lifted weapons from some of them as well. Their barrels were still warm.

"You OK Chopper? Let me give you a hand with this one."  Wayne knew Chopper didn't need any help. The young grunt from Arkansas was the largest man in the platoon, and built like an all-pro tackle. Wayne picked up the other leg of the dead VC soldier Chopper was dragging. Cadavers were searched, then deposited in the center of the clearing. 

"Damn, Wayne, I heard a lot of firing from where you was. Did you do all that shootin? What the hell were you shootin at? I didn't see nuthin;  I just opened up on them huts when Carl did."

"Yeah, I heard that's the way it always is, Chopper. Other than the snipers, mostly none of us never see if we killed anybody, but I saw the gook I shot go down." Wayne gestured with his rifle toward the center of the clearing, "He's over there."

"Let's go check him out." The tone of Chopper's voice reminded Wayne of how anxious he was as a boy to inspect the big buck  his uncle Bob shot while hunting in Pennsylvania.

"Nah man, let Carl and that other psycho do it.  They are into that crap. When I did it, it was automatic, I mean, I saw them bust out of that hooch, and I just did it,"  Wayne looked away from Chopper and continued under his breath, "... but I don't feel real good about it."

"C'mon Wayne, that's why we're here. We killed a bunch of 'em." Chopper waved  the tattooed snake on his  grimy arm toward the line of dead soldiers. "These ones won't be shooting at us no more. Let's drag this little gook over with them others."

Wayne's nerves were raw. He was always wary, always alert. He knew the VC  dug camouflaged punji pits, primitive but effective traps. Sharpened bamboo stakes covered with feces caused horrible infected wounds to the poor GI impaled on them. He watched the guy in front of him, paid attention to the veterans, and did what they did, stepped where they stepped, stopped when they stopped. At first, he didn't know anything.  But  every day he learned a little more. He learned that the enemy studied American ways.  They counted on a GI to kick a discarded Coke can, or perhaps a coconut, and trip their home made explosive device.

His eyes swept the tree line as they approached, trying to find the piece of the tangled puzzle hiding the enemy, looking for movement, some  indistinct difference in shape or hue. His  tensed nerves kept him always ready to dive for cover. He never relaxed.  Muscles tensed, he anticipated enemy rounds from every tree line and hamlet.  His senses were alert for the distinct aroma of the enemy. He imagined every  peasant to be a Viet Cong, black clad or no. In numerous brief fire fights, the enemy who employed hit and run tactics to draw them in was never visible.


Chapter 2


Before Wayne Jr. became known as Harry Hershey-  before his notions of patriotism and glory caused him to be enmeshed in the insanity of war in Vietnam- before his downhill slide began- it was 1959. Three years before his father, the elder Wayne Felde committed suicide.

Ten-year-old Wayne Robert Felde, Jr. shared a perfect afternoon for daydreaming with his uncle on a private lake in southeastern Pennsylvania.

* * * * * *

Wayne Jr. paid only casual attention to the lifeless bobber. He tugged his hat farther down.  What a bummer. I have some cool shades back at home. A lot of good that does me here, He squinted against the flaming bright sunlight; his focus pinned on an Eagle circling the lake high above.  It was just a tiny black dot in the vast cloudless summer sky.  He wondered if the predatious bird could see any big fish from way up there, and thought, My bad ass uncle will catch a primo before that bichin Eagle does.

Both the boy and the old man settled back in the boat. Their minds wandered different paths as the rocking boat and the warm afternoon lulled them into reveries. 

* * * * * *

On the Fourth of July Junior's eyes sparkled with excitement as each unit marched onto the Fairgrounds.

"This is a blast, Uncle!" Junior cried jumping up and down in front of his seat. "Thanks for bringing me. These bands are the greatest!" Uncle Bob is so cool for an old fart, he thought.

"Hey Uncle! Check out those chicks in the black and gold. Sissy should see these." The boy's gaze danced from unit to unit as they circled the arena. "Man, that band has awesome uniforms! I'd like to be one of those dudes. Playing that music would be the best. When I get in high school, I'm gonna play drums in the band." He pantomimed drumming and marched in step with the music as the band strode by.

The crowd stood when the American flag paraded by. Young Wayne thought about  how special men his father's age were; how they stood out in the crowd. Those old guys are heavy into it. They really pay attention; so quiet and respectful. They probably all were soldiers. My uncle Bob, and every one of the older guys, stand at attention with their hats off and hands over their hearts. Old soldiers passed wearing parts of uniforms from their days in the military. An emaciated old man waved to the crowd from his wheelchair. The crowd cheered. The flag and the soldiers who were in the war were special to everyone.

Dad won't talk about it. Neither will uncle Bob. But I want to be a soldier. Something really bad must have happened to dad in the war to make him so crazy sometimes. But being a soldier, it's the righteous thing. I know that freedom is not free. Didn't dad tell me how dangerous it was for the founding fathers; how righteous heroes like Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson could have lost their lives when they had the cojones to pull America loose from England?  Dad was proud of those awesome dudes in the American History books. He said that raunchy, rat-finks like Hitler would rule the world if good men stood by and did nothing. Dad and uncle Bob are proud because men in our family fought in all the wars. Those old guys know all about patriotism. Didn't they all stand up, and be quiet when the National Anthem played before the football games? I want to be like them.

He thought,"Someday I'm going to be special like them. I'm going to fight to keep America free just like they did.

* * * * * *

"Junior, pass me those night-crawlers."  Uncle Bob's voice pulled Jr. back to the present.

"The Crappies chew these wigglers off faster than I can re-bait my hook." Before reaching for the worms, Uncle Bob spat a stream of  tobacco juice. Most of it went over the side of the rowboat, some added to the brown stain coating blistering green paint.

On that hot, dead-still afternoon not a sigh of cooling breeze came over the lake. Junior was deep in thought, still and silent for a long while. Most ten-year-old boys would be checking their bait twice every minute. "Hey uncle, what did you do in the war?"

"Where did that come from?"

Junior was kicked back, the rod propped loosely in his lap ."I was just thinking. I found your stash of medals and some pictures in a stogies box with dad's books.  Grammy says you were awesome in the war. That's why the army gave you the medals. When I get in the army, I'm gonna be brave bad ass too, just like you and dad."

Bob grinned. If only Junior knew the way it was,he thought.

* * * * * *

As young men, Junior's uncle Bob and Wayne, Junior's dad, spent many fond afternoons on this very same lake, and in this very same boat, before WWII called them both away. As a boy, Junior's father was full of hope and pride when he told the family he had enlisted to fight the Germans.

The baking sun helped Bob drift into a daydream. A subtle grin played across his face as he recalled that day. Mom was like an old hen mothering her chicks. On every special occasion she cautioned us to be careful with her prized Irish linen table cloth. This day was no different. Again she reminded us that Grandmother Dugan had worked every evening  for a  year crocheting the delicate lace border as a cherished wedding present for her. She didn't want any 'rowdy boys' spilling gravy on it. The family dining table was never covered, nor was the heirloom China, crystal and silverware set out. But that day, Wayne's eighteenth birthday, the table was elegant

Aunt Lily, Mrs. Felde's older widowed sister was always present for special occasions. He recalled the laughter of that trio of females coming from the kitchen, the clinking of dishes and the rhythmic thunk, thunk, thunk as Lilly or Junior's younger sister smashed the potatoes. The aroma of freshly baked bread was nothing new in their home, but he recalled the scent of baking ham on this day. Bob salivated as he recalled her festive specialty encrusted with brown sugar, pineapple slices and cloves. He recalled how Wayne always requested ' extra slice of pineapple please, and don't forget the cherries." This favorite was reserved for the family's Easter dinner tradition. But there was no meal dad, Junior and I liked better than mom's special ham. Mom, Aunt Lily and Sissy shared the kitchen most of that day bringing our favorite dishes to the table.

Bob remembered how impatient he was as they waited. Dad must be present at the table before they had permission to sit. It was traditional for our dad, Junior's grandfather, to say grace before the meal, but that day he asked Wayne to say the prayer. Bob recalled how his brother Wayne appended his announcement to the  "Amen." 

Wayne thanked mom, Aunt Lilly, and Sissy for the special meal, and their dad for giving him granddad's gold pocket watch. Instead of clowning around with me like he always did, Wayne seemed sincere when he thanked me, and told me how pleased he was with the new Buck knife.

Bob remembered the pride in Wayne's voice when he said, "We have all heard President Roosevelt on the radio discussing the war; about the nips' sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and how Hitler is sweeping across Europe.  Now German U-boats are sinking our ships. Hitler has got to be stopped, and I want to do my part. We'll be going over there soon, and I want to help stop those Nazis before they take over the world. So, as you all know now, yesterday I enlisted in the army."

Bob remembered that nobody was unaware. Wayne always wanted to be a soldier. Bob recalled how proud the family was of Wayne. Their father stood from the table and smiling, reached to clasp  Wayne's hand. "Son," dad said,"There have been soldiers in our family in every war. It takes a brave man with a powerful sense of duty to fight for our country. You honor me and our family." On December 16, 1941, two days after his brother's birthday, Bob also enlisted in the army.

Bob thought, I wanted to be in the same outfit with Wayne. We could have fought  alongside each other and watched each other's backs. It bothered me a lot when they sent my little brother off to fight the Japanese in the Philippines. Wayne didn't care. He was glad to go into action anywhere. He was proud to serve under General MacArthur.

Wayne came back from the war a different man. The man who returned from WWII was bitter, sullen and quick to anger.

* * * * * *

Uncle Bob frowned as he stepped through the door. The dead quiet and shade-drawn dark made the place feel like a tomb. He paused and looked around. This grand old house used to be filled with light and laughter and radio music, he thought. It was a busy, noisy home with people coming and going all the time. Mouth-watering aromas from Mom and Aunt Lilly's cooking and baking invited everyone to come in, sit down and enjoy a tasty treat. Mom's lady friends stopped by every day for coffee and gossip. Those women whispered and giggled through every bit of the town's news and scandal. "I miss that," he whispered to the ghosts of past joy.

"Mom? Are you up there, Mom?"

"Is that you, Robert?"

"Yeah mom. Okay to come up?"

"Of course."

Mom was still in her chenille bathrobe. She didn't bother to get dressed anymore. The Bible was in its usual place near the window, but the shade was down. The room was dark. Her sewing projects were neatly stacked. She had not been sewing, nothing was out of place. Mom's eyes were dark shadowed, reddened and deep set. She'd been weeping again. She seemed almost asleep, her Rosary beads in her lap. She surrendered into the pillowed Amish rocker. A few months before he committed suicide, Junior and Sissy and I were amazed that our dad brought that rocker all the way from Lancaster for her birthday. That was one of those rare, wonderful times when he was sober and in a good mood.

Bob thought, She's depressed even more now than right after dad died.  I know Wayne's behavior is taking a toll on her. She is so worried about how nasty he is now with Marge and his kids, especially Junior. She wants the old happy-go-lucky Wayne back, but that isn't going to happen. He ignores me when I suggest that he should talk to Father O'Brien, or even the Minister down at the First Presbyterian. Sometimes he claims he doesn't have a problem. He doesn't care about anything anymore except taking another drink. Damn it!  Wayne Jr. doesn't understand why his dad's so mean sometimes, and why he's always depressed or drunk.

"No, I wasn't no braver than anyone else Junior. They just gave them medals to me."

"What did you do? Did you knock off some Krauts?"

"What did we do? Mostly we just walked for days in the mud and slept outside in the cold.  We missed our families a lot. But we did what we had to. Our country called on us to stop Hitler's Nazi soldiers, and Hirohito's Japs.  We did. Your dad fought the Japs in the Philippines."

"Granny showed me your Purple Heart Medal. She said you got that 'cause you was brave and got wounded. Is that how your leg got hurt?"

Uncle Bob thought, Brave, my ass! Stupid is more like it. With this bum leg I can't work as a roofer anymore, not even a rough framer. Who needs a carpenter who can't climb on a building?

* * * * * *

Bob cast his fishing line a few more feet from the boat.  Ker-plop, the red and white bobber breached the shimmering mirror. Concentric circles rushed rippling across the placid surface

"Watch your bobber Junior, I think you have a bite."

Junior gave his line such a yank the bobber came flying out of the water. "I guess I missed him this time Uncle."

"Well you better check your bait now."

"OK." Junior reeled in the line.

"Does your leg hurt a lot?"


As Junior baited his hook, Uncle Bob was silent, his eyes were slitted against the bright sun and fixed far beyond the forest of maples and oaks and the distant rolling hills. He reminisced of days long past.

Cpl. Robert Felde recalled splinters blown from the rocks above rattling off his helmet as he and his squad hunkered down to avoid the German's machine gun fire. Sounds of automatic fire and explosions filled his consciousness...

"Uncle! Uncle Bob! Look at your bobber. It's down. It must be a primo."

"Oh yeah! Here we go." Uncle Bob quickly snapped the rod upward before it bent, and the tip dove toward the water. The line tensed and played off the reel for several seconds before he tightened the drag a bit. He allowed the fish to take more line before beginning to reel.

"Far out! Reel him in uncle Bob!"  His uncle was his hero, and Junior clamored  encouragement.

"Patience Junior. We'll get him. Let him get a little tired before we put a lot of pressure on him. He's well hooked. We don't want to break the line and lose him.

"Is he a big'un, uncle?" An elated grin radiated from Junior. His voice was pitched higher and vibrated with excitement as he watched the line knife through the water angling away from the boat.

"Yeah, he feels like he's got some weight to him; maybe a Bass." A little more line stripped off the reel as the boy's uncle kept the rod tip held high.

"Are you gonna get him uncle? Is he coming in?"

"No he's not ready to be landed yet, but hold your pants on.  We'll get him if we just take our time. There's nothing out here for him to snag the line. Here. Take the rod."

"Me?" Junior asked in amazement.

"Sure. Just hold on to the rod with both hands and keep the tip high.  Keep the line tight.  Don't worry about reeling yet."

The little boat rocked side to side as Junior took the rod with trembling hands.

"Grip it with both hands, Junior, keep the tip high."

"I can't, the line is getting looser."

"OK, reel in a little line until it is tight again, but keep that tip up."

"Uncle! He's coming back toward the boat."

"That's good. Keep reeling in line, and keep it tight; Don't jerk the line. Remember,  keep the rod tip up."

"He's not coming uncle... Bummer! He's pulling the line off!!"

"That's OK. Just keep the line tight. You've got him. Reel in some line whenever you can."

"I can't, uncle!" Wayne, Jr. had a frightened look on his face.  "Help me, please."

"Damn it. You can do it Junior! You're a Felde. You are not a candy ass. Now quit your damned whining." 

At once a knot formed in Bob's gut. He knew better. He wished he could retract his angry words. 

Shock and grief swept across his face, then screwed up to a tight angry mask as Junior  jerked the rod upright and back with all his strength. The rod flexed then straightened  Zzzzzeeet, the reel made a short scream. The line went slack. The bobber floated corpse-like on the surface.  The fish was no longer on the line.

The boy's disappointment was obvious as all the tension left his body. Frowning, he slouched back on the seat and surrendered the rod.  As Bob propped the rod against the oarlock, Wayne thought,What a bummer! I freaked out and lost my uncle's awesome fish. I must really be a wimp. I didn't try hard enough.

"I'm sorry Uncle, I yanked too hard and I lost him"

"That's no big deal Junior, You fought a good fight.  That's all that counts. You'll get another chance.  Maybe you will land an even bigger one."

Junior wondered why his Uncle Bob is so nice but Dad is always sad or drunk. The boy grimaced as vivid memories of the pain and fear he felt again last week rolled across the screen of his daydream.

When I heard Dad whistle, my heart hammered and tried  to explode a hole in my chest. I knew he would get even more angry, even more mean, if I didn't come right away. Nothing I ever did pleased Dad. I didn't want to go to him.  I had to. I started to wet my pants when I remembered why he might be angry. I knew I had really messed up.  I forgot to pick up the glass in the back yard from the whiskey bottles I shot. He was really mad.

"Junior! Get in this house. Now!"

I dropped my sling shot. He knew I could hear him, and I ran over there.  He looked scary with his red eyes. He wasn't wearing a shirt and stood weaving in the doorway, his wide leather belt hung from his hand. I didn't want to come any closer. I knew what was coming.

"Get over here and lean your hands against the wall."

I was shaking all over. I could smell the  whiskey on his  breath.

"Dad, I'm sorry."

But I only begged once  before the strap made the first stripe across my back. Then I gritted my teeth. I made up my mind to be quiet and take it. I wouldn't let him make me cry.  I know that real men don't  cry. Whish, crack! Seven more stripes before I heard uncle Bob come out of the house.

"Wayne, for God's sake stop this! Junior, go into the house."

Junior knuckled the corners of his eyes to prevent the tears that began to form as he thought of that painful day. Uncle Bob misread Juniors body language. Bob thought Junior's sadness was all about the fish he lost.

"Here's the night crawlers, Junior. Bait up and try again. There's always a bigger one out there."

After his nephew's bait was in the water again, lulled by the subtle rocking and soporific heat, Bob reverted again to that somnolent state. Through the squint he stared far from the present, far from the boat.

Oh God! What happened to my brother? What did those damned Japs do to him? Damned army!  How many jobs has Wayne lost for us? Ever since he returned from the Philippines he spends more time down at the VFW drinking at the bar than at home. Poor Marge, working nights at the nursing home, raising two kids alone, struggling to make ends meet.  Damn it, why does Wayne have to be so nasty to her?

He felt so helpless. Everybody was confused and worried about  Junior's dad. Bob wanted  the boy to know that he was always there for him and his family. He was frustrated because he never knew quite what to do. Bob's mind drifted even farther from thoughts of the pleasant day on the lake.

Clumps of mud rained from exploding mortars.  German bullets splashed nearby and sprayed slop. They whizzed by my head!  I belly-crawled searching for any cover. A darker rise in the mud ahead grabbed my attention. I tried to keep my face out of the muck. No way!  I squirmed, almost swimming in dead-cold, sucking slime, until I reached the shadowed hole. I slid in!  The shock of frigid water smacked me in the face. I choked, and spit trying to blow muddy water out of my nose and mouth. I gasped! Someone bumped me. He floated face down. I hunkered down next to the cold corpse grateful for a little protection. Tracers flew overhead...

"Uncle, look! the Eagle."

The Eagle shattered their reveries as it dove and snatched a fish from the surface.  The regal sovereign labored back into the bright sky carrying its silver load.


Chapter 3

All new soldiers are advised about one primary rule; even his uncle Bob told him before he enlisted:  "Never volunteer for anything."

But Wayne's daily  life was either nerve wrecking tension, or insufferable boredom. When the chance came to go to a special school, and get away from the everyday grind, he leapt at it. How bad can it be, he thought. There ain't gonna be many going to that Tunnel Rat School, and they are only going to use us on special occasions. I'll be away from the war for awhile. Hell, I might even make a name for myself. Before he rejoined his platoon, Wayne spent two weeks crawling into tunnels set with fake traps. He studied first hand all manner of tricks the VC used to protect their tunnels from enemy troops.  At least they put Chopper with me to do this job, Wayne thought. I been with him for awhile.  Chopper's a good man.

They knew Charlie was active in this area. Wayne's sensory input was maximized as they approached the abandoned village ahead. He could sense the enemy, but there was no movement and no sound from the dozen huts.  It was a ghost town. Flanking scouts and the point squad reconnoitered the area.  They encountered no opposition. But there were clues that the enemy had been there.

The villagers were gone. The platoon entered and set up a defense perimeter. They found  nothing to indicate its inhabitants would return.  They found no stored rice, no containers for hauling water, no pots, no bamboo bed mats on the floors--except for one.  It partially covered a small hole in the dirt floor of a hut near the edge of the village. Sarge was suspicious.

"Where the hell is Felde?" 

"Him and Chopper are checking out them hooches over yonder, Sarge"

"Well, diddy  his skinny ass back over here. I want him to check out this hole."

Wayne jogged up to Sarge carrying his M16. "What's up, Sarge?"

"Do your thing Felde. Check out the hole inside that hooch."

Wayne doffed his Boonie hat to the sergeant. "I'm on it, Sarge." The ragged hat had the Tunnel Rat patch, a cartoon character of a fierce, arrogant, buck-toothed rodent carrying a pistol and a whiskey bottle. Displayed  underneath were the words in Latin: "NOT WORTH A RAT'S ASS."

Wayne was proud to be called a Tunnel Rat. They were  known for their bravery doing one of the toughest assignments in the war. They explored the holes and tunnels where the VC stashed weapons and rice. On many occasions, VC troops hid in these tunnels and allowed their enemies to pass, or traveled in them for hundreds of yards to emerge undetected. 

Inside the gloomy hut, Wayne used his flashlight to scrutinize the area around the hole  for trip wires.  He looked for anything unusual. Often the VC booby-trapped their tunnel entrances. Before he stripped off his fatigue shirt, he knelt and examined the mat closely before choosing to move it. He suspected the enemy wanted them to find this partially covered hole.  He probed  loose soil around the mat and the opening with a USMC K-Bar knife, a prized possession, the perfect tool for his job. Shorter, easier to wield than a bayonet, sturdy and sharp-- he could dig with it, and, he could kill with it.

The Colt.45 was the official military sidearm. It was renowned for its stopping power.  A smaller weapon was favored by Tunnel Rats over the .45 because  its bark was deafening in narrow, claustrophobic tunnels.

Some carried the .38 because they could get them from chopper pilots.

Wayne was armed with a Beretta .25 semi-automatic, a weapon not much larger than one's hand.  The pistol he carried into the tunnels was more likely to wound than kill. But, capturing an enemy, even a wounded one, could provide useful intelligence information. His Beretta was difficult to acquire. It was as precious to him as his K Bar.

Wayne peered down. The hole appeared to  be about the diameter of a bushel basket, only about four feet deep, and empty. His buddy, Chopper, secured the wire around Wayne's ankle. Again he studied.  Then headfirst, he eased down.  He probed the side walls with his K-Bar, searching for trap doors. Even for a slight man like Wayne, it was a tight fit.  He squeezed all the way in the hole, and found an open worm-hole like tunnel at the bottom.  It led off from the side, at a downward angle, into the darkness.  The floor and walls were irregular but worn smooth.  The narrow tunnel, more like an earthen tube the size of a coffin, seemed to dead end, or perhaps turn abruptly, after about ten feet.  Wayne began to belly crawl into the worm-hole. There were no snakes, scorpions or rats as far as he could see.  A rustling sound somewhere in front of him  gave him an uneasy feeling.  He stopped. It might be a snake or a rat moving beyond his vision.  It might also be a VC waiting in a side tunnel to ambush him. Whatever it might be, the prudent move was to back out. Like most young men, he felt indestructible before he experienced any combat. Now he thought otherwise. Some tunnel rats used smoke grenades first to force out any occupants and identify any nearby tunnel openings. Wayne did not.

He scrambled backward to the entry, straightened and rolled a white phosphorous grenade down the worm hole. Wayne, always the joker, shouted, "Fire in the hole", and laughed.  Chopper helped him pop out before the dull "thud" shook the ground.  Cotton white smoke belched forth, and drifted into the jungle canopy. Before crawling back in, Wayne and Chopper, smoked a cigarette and jaw-jacked for awhile.

Chopper smiled. "Well, Wayne, Did you kill all them gooks in there?

Wayne laughed. "Nah. I doubt it. I don't know if I killed any. I heard some noise is all.

"Least you don't have to worry about snakes or rats no more."

Chopper shook out a Lucky, lit up, and offered the pack to Wayne."You ever find anything in them holes, Wayne?"

"Hell yeah! snakes and rats... and lots of big, black spiders with blue dots on 'em, chiggers... and centipedes bigger than your dick. You know, sometimes the gooks stash the ones we killed down there. This here one don't smell all that bad."

Wayne used Chopper's Zippo to fire up his smoke, and took a deep drag.

Chopper grinned.  "No man, I meant, you ever find any gooks in them holes?"

"Nah, I been in lots of them. The ones I been in always just dead end.  But sometimes they smear dirt over trapdoors and like that. They have tunnels running all over the place.  Could be, I missed 'em.  If we don't find nuthin', we just blow 'em up and move out."

Wayne used his floppy hat to swat a bug crawling up his leg.  He took another drag on the cigarette and continued. 

"Did I ever tell you some of these tunnels are real old? The villagers used them to hide from the Chinese first.  Then the French when they was here."

Chopper concentrated on unwrapping an energy bar from his C rations, but raised his  eyebrows in surprise.

"If they been around so long, how come the  Army didn't know?"

Wayne laughed, "Cause it's the Army!  Over around Cu Chi, Charlie was sniping at a patrol from a spider hole. When  they aced him, they checked where he was shooting from.  They found tunnels running three different ways. They's miles of 'em. Dig it.  They found a command bunker, an ammo factory, loads of explosives, an underground first aid station, even a printing press-- so many tunnels the VC was using over there that we didn't have no security even in our own compounds.  We'd think Charlie  was pinned down, and he'd disappear, then pop up like a gopher someplace else. Turns out these tunnels is a bigger problem than they thought. That's why they started a school for us Tunnel Rats. You know, to teach us about the tricks the slopes use."

"You mean like trip wires and grenades?" Chopper took a swig from his canteen, and began to munch his energy bar.

"Yeah, only sometimes the trip is a dried out root you can crawl over. And sometimes they smear a thin layer of clay over parachute cloth or something to make a phony wall then ambush you with a bamboo spear from behind it. They use punji pits and set traps with crossbows, too. Hell, they even set traps using scorpions."

Wayne took another deep drag on the Lucky, and glanced over to see smoke still rising from the hole. He adjusted the wire holding his light to the short stick he used to keep it away from his body while he crawled. He was less of a target that way.

"Oh, and they use snakes.  I hate snakes. You ever seen a two-stepper...them little bamboo snakes; if they bite you, you're dead before you can take two steps? They tie a wire collar on them and put them in a piece of hollow bamboo, then jam the stick into the roof of a tunnel. If you bump the stick, it comes loose and the snake falls on you."

"Don't sound like no fun at all, Wayne."

"It sure as hell ain't what I signed up for."

"You enlisted? No shit?"

"Oh, yeah.. you know, like JFK said, ask not what my country can do for me, ask what I can do for my country. I was a true believer. They didn't want to take me because I am the only son, and my dad's dead.  I had to go to Washington to get permission."

Chopper grinned, "Damn Wayne, you are a hard core patriot."

Wayne laughed to himself and mimicked the famous actor,

"It was a John Wayne thing, Pilgrim, I  really thought we was going to save the world from Communism. They's always been soldiers in our family. My Dad was in the Philippines.  My uncle Bob was with the Ninth when they hit the beach at Normandy."

"If you had the choice again,would you enlist?

"Are you serious?  Hell no! None of these gooks want us here  anyways, and I hate all the damned rain and this sticky heat. I could give up the leeches, the stinking, rotting corpses too. Do you like the powdered eggs every day?  We never get enough sleep. We are always wore out, or bored shitless. If not, we are playing hide and seek with Charlie, worried  he's gonna pop up out of nowhere to kill us."

Wayne stood and started to sing. Chopper laughed, and joined in,

"We gotta get out of this place, if it's the last thing we ever do." 

They waited for the smoke to clear before Harry entered the hole again.

He belly crawled again into the worm-hole.  His eyes began to sting.  He thought, Damn, It sure stinks. I  should have waited.  Smells like something cooking. The WP must've  burned something  up. The hard red clay floor felt warm on his bare skin. At the end of the worm-hole, the tunnel hooked to the right and opened down into a chamber the size of a small closet. What he found took his breath away. The charred bodies of a young woman, an infant, and a young boy lay crumpled on the floor of the chamber, their corpses and few possessions smoldering from the incendiary white phosphorous. Wayne never learned to control his gag reflex when confronted with a smoldering corpse. Many men in combat became callous and insensitive to death. He could not control his stomach and his tears simultaneously. A rivulet of tears traced through the dirt on his face while he threw up.


Chapter 4


Red dust flew in all directions as the approaching  medical chopper beat the humid jungle air into submission. Lynda ran hunched over.  She squinted to see through a billowing cloud of dust the color of dried blood. The helicopter fish-tailed into its landing and the crew  disembarked as the rotors whined down.

White gauze and olive-drab  fabric from military bandages waved  like grim flags of surrender as, in throes of  agony, the wailing, wounded man flailed his bloody arm stumps against the stretcher's restraining straps. He pleaded for relief from the unbearable pain.  

The medics on board slid the stretcher.  They moved towards her with well-rehearsed urgency. On the canvas slab the pitiful remains of young soldier screamed with each jogging step the medics took.

When the medical crew was close enough to hear her voice over the helicopter's  engine clatter, she yelled out for the soldier's situation, and motioned them to the emergency room.

"Booby trap! The kid tried to pick up a souvenir. It blew his arms off!" He yelled back with that veteran, just-another-day-at-the-office look. "We pumped him with enough morphine to put an elephant out, but he never stopped screaming!  I don't think he's gonna make it, Doc!"

Lynda looked down at the soldier. He couldn't have been older than 19-years. Blond, sweat- logged  hair stuck to his forehead.  His boyish face contorted in a pale, grimacing mask of pain. Weeping from bloodshot, piercing blue eyes, the soldier met her stare, and reached out his tattered stubs as if to hug her.

"Please! Please help me...oh God, it hurts...Oh God..."

* * * * * *

Squealing wheels and vibrations announced the event. She woke from the dream as the plane touched down. As the Freedom Bird taxied to the terminal, Lynda raised her seat to the upright position, and like a swarm of attacking hornets, painful images  stung her arrival to the world. She shuddered as she remembered the good times with  Vincent, her best friend since grade school. He was one of the first casualties in Vietnam. But they all reminded her of cousins and boys she dated in high school. Remnants of the nightmare, flashes of the "Expectants," pierced her reality. "Expectants," young men, their bodies destroyed, set aside to die with no more care than massive doses of morphine for the pain. Expectants died, and joined the long lines of gray body bags beside the chopper landing pads. They could not save so many casualties. They could not even provide adequate care to them all.

Exhilarated to sadness at being home at last, she dabbed the scalding tears which burned at the corners of her eyes. She thought again of Vincent and remembered the bleeder. Her mind recalled his unconscious, boyish face, handsome and innocent, much like Vincent's. The bleeder's face was  unscathed by the mine that leaped from the jungle floor before detonating. The blast sent metal shrapnel flying in all directions. His torso and groin became a sieve of shredded flesh filled with piercing wounds from the unforgiving metal fragments. She stripped the blood-soaked fatigues from his torso to see the hundreds of small wounds oozing his life away.

The large pile of blood saturated gauze pads continued to grow as the surgeons discovered the extent of his wounds. She recalled replacing both plasma drips with whole blood, and the surgeon calling for two more units stat. Four units pushed into his body every fifteen minutes while the surgeons perspired over him to stop the bleeding. Twenty pints of precious whole blood weeped out, and drained from the gurney like the slow drizzle of honey from a spoon.

The surgeons struggled more than an hour to save him. Frustrated, they  finally surrendered to the futility, realizing that their time might better be used to prolong another's life.  They moved with care, their feet sliding on the bloody floor, to the next victim of the sanguinary war machine. When she thought of the bleeder, she remembered Vincent, his perfect, innocent face, and the soft, reddish, fuzz on his chin, every time her thoughts flashed to the horror of those days.

Cosmetics and toiletries were scarce items in the Medevac Hospital. Even items like Tampax and shampoo had to be shipped from the states. Lynda was deprived of any form of self-indulgence for so long that she delighted in getting "the works"  in a well-known spa in Tokyo. But, Lynda was attractive and confident without all that. In her tailored military uniform, men always noticed her.

On arriving home, Lynda felt uncomfortable as she passed through the terminal. Three old ladies, women her grandmother's age, quickly diverted their eyes. She did not understand why. Men refused to acknowledge her as well.  What is the problem? She wondered.  Resting momentarily, she placed her khaki duffel bag on the floor near the entrance to the rest rooms, but she felt too self-conscious to go in. Instead, she moved on. They just don't know me, she thought.

From her naive perspective before she enlisted, she saw the United States pursuing a course that President Kennedy talked about in his Inaugural Address; we are saving the country from Communism and thwarting the expansion plans of the Soviet Union. We can win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people and offer them the advantages of Democracy. We must stop the cancerous epidemic of Communism from spreading throughout Asia. Lynda knew that there were brave boys fighting and dying for Democracy, and before going to Vietnam thought, if our boys are being blown apart, then somebody had better be over there putting them back together again. Maybe that someone should be me.

After she arrived in Vietnam, her illusions of the golden ideal tarnished like base metal before fading. They vanished as she labored long tortuous hours in ill-equipped, understaffed operating rooms. She found the basis for her noble thinking changing daily. Her optimism became despondence as she witnessed the catastrophic injuries of war. She held hope in her heart for so many whose deaths were preordained to serve the needs of the military arms industry. There was nothing the medical staff could do to save so many whose draft numbers had been called.

As she placed her duffel bag next to the curb, and waited to catch a taxi into town, a noisy VW mini-bus covered with anti-war stickers and slogans pulled up beside her. The long-haired, bearded young man in the front passenger seat leaned out.

"Hey soldier, want a ride?"

"Sure, thanks," Lynda said.

"Welcome home. We have a peace offering for you."

Rewarded with her first taste of friendship from a fellow American back in the world, her spirit brightened. Lynda picked up her bag to climb in, but was stunned as he handed her the rose, then cleared his throat, and spat a bolus of slime across her pretty face.

"Baby killer!" he shouted. She heard the flower children in the van laughing victoriously as the VW hurried away.

A strained animal sound, a near silent scream of hopeless anguish erupted  from deep in her soul as Lynda questioned her sanity.

Nobody noticed. Nobody cared.


Chapter 5


Soon after returning to Philadelphia, Wayne and his buddy,"Sarge" Franklin, rode the bus from the renovation site where they worked downtown to the apartment they shared in South Philly. As they passed the university, jolted to shock and confusion, they stared at the frenzied crowd which was parading with signs and chanting, "STOP THE WAR" and "PEACE NOW". The red button ignited an inferno in Wayne's gut, the mental alarm that controlled the door to the vault where Wayne stored the anger and shame. All the painful confused memories of combat were stored in that vault. Triggers pressing the red button loosed Wayne's control of them, and caused them to come roaring out.

He glared at the protester who set fire to an American flag. His fury at the sight devoured his insides as the flames incinerated the flag. To Wayne, it smelled of napalm and burning flesh.  He was back in Nam. White hot with rage, he exploded to his feet and struggled to crawl over Sarge. He intended to get off the bus. But Sarge understood Wayne's crazed reaction, and restrained him.  The bus rolled on. Sarge was the one positive, calming, influence in Wayne's life. He reminded Wayne of his buddy, Chopper. Both were large men like his uncle, and wiser than most young men about the ways of the world.

"You gotta cool down, Wayne, those draft-dodging egghead cowards are just punks. They don't know nuthin. They ain't worth spit." 

"Those scumbags are burning our flag, Sarge. We can't let them do that. This is still America, damn it!"

Wayne's body was rigid, his eyes locked in a hundred mile stare as snippets of combat, flashed snapshots of horror, invaded his thoughts.

The ground  all around us shuddered. Everything was confused. We couldn't do nothing while the smoke and noise just kept getting worse. Explosions showered clumps of dirt and debris into the hole we dug. Me and Chopper tried to get smaller, and lower,and crawl inside ourselves, but that didn't do no good. My breath got knocked out of me from a close one, and he seemed to rise up in the air, just for an instant then he started screaming.  Chopper's blood spattered my face, and my hands were covered with it. He was screaming. His guts were coming out. I thought I was hit too. Then Chopper passed out. I thought we was dead.

As the bus rolled, Sarge continued,

"No doubt we should kick their asses,  but it wouldn't do no good, and besides, we'd go to jail. We don't need the hassle, Wayne. We ain't gonna change a thing." 

Wayne's thoughts were still back in Vietnam.

There was no end to them, for hours them gooks just kept coming and coming, like they didn't care about getting killed. The more we killed, the closer they got to us. Carl was cutting them down good with his M60 until a grenade got him and Junior.  We needed that gun going, but I should have stayed put instead of trying to get to them. I don't even remember getting hit. I  was out cold. Doc must have given me some morphine before they loaded me in the Dustoff.  In the  medevac station, I was laying next to a guy with no arms and they was pumping blood into him.

"Think about it Wayne, what the hell did any of these demonstrations ever accomplish anyway? Remember what happened in Chicago when Daley's cops went nuts and clubbed the shit out of all them anti-war demonstrators at the nominating convention?

Gritting his teeth, Wayne's ongoing anger was obvious, but he settled back into the seat as Sarge continued,

"It don't mean nothing, Wayne. The Women's Anti-War Marches on Washington, that Priest breaking into to the Draft Board and pouring blood on the files...that didn't change nothing. Did anybody really investigate who was behind JFK and his brother's murders?  Christ man, it is a changed world. Look at all the kids refusing the draft. Not that I blame them. We got no business being in Nam, but still, you know, when you're called, you gotta go. I don't understand what's happening in America. But, hey, it beats the hell out of being in Nam, don't it?"

"I don't know man, it seems like everything has been fucked up since I come back. I don't know what to think anymore. Everything reminds me. It seems like I'm angry all the time."

"Yeah.  I know Wayne.  Me too, but we just have to take care of ourselves.  We ain't gonna change the world. Let's get some good weed and a case of Bud and just kick back."

* * * * * *

Sarge and Wayne sat in their apartment getting stoned as the rain pounded Philadelphia.

Mrs. Felde dreaded driving in the rain, but she and Wayne's sister drove across town to beg Wayne to seek help from the VA. They had been going to Mass daily, saying Rosaries, and praying for Wayne to get over his anger and drinking. They were so frightened he might commit suicide like his dad.  They wondered if he would ever again become that wonderful boy they were so proud of before he joined the Army. 

As they stepped around the garbage in the hallway, Mrs.Felde remarked, "My God, Sissy, what a terrible place they live in."

Wayne answered their timid knock. "Hi Mom, Sis, What a surprise. What are you doing here?"  The smile on his face betrayed his dismay. He was shirtless and holding a beer. "The place is a mess, but come on in. Why don't we sit here at the table. Sarge, you remember my Mom and Sissy."

Sarge stood. He cleared some empty beer cans and other debris from the table. "Nice to see you both again.  It's been quite a while."

As they sat, Sissy said, "We thought since you and Sarge weren't working today, you might come on over to have a nice home-cooked meal with us. Mom's got a ham in the oven."

Wayne's mom had that poor baby look on her face, but her words dripped with self-pity.  She said, "Honey, we don't ever see you anymore. You have been so distant since you came back." She looked over at his sister, "Sissy says she talked with your wife.  She and you might even  get together again. Wayne, we're worried about you. You just can't keep on like this."

The spatter of rain on the window sounded like distant automatic weapons firing. Thunder boomed like artillery, and lightning flashed like close in exploding mortar bursts.

Bottles and dirty dishes rattled on the table as Wayne slammed his fist and roared, "Damn it! Leave me the fuck alone!"

Wayne's mom was crushed. He had always been respectful. Now he behaved as his father did when he returned from WWII. She felt helpless then as a wife, now a hopeless failure as a mother. She wept softly as she and Sissy drove back home though the storm.

Even before his family departed, Wayne became silent. His jaw was clenched, his muscles rigid. His eyes focused in that hundred mile stare. He recalled a rest break the team took in Nam.

* * * * * *

The heat was oppressive as usual. The team was tired.  We had been walking for hours but made no enemy contact.

"So what do you think, Chopper? What's happening?"  I dropped my gear beside Chopper's.

My foxhole buddy, Chopper, was checking his feet for hot spots and blisters. He was so cool. I can remember like yesterday. He was worried about my feet.

"How ya fixed for socks, Wayne? Need a clean pair?"

"Nah, I'm OK, thanks. What do you hear from Laurie?"

Chopper's grin lightened the moment.

"Check this out, Wayne." He beamed as he fished the photo from his pocket. "Little John is getting teeth already! God, I can't wait to get back to the world."

"Ain't he something?" I punched his arm and told him, "Good thing he don't look like you."

I remember wondering when I seen his picture, why did I ever decide to get married?  Sometimes I feel guilty about it. Barb was confused and angry because I enlisted only a month after we  got married. The sex was great.  I wanted a kid, but she was afraid to get pregnant. For God's sake, she wanted to get a cat instead.  She didn't write me no more. She wrote about the cat in the last letter I ever got. I carried it for six months before it got so ragged and dog-eared I couldn't read it. Like, that didn't matter anyways. I wondered how it was  gonna be with us if I get out of there alive?

I think Chopper knew it was coming.  He's the one who told me, "Dunno, Wayne, I got a bad feeling. I heard we're going north to the Central Highlands and defend Pleiku.  They are taking a lot of heat  from North Vietnamese regulars coming through Laos and Cambodia."

Chopper was right, That's where he got blown in half. I tried to put Chpper's guts back inside after he was hit by the mortar round, They was quiverring, and so slick they just kept sliding through my fingers before his screaming stopped, and he was dead. He never did get to meet Little John. The little guy won't even have a memory of  his daddy, but I won't forget him.

That's when I started smoking grass. The captain smoked, the lieutenant smoked, everybody smoked. I'd get up in the morning and have a pipe with my coffee. We'd be on patrol and I'd fire up the pipe. Seven or eight times while we were on patrol a fire fight  would break out ahead of me or behind me. Guys would get shot and I'd be stoned, walking along, maybe reading Playboy.I wasn't paying attention.I didn't care anymore. Why I didn't get it sooner?  Who knows?

* * * * * *

He asked the VA for an appointment just to get his family off his back. Wayne really did not want any help, but he checked in for his 0900 VA appointment.


Chapter 6

In The Veterans Administration Medical Care Facility of Philadelphia, there was a dark hospital ward, more like a military barracks than a medical facility. Fifty seven GI's, or partial GI's (if you thought about all the body parts they'd left behind in Vietnam) slept in peace. Safe in slumber, they waited for the day when cruel "Mother" would release them to the world. First, they would be fitted with the best arms and legs technology had to offer. However, Lynda's concern was for their minds as she began her work as a Counselor with the V.A.

She sat in the dim glow of the desk lamp. Her clinic duty did not begin until morning. The sounds of men sleeping, their calm, soft, breathing helped Lynda Scott, R.N. regain a sense of inner peace. In that ward she was relaxed.  In her apartment, she felt isolated, sometimes rigid with tension.  Triggers often caused her to cry without reason.

While she reviewed medical charts of patients in her charge, she held a perfumed handkerchief to her nose,  but in some sense she savored the aroma of smelly boots for that was the smell of a soldier who had feet, a soldier who was alive.

She became animated; her face beamed as she looked forward to the group meetings with other vets suffering with PTSD. She found sharing with them at the clinic comforting.  She enjoyed the comradeship. It was some relief to know that others felt as she did. Still, she avoided watching TV or reading news accounts of violence which sometimes triggered flashbacks. Three years after she returned to the world, sleep often brought Lynda guilty nightmares. She thought, there were so many boys we could have saved, and did not. But she realized that by helping others, she was also helping herself. As she participated in group treatment sessions, over time she accepted less and less guilt. She realized those situations in Nam were impossible for her to control. However, even as she turned the pages of a decorated combat veteran's medical record, she had difficulty controlling her emotions as she read the doctor's notes. During his year in Vietnam, Sgt.Felde saw and experienced things that even today he cannot talk about without crying or blocking out part of the memory or breaking down completely.

Wayne Felde was her first appointment in the Mental Health Section the next day at 0900 hours. Wayne was wounded while serving as a sergeant with the Fourth Infantry Division from March 1968 to March 1969. His company was operating out of base camps in Pleiku and, later, Kontum provinces in Vietnam. Sgt. Felde suffered wounds to his buttocks.

* * * * * *

"Good morning Mr. Felde. Won't you please come right in? I am Lynda Scott, a counselor here at the VA.  Please call me Lynda."

Wayne was reluctant to enter. Wary and alert, his eyes swept the room. The office was appointed with a few serviceable chairs and a simple wooden desk. The space provided a feeling of comfort and security, but lacked anything personal.

He thought, this is ridiculous, I don't need to see no damned shrink, but at least this honey is good looking.

A flash of surprise crossed her face as she appraised his clean-cut, healthy appearance.  Wayne was tanned and well-developed from doing construction work. She extended her hand. Lynda's firm grip indicated a confident welcome.  Wayne's attitude began to soften.  He expected a delicate handshake and a cooler, much more distant reception.

"Please have a seat." 

"Thanks," he said, as he eased into a chair. Lynda moved around the desk, and sat facing him.

"Mr. Felde, may I call you Wayne?"

"Why not?"

Wayne gave only brusque answers to Lynda's questions about his sleep, appetite, and alcohol or drugs use. Lynda sensed his tension as the muscles of his face tightened and his body became rigid. 

"Wayne, this may sound blunt, but we need to clear up some things right away. I understand that you have been troubled with depression. Have you considered killing yourself?"

How would she know about that? He thought, but said, "No, not for a long time, but I don't care if I die either."

"I need to know if you have thought about killing or injuring anyone else."

Hell yes, he thought, some assholes really piss me off, and that SOB Landscape Foreman who fired me should have his ass whipped. Some of those smart-ass hippie punks need a lesson too...

"No, not really," he lied.

Trying to help Wayne feel more comfortable, she leaned forward, and turning her head  to the side, concentrated her gaze on his eyes.  She was searching for his soul.

"You seem angry, Wayne. Are you angry now?" she asked.

"Not really", Wayne said, jaws tight, but he thought, what the hell. Is she reading my mind? Why don't she just get me some pills so I can get out of here?

"How about normally, Wayne? Do you find yourself becoming angry easily?"


"Me too," she said with a gentle voice, and leaned back a little in her chair. "What do you think makes it happen for you?"

"I dunno, probably the same thing that makes you angry," Wayne's tone was gruff. He was becoming more uncomfortable, more impatient.

He thought, people like you make me angry. Always wanting to know what is wrong, always wanting to fix me, always trying to get me to open the damned vault. Believe me woman, you do not want me to open that vault. You do not want to push the red button that opens the vault.

"Depression is anger, Wayne. We get angry when we are hurt. Is something going on; are you remembering something that hurts?" she asked empathetically. "It's O.K., Wayne, it is safe here. You can tell me what's hurting you. It helps to talk about the things that hurt you, the things that make you angry."

Silence prevailed as Wayne struggled mentally to sort his feelings. Never trusting anyone was a principle that helped him survive. Part of him wanted to believe the feelings he felt from this woman were genuine.  His history with women told him otherwise. He was always hurt by people he trusted.

"Wayne, I realize that you have had a lot of anguish in your life. You are very tense. Why don't you just sit back; try to relax.  Take some deep breaths."

Wayne remained silent, but as he slid back in the chair, and breathed deeply, some of the tension drained away.

Lynda's voice was hesitant, her tone full of empathy. "I can't know how you might be feeling, Wayne, but, I know how I have felt when others have hurt me. Partly I felt sorry for myself, but also very angry. Is that the way you feel, Wayne?"

"No! I don't feel sorry for myself, and yes, I get damned angry."

"You seem angry now. Are you angry with me?"

Her jasmine fragrance formed diaphanous strands that linked Harry's memory to women he used in Nam. He had reasons not to trust women. His shoulders tensed.  His belly muscles formed a knot. The brutal recollections began. His left hand tightened white knuckled on his brow in a vain attempt to interrupt them as his wife screamed again and again from the vault in his mind, 

"You bastard! You gave me Syphilis, Wayne. You brought me that damned disease from some filthy whore in Vietnam."

Wayne felt Lynda pushing the red button, trying to open that vault which he must keep closed.

"You ain't no different from all the know-nothings who think something is wrong with me, and they know how to fix it. There ain't no fixing it! You don't have no idea about the shit that I am mad about. You never been shelled by no mortars. You ain't felt your friend's brains splatter your face or never picked up the bloody half of some poor bastard to load on a chopper. You never had your own guys dropping napalm on you. You gonna help me forget that shit? You got some pills to make me forget that?"

Lynda felt such empathy with Wayne. She understood his anger and sarcasm. She wanted him to be helped as she had been helped.  Lynda wanted to convince Wayne to join the weekly group meetings of vets, all with PTSD issues. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, many of  them were able to face their past, and live in the world again. He might also be helped as she was with individual counseling if she could motivate him.

She controlled her angst before she asked, "I'm hearing that you are angry because I can't understand what you experienced, how helpless you felt?"

"How would you know what living in hell was like?"

In a calm clinical voice, Lynda began to speak.

"You're right, Wayne, there is no way I can understand how much those gruesome memories torture you. But for the most horrible thirteen months of my life, I felt the helplessness and the anger."

The words began to catch in her throat and tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. "Memories haunt me too. It was hell for all of us working in that Medevac unit. Sometimes mortars exploded in our compound while we were doing surgery. I saw boys die because we couldn't help them." Tears smeared her mascara as she reached for a tissue.

Wayne could barely hear her say, "After her shift while she was walking to our hooch, my best friend was killed by a sniper."

Wayne sensed  tumblers turning the lock in his vault. The vault was filled with terrifying memories. He was not about to allow that vault to come open. He redirected the conversation.

"Yeah, really, it was a bitch for everyone. We should not have been there. Win their hearts and minds? What a damned joke!" He said.

Tearful, Lynda leaned forward to catch his gaze. "That's the thing, Wayne. We need to get past allowing that kind of crap to make us angry. It's in the past; it's over; it's a done deal. We are here learning to get over it. We want to help you too-- help you learn how to live with your pain and anger.  But it will only help you if that's what you want. Wayne, our MHS team has helped a lot of vets like us. Helping other Nam vets here has helped me. It will be good for you. I want you to join our next group session."

This was more interaction than Wayne expected or wanted, "The Doc told me he'd give me some pills to help,"

"He has prescribed some meds for you. You can pick them up downstairs. They should help with your mood swings, but we also need to re-learn how we have been thinking about what has been affecting us. That's why talking with the doctor and the group sessions help so much. Will you join us on Wednesday?"

"Maybe. Let's see what the pills do."

"Those meds may take a few weeks before they are fully effective, so don't expect immediate results. I'm looking forward to seeing you again on Wednesday... and we are always available by phone if you need to talk to somebody... or, just come in.  We have to wind up this session because I have another appointment, but I want you to come back. Will 0900 next Wednesday be OK with you?"

"Yeah, O.K., uh... thanks."

"Great! See you then. Make it a great day, Wayne."

After Wayne left, Lynda connected to her higher power. She stopped what she was doing for a moment to pray.

Lord, am I doing all I can to help to help guys like Wayne? Oh dear God, I sure hope so. I know you must have placed me here to help them. I thank you, Father.  Helping them helps me deal with all my traumatic memories, to lower my stress.  But Lord, it's not all about me. You know I care about them too. They hurt just like me. Father, please show me how to help them.

She realized she might never see Wayne again; that would not be unusual. However, it was well within her experience to realize that sometimes it does not matter what you do. 

For a short time, Wayne joined the weekly group sessions.  Lynda watched him begin to realize he was not crazy, that he had the same issues many combat vets faced. She watched as the weekly visits with the psychologists helped him begin to understand how triggers brought back the memories that he was so desperately trying to forget. As the Prozac began to take effect, his episodes of anger became less frequent. He became less judgmental and even began to relate a bit with his family again.


Chapter 7


"Bullshit, Wayne. You never killed nobody close up." Sarge,a big wide-faced man an inch or two taller than six feet kicked back in  the seedy, derelict, armchair. He balanced the near-empty beer can on his ample beer belly. His pale blubbery skin and belly button, hidden among protruding tufts of long curly black hair, poked out from between his sleeveless  olive-drab undershirt and trouser belt.

"How the hell do you know what I ever done?" Wayne shot back at his pal. He strode a few steps across the trash cluttered room to the fridge.

"Hey Wayne. Grab me a beer while you are there." Sarge ordered, and immediately let out a tremendous belch.  Sarge's strength could be gauged from his broad, muscular shoulders.  Besides being a Nam combat veteran and a squad leader, he felt that his size gave him authority to tell others what to do. Surviving members of his squad from Nam are glad about that and his concern for their safety. After he returned to the world, he had a brush with the law after a very brief skirmish in the corner bar. A drunken young man learned a lesson that night.  He tried to show off in front of his friends and test the big man's pride.

"What the hell am I, your butler?"

Wayne, a cocky five-foot-six-inches and wiry as a new barbed fence, shook one of the cans and laughing, pitched it to Sarge.

"Damn it, you always gotta be a jag off?"

Sarge threw the full beer back at Wayne, but missed. It hit the wall behind him. Wayne cracked open a can and laughed harder.

As Wayne and Sarge got shit-faced, they argued about who was the better soldier. The antagonism increased. Soon, the argument centered on Wayne's ability to remove a loaded rifle from a hostile.

"You was too skinny for the slopes to get a bead on you...that's why you got shot in your Lilly white ass...that's all they could see.  You was always taking a crap, right?"

Sarge giggled. It was a strange sounding laugh coming from a man of his size.  He rewarded himself with a few swallows of Budweiser.

"I was staying low and going slow. They never seen me at all, bro. While you was big footing around, the gooks thought you was a water buffalo out there. You was just lucky you never tripped one of Charley's wires. While you was making all that ruckus, stumbling around in the bush, I could slide ride up behind one of them teen age gooks and just take his AK away from him."

"The hell you could. What the hell do you know, Wayne?  You're just a smart ass cracker. You couldn't take candy from a baby if I held it for you. You was  just a scared little boy from the bayou"

Scared! The word exploded like a grenade in his mind.  Wayne became rigid and shouted, "Don't call me a coward! I damned sure ain't no coward, and you ain't nothing but a big dumb ass.  I could sure take a rifle offa you!"

His challenge wounded big Sarge's pride. 

"We'll just see about that!"

Sarge erupted. The arm chair tipped over into the ratty couch. The bull scattered beer cans from the end table as he staggered across the room, past the grease-smudged fridge, toward the rumpled bed and the closet in the corner. His pride wounded, Sarge thought, I am gonna show that smart ass know-it-all he don't know diddly squat.

Wayne slithered out of his seat and stalked behind him. He was quicker than Sarge, and knew he could handle him.  But he would have to make the first move.  He had to have the advantage of surprise because Sarge was so much stronger. Wayne was counting on Sarge's anger as an advantage. He threw an arm around  Sarge' thick neck, as his big, red-faced buddy bent  into the closet to retrieve his VC souvenir. Sarge growled and spun round toward Wayne, overpowering the arm around his throat, and they were chest-to-chest, with a loaded AK47 between them pointing upward. Wayne drove his weight into the big man causing him to lose his balance and stumble backward a half step into the side of the Fridge. They were still locked together face-to-face as Wayne gripped the rifle and tried to rip it away.

Time stood still for Wayne as one round fired and blew pieces of Sarge's skull, blood and brain matter in a gory spray onto the ceiling. Pieces of plaster showered down as Sarge's body fell away, still gripping the rifle.

Wayne stood for a moment, panting. Red button pressed, the vault opened. He heard the whup, whup, whup of incoming choppers. In Nam, Wayne saw more than his ration of horror. Gruesome, painful memories flooded his mind. Horror gripped  him again.  He recalled loading mangled corpses into choppers along with parts of bodies separated from their torsos. The bloodied, shredded, arms and legs from soldiers with no names were thrown atop the pile. He remembered that to survive he killed without remorse.

Oh God, so much horror. Some small arms fire came from a village and we massacred everyone in it. There was nobody in charge. Everyone was shouting and shouting, "shoot this. Shoot that." We killed everything.  Even the dogs had slant eyes.  They looked like V.C. to me. I ran in a hut and just sprayed everybody in there. All of them. Then we burned the village to the ground. Our El Tee shot a guy I knew in the head to end his misery. We watched that same  lieutenant perform a "gook abortion"--slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant Vietnamese woman with a machete. We wiped out whole villages of old men, women, children, babies, even the dogs until nobody facing us survived. Carl and Junior went home in glad bags, Chopper was blown in two right beside me, and I'm walking around in the world with a scar on my ass. Why me?  Why didn't I die? 

He was a United States warrior, and above all, a survivor. His mind was racing. He knew he did what he had to do, there and here. He faced a different kind of jungle, but no matter, always the merciless enemies approached to kill him.  He must survive. Drugs and alcohol muddled his thinking as Wayne developed a plan. He would capture the enemy coming to kill him. He would kill them if he must. He would survive. He retrieved the rifle from Sarge's corpse, leaned it behind the door to the hallway, and fastened the locks.

Two inexperienced police officers in the 7-11 around the corner were talking about the deer hunting trip. They were filling their white foam cups with coffee when the familiar blast of a single rifle shot interrupted them. An excited prostitute, bouncing out of her scanty top, trotted in on elevated platform shoes, running from around the corner to tell them.  But, they were already in motion. The girls on the street pointed them to the doorway beside the bar. They boiled up the filthy stairs, and down the dimly lit, garbage-strewn hallway, guns drawn, to hammer on Sarge's door.

"Open up! Police!"

"Hold on.  My buddy just shot hiself!"


In Wayne's reality, images of Viet Nam merged with his murky, ill-planned intentions of escape. The smells of napalm, cordite, and rotting flesh, the sound of automatic weapons, explosions, shouted orders and screams flashed into his mind to compete for his attention. He tried to assess his situation. What must he do to survive?

Fear and  guilt confused him. Was I  a coward in Nam?  How come I survived, and my friends died? ...and now Sarge!  Damn it, why did he have to die? So many guys will never come home. Were they braver than me?  None of us came back whole.  We ain't never gonna be the same. I couldn't wait to get back to the  world.  How the hell can I live here. I keep thinking about it.  Everything reminds me of that  fucking hell hole.

Wayne felt cold.  But a film of perspiration shone on his forehead. He felt the burning, angry, hollow pit in his stomach. His hands trembled.  His knuckles were white from gripping the rifle. His senses ever alert.  He listened for danger.  His eyes surveyed his surroundings.

He thought,  I want to see my mom and my sister again; I don't want to be killed by no cop. Why should I go to jail? It was an accident. Maybe it was self-defense. Sarge got shot accidentally, didn't he? Am I making things worse?


Wayne removed the chain and slid the deadbolt. He cracked the door open. Spatters of Sarges blood and gray specks of brain matterwere still on Wayne's face and shirt.


Both officers crowded in, their revolvers in their hands. One officer hurried around the table and bent close to see  if Sarge might be alive.

"This guy's dead, Ryan."

Officer Ryan saw the rifle in the corner.  He slammed Wayne's face down on the table, scattering cans and bottles, and drove him to the floor. He rammed a knee into Wayne's back, and cuffed  his hands behind him.

"You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be held against you in a court of law..."

On his way to jail, but alive, Wayne survived again.


Chapter 8


A cold breeze blew in from the alley through a windowless three-story Victorian era building in downtown Denver.  Only the day before, the demolition crew removed the ancient floor. A crew of Mexican laborers were laughing and speaking in Spanish. They removed the brick rubble and century old lumber from the other end of the dusty, red brick building in preparation for the flooring crew.

A short, stocky, black-bearded carpenter worked alone measuring girts set into the brick walls. He was preparing to install new joists, the support frame for the replacement floor. An old, paint-stained radio nearby played music by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Jim was an experienced carpenter, a thirty-five year old Michigan expatriate from the hippie 1960's. From his tool belt, a large steel claw hammer hung to his knees. His paint stained gray sweatshirt had seen better days. A bandanna, possibly red at one time, kept long dark hair off his face.

A clean cut, short but wiry looking guy, in heavy work boots, Levis, and a New York Giants team jacket swaggered up and said in a deep southern drawl,

"You must be Jim.  I'm Harry, Harry Hershey, Gary sent me up here to work with ya."

"Cool. Glad you're here.  I can use the help."

Harry's handshake was firm and unpretentious. Jim was pleasantly impressed.  The  carpenter dug into his faded bib overalls for a well-worn meerschaum pipe. Jim was silent, deep in thought while he filled the pipe from an old-fashioned oilskin, fold-over pouch, fired it with his lighter, then asked,

"You done much construction?"

The pipe tobacco smelled sweet. Jim contemplated the smoke drifting up, swirling in the breeze, as he listened.

"Well, maybe not as much as I told Gary, but I did help my cousin  in Louisiana.  He built his place a few years ago. I done a little framing in Philly."

Jim and Harry hit it off right away. Jim enjoyed Harry's honesty.  If he didn't know how to do something, he would say so, and not try to fake it. They became good friends and were a good team. Each thought about the next move and got ready for it. The work flowed.

They had plenty of time to talk.  They got to know one another well. At least, Jim thought so. Harry talked about his boyhood in Louisiana, his cousins, fishing, and the corrupt politics there. Harry was fun to be around-- a bit of a prankster. Once, when Jim returned from the Supervisor's office, he found his tool belt nailed to the floor. Harry stood nearby grinning at Jim's efforts to lift the belt from the floor. But, Harry was always willing to pull more than his share of the load on the job. He was more alert to his surroundings than anyone Jim had ever known. Harry was always responsible, respectful, and had a strong sense of fair play. They worked together for months before Harry ever said anything about being in the Army.

On the way home from the job, Jim and Harry waited at the bus stop. Two preschool kids and their mom joined them waiting to board the bus. Harry began clowning around. He asked the kids, " Are you going to the zoo?" The kids began giggling at the goofy faces he was making at them, 

"Hi, are these your kids?" He asked their mom.

Jim thought he was trying to hit on their mom.  Actually, he was enjoying relating with the children.

"Yes, this is Carla and that's Timmie."

Timmie was amazed when Harry reached down and magically found a quarter in the curls near Carla's ear.

Timmie asked, "Is there one in my ear too?"

Jim rolled his eyes, and the kids' mom grinned. 

"let's take a look, "Harry said.

"Well abracadabra Kalamazoo, holy smoke, there's one for you too," Harry chanted, and  magically found a quarter in Timmie's ear.

They were all smiling, and the kids were making funny faces back at Harry as they boarded the bus.

When they arrived at Jim's apartment, Harry's mood had completely changed.

"What's wrong, Harry?"

No sound came from him for several moments. Then, choking on the words, he said;

"Jim, I feel real bad when I think about it. You know, I told you about how in Nam I had to crawl into them tunnels. I just started to crawl into one of them.  But, I heard a little noise in front of me, so, I backed out. I figured maybe it had to be one of them big rats they got over there. Even if it was a gook hiding to ambush me, so what, and I chucked in a grenade. When I crawled back in to check it out, they's a woman and two dead kids in there I killed. One of them was just a baby."

Thinking to console him, Jim put an arm around his shoulder, but Harry just shook it off. Without saying another word, he stepped back out into the hallway, and closed the door.

Harry found a cheap room to rent. Jim and his wife, Marilyn, invited him over several times a week to join them for supper. On long weekends, the three of them went on road trips exploring the mountains around Denver. Marilyn and Jim always packed some food and cold Millers. Harry always brought a few joints. Jim laughed as he remembered Harry insisting they stop the car.

"Wow Jim, look at the size of them deer.  They's close to the road up there."

"No man, that's a herd of elk."

"Jim, they's just standing there. Hell, I could run up and swat one on the ass."

"No way, Harry."

"Yeah way!"

He burst from the car and sprinted toward the herd grazing close by. Like a track and field hurdler, he cleared the barbed wire fence as the herd began to amble away. In a blink he disappeared running recklessly across the pasture behind the herd.  The white patches on their rumps bobbed in unison as they trotted out of sight  over the hill.  Soon Jim and Marilyn saw the herd of elk weaving up into the timber across the valley. A few seconds later, Harry came sprinting back toward them... a black stallion close on his heels. With another athletic leap he cleared the fence and laughed as he rejoined them.

They were amused, Marilyn laughed. Jim had a coughing fit trying to laugh and blow smoke out at the same time when Harry said, " I would have caught them if that horse hadn't chased me."

"You're so full of it, Marilyn said.

"Yeah, right!" Jim agreed, still laughing while pulling another beer from the cooler.

Except for the chirping of crickets and the crackling fire, there was no sound. In their campsite in the Rocky Mountain National Park, the aroma of clover and pine forest added ambrosia to the clear, fresh, mountain air. Jim, Marilyn, and Harry sat studying the dying embers of the campfire.  They marveled at the star-filled sky, and fireflies searching for their soul mates moving about the meadow. It was one of those magical summer nights that are fortuitous memories for many of us.

"You guys have been really good friends." Harry lit a joint and passed it to Jim. "and I feel like I got to tell you something I've been holding back."

"You mean about Nam, Harry? You don't need to talk about that, we know it makes you feel bad."

"No, Jim. It ain't that. See . . . Well . . . " Harry was silent for a moment. "WelI . . . uh . . . I uh . . . I accidentally killed a friend of mine. It was for sure an accident. Sarge was a good buddy. I wouldn't never hurt him on purpose! Judge didn't see it that way. Found me guilty of manslaughter. Give me fifteen years. Fifteen years! Can you believe it! I didn't deserve that!"

Harry was speaking softly. Both Jim and Marilyn moved from their laid back, comfortable positions and leaned in more closely to hear him. Marilyn raised her eyebrows and suppressed a surprised gasp.

"You're just putting us on. Right Harry? What's so funny about that? You didn't really spend time in prison, right?" Jim handed him the joint. Harry took a deep drag, and waited for the smoke to expand in his lungs before blowing it out.

"C'mon Harry! That ain't funny! Harry, you ain't no murderer!"

"Nah, it ain't funny. No joke, I'm serious. Me and Sarge was wrestling with a rifle, and it just went off. It was an accident. It was terrible. Me and him was good friends. I love you guys like family. I want you to know. Yeah, I did some time, but I couldn't take it. Before that I never even seen the inside of a jail."

"Couldn't you appeal the sentence."

"I wasn't guilty of nothing. It was just kinda self defense, maybe you'd call it an accident. Nobody was supposed to die! The Public Defender I got didn't do me no good. He was a bum. He had me cop a Manslaughter plea."

"Couldn't you get a lawyer to help you now? Christ, Harry, if the cops find you they might shoot you or something."

"You don't know how bad it is, Jim. It's a madhouse. Nobody don't give a damn if you are innocent. I ain't going back. I didn't do nothing. They's lots of gangs in there. If you want to stay healthy, you have to join up with one of them. Then they'll protect you. I didn't belong with none of them. If I said I was queer they would have put me in a different block. Who wants that shit?"

Jim reached for the joint, and asked,"So how did you deal with it?"

"There ain't no dealing with it. Three black guys was gonna rape me. They thought they could hold me, but I bloodied the nose of the biggest one. They made a lot of noise when the blood flowed. The guards come and broke it up. I got locked in solitary for a damned week. That wasn't so bad. I kinda liked it."

"You mean 'cause it was quiet?"

"Hell no! It ain't never quiet anywhere in the joint. But I was safe in there. When I got out the Aryan Brotherhood tried to get to me. Man, those guys are hard core. They wanted me to kill one of them blacks. If I got kosher with them they'd do it for me. I didn't want nothing to do with that."

"Couldn't the guards protect you Harry?"

"No, Marilyn, you got to understand that gangs run the prison. Guards don't control that."

Thumb to thumb, Jim passed the glowing joint to Harry. They listened to the sounds of the night while Harry took a hit before he explained more.

"The Crips and the Bloods, they got their own thing. I didn't want nothing to do with them either. When I come out of solitary, them black guys beat the shit outa me. I got beat up a lot. I spent lots more time in solitary before they sent me to the farm."

"Did they transfer you because you got beat up, and then you got paroled from there, Harry?" Marilyn was sincere, but naive. Her voice expressed empathy, but her posture more tense.

Harry chuckled,"No Marilyn, the prison was full to the max. They just moved some of us out. I never got released, I still got twelve years to serve. When nobody was looking close, I walked away. That's why I wanted to tell you guys. I don't want you to get in no trouble because of me. But you guys is good friends and I want you to know.  See... my real name ain't Harry Hershey.  I just made that name up. My real name is Wayne Felde, but if you don't mind too much I want you to still call me Harry. They ain't looking for me hard, but if I get arrested they are gonna try to put me back in. I swear on my life, I ain't going back." Harry slammed a fist into the turf. "They ain't taking me back." He was silent for a moment before nudging Jim's shoulder.

"So, it must have been pretty tough for you to stay under the radar." Jim eased a little farther back from the fire as it flared momentarily."How the hell did you wind up in Denver?"

After Harry took another toke, he held the smoke for a long time, then coughed a bit.

"I kept moving. I hid out most of the summer.  You know, they's farms and apple trees.  I like crayfish.  I caught lots of them and little fish in the creeks. I ate lots of field corn and whatever rabbits I could catch and like that. Nobody noticed me. I walked a long ways." Harry chuckled, "Some farmer lady is probably still wondering what happened to her laundry."

Marilyn's posture had relaxed, and she grinned. She had a story to tell about someone stealing her laundry, mostly lingerie.

"Harry, you didn't walk all the way here, did you?"

"Nah, Jim, I told some church people in Harrisburg, I needed a ride to Phoenix.  They's nice people.  I told them I had family and a job there.  It's  warm there, you know, and I figured I could do a winter pretty easy. After we got there I done some landscape work with the Mexicans.  I washed dishes at a place, then I got a ride with a biker from Phoenix to Denver."

Jim, Marilyn, and Harry, shared many pleasant weekends camping and hiking in the Rockies. But those times when Harry was happy were the exceptions. Harry lived alone, and was often depressed. Sometimes he became angry when laborers on the job were careless. Other mundane things also upset him. He called TV actors "stupid" and "assholes" when they were foolish and and exposed themselves to danger.

* * * * * *

After a week of warm spring weather to heat the concrete and bricks in an older section of downtown Denver, it rained. That morning a damp, misty, fog-like ambiance prevailed.  Harry had told Jim about the miserable rainy conditions in Vietnam. They didn't fight much in the rain, but the enemy used the sound of the rain to approach their positions.  He would never leave his apartment in the rain. Their boss on the construction site warned Harry not to miss any more work, so Jim rapped loudly on Harry's apartment door to rouse his friend and work partner.

"Come on, Harry, open the damn door!"

His hesitant voice came from inside. "It's raining.  I ain't working today."

"No, it's not.  It quit. Come on Harry, get up, and let me in."

The chain on the door rattled. Harry opened the door, and Jim stepped inside.

"Good God, Harry, you look awful.  What happened to you?"

"Me and Larry and some guys was down at the bar last night. Hang on a minute, I'll put some coffee on.  Man, Jim,  I don't want to go to work today.  You know how I feel about going out in the rain."

"Yeah, and I know what Gary said too.  He's going to fire your ass if you don't start coming to work regular. Besides, it's not raining any more, it's just a little foggy."

"Always something bad happens when it rains, Jim."

Jim drew the side of his hand under his chin. "I'm telling you Harry,I know Gary wasn't kidding.  He's had it up to here with you missing work. He doesn't care why. Besides, I really need your help installing some windows and a door in from the alley."

After much prodding, Jim convinced Harry to come to work. Jim was right.  A new tenant was due to move in. They needed to go do the job.

As Jim and Harry stacked framing lumber in the alley, they looked up to watch the non-union bricklayer and his helper working on the cold damp scaffold twenty feet above. The masons removed the small original wooden windows, and prepared cavities for Jim to install larger, modern, steel ones. As the masons removed the old windows, they also removed several feet of the old brick walls in every direction. In the mild, misting rain, the men on the scaffold replaced the old bricks with newly laid ones. Jim knew it was unusual for masons to work in damp conditions, but he knew better than to question decisions his boss had made.  After all, he thought Gary is a college graduate.  He gets the big bucks. As the bricklayers finished, the Construction Supervisor leaned out of one of the new openings in the second floor.  He shouted down.

"Jim, I want you and Harry to take down this scaffold, and replace that old door with the new steel one. It's in the tool room. You two can get that done before you leave, can't you?"

The door he wanted replaced was located directly below where the bricklayers were working.

Jim  wiped the mist from his forehead with an old bandanna. "Sure, Gary. We should be able to do that. Should we work over if we run into trouble?"

"We need to keep the building secured, Jim.  Let me know if you are going to have a problem."

"OK, Gary. Come on Harry, lets get this scaffold down."

Harry seemed nervous. After Gary popped back into the building, he came close to Jim and spoke softly.

"Jim, This is really pissing me off. you know I really didn't want to come to work. You know how I hate the rain. It reminds me of Nam. I always get real anxious and feel like something bad is gonna happen. Let's just knock off today and hit it tomorrow. Gary is always in such a big damned hurry."

"Well that's how he makes money for Allen. You know, man, time is money. It's just a little mist, Harry. It won't slow us down. You know, you are kinda on Gary's shit list anyway. Just suck it up, okay? Why don't you climb up, and hand down those scaffold sections. We'll be careful."

As Harry took the scaffold apart, he handed the damp slippery sections down. Jim stacked them out of the way against the brick wall.

As Harry handed down one of the last sections, he asked, "Hey, Jim. How's about we break early for lunch?  We could beat the crowd. We can do that door when we get back. We got plenty of time to finish it after lunch, right?"

"Sure, that would work out OK. But once we start on it we have to button up the building before we quit."

"How about Jose's? I got a hankering from some of his green chili."

"Yeah Harry, I could go for a big, wet burrito myself."

Usually the Mexican workers kept to themselves.  But before Jim and Harry finished their lunch, Jesus, the lead man on the Mexican crew, scurried into Jose's  restaurant in a panic.

Jim! Jim!  the building fell into the alley!  All the new bricks fell in front of the door. Gary sent me to get you."

They hurried to meet Gary in the alley.

"My God, Harry! That whole damned wall came down.

"Yeah, We would have been right under all them damned bricks. I told ya."

Gary stood, hands on hips, and shook his head, "I was sure worried about you two. You sure are a couple of lucky campers."

Harry said just loud enough for Jim to hear, "I knew I shouldn't have come out in the rain. Always something happens."

There was not much Jim could say about that. He knew Harry had survived the conflict in Nam and lots of scrapes after he came back. Jim did not believe in coincidence, and felt Harry must have been saved for a purpose.  He was lucky to be with him this time.

For months the carpenter and his wife were Harry's only social contacts.  But, he began to associate with a group of bikers who boozed every night, and used cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. Jim and Marilyn began to see less and less of Harry. Many times Jim tried to prod him to come to work. Although their renovation work was inside, he refused to leave his apartment-- especially on rainy days. Eventually the foreman replaced Harry on the job.

Marilyn and Jim lost contact with Harry when they moved back to Michigan. They were stunned to receive a letter from Harry's attorney.  Graves Thomas requested them to testify as character witnesses at Harry's trial in Louisiana.  Attorneys Thomas and  Wellbourne Jack were defending Harry. Wayne Robert Felde  was accused of murdering a Louisiana Police officer.

* * * * * *


"Hey Harry, I ain't seen you for a long time."

Harry looked up from his shot, and saw his biker buddy from Denver standing in the shadows created by the bright light above the pool table in Riley's Bar.

"Hey Snake, what's up? What are you doing in Shreveport?"

"I heard you was in town." Snake stepped closer and lowered his voice. "I been looking for you."

Harry straightened and took a firm grip on the pool cue stick. Snake had a shady reputation.

"What for Snake?  What's that all about?"

"We got a big load of stained glass windows and antique brass hardware Allen wants delivered to Denver. I figured you and me could pick up some blow and make a few bucks while we are there.  Maybe you want to ride along with me and Jack?"

"Nah, I would Snake, but, mom's funeral is tomorrow."

Yeah, I heard.  Sorry man."

"Thanks, Snake, but maybe it's a good thing.  She was sick a long time.  I used to call her all the time, you know, since we all left Philly. I shoulda visited her, but I was worried somebody would know  I'm on the run and narc me out."

"Well, Bud, we could wait and leave tomorrow night if you want to come along."

"That'd work. Could you and Jack meet me here?"

"Sure, we'll load up and meet you tomorrow night for a few beers here at the Dragon before we head out."

* * * * * *

Snake and Jumpy Jack never showed up at the bar the next night. 

As the hours dragged on, Harry kept popping Bennies and drinking shots of Jose Cuervo while he waited. He was normally cautious, alert to his surroundings, but the booze and the speed caused him to lose his edge.  This night he was not the quiet careful man.

Harry chuckled. "An easy shot, Bro. Eight in the side, one rail." Harry stroked. The cue ball made solid contact. The ebony sphere rocketed across the table, bounded off the opposite rail, and dropped into the side pocket with a satisfying clack. The cue ball rolled on and dropped into the corner pocket.

"Pay up man, you scratched on the eight ball. That's another twenty bucks." The black man retrieved his crutch and limped toward the table.

"You was just lucky I scratched, Bro, shoot me another one double or nuthin."  Harry pointed the end of his pool cue at the dapper black man for emphasis.

"Just pay up. You think you're some kinda pool hustler? Damn, you lost the last two games. You cain't hardly stand up. You staggerin' round worse than me, and I got a broke leg."

"What are you, a pussy? You know I can whup your ass. You was just lucky." Harry's speech was slurred and his voice was loud enough to be heard over the din in the bar.

"Man, you're nuts? Look, you just pay up the twenty you owe, and I'll shoot you again for forty. I don't mind taking your money."

"Hell yeah! Rack 'em, I gotta take a piss."

The well-dressed black man shook his head in disbelief as Harry regained his balance and weaved between the tables to the restroom at the rear of the lounge.

As Harry teetered up to the urinal and swept his shirt aside, a man washing his hands noticed the large revolver tucked into Harry's jeans. He recalled what a jerk Harry had been at the pool table. The man finished washing and hurried to tell the bartender about the gun. The bartender grimaced.  He had already noticed how loud and aggressive Harry was becoming. The stress began to show in the tightness of his jaw as he polished rings of moisture from the glistening bar. 

Harry lurched from the restroom and leaned on the corner  of the bar.

"Gimme another double Cuervo and a beer for the crip at the pool table."

With a cajoling tone, the barkeep replied, "I'm sorry bud, You've already had too much booze tonight. Why don't you just take it easy for awhile.  Go home and sleep it off."

"You shutting me off!" His shout caused everyone in the bar to look his way. "You can't shut me off! I odered a drink. Serve it up, damn it."

The barkeep responded with more conviction than he felt. "Look Mister, we don't need to make a fuss here.  I can't serve you no more; you just better leave."

"I ain't going nowhere!" Harry weaved over to the pool table and reclaimed his stick. "What the hell are you looking at? It's my break, ain't it?"

"Sure is, after you pay my twenty bucks and put forty more on the table." The dapper man on the other side of the table was icy cool, but spoke politely.

"Hell no! We was gonna shoot double or nuthin." Again Harry's loud obstinate voice got everybody's attention. Bottles and glsses rattled as the group at the table closest to them got up and moved to the bar.

The bartender knew that trouble was brewing. He called the police to report a disturbance. 

The young rookie City Patrolman arrived alone to deal with the problem. He never learned Harry was armed. He assumed he would just be transporting a drunk and disorderly person to jail to sleep it off.

Everyone at the bar stopped what they were doing as the policeman entered and spoke to the bartender. Their total attention was on the officer.

"What's the problem?"

"It's the little white punk in the flowered shirt over there at the pool table. He's drunk and won't leave. I shut him off and he's pissed off about it."

Harry turned, and saw the rookie stride up.

"C'mon buddy, we're going for a ride."

"I ain't going nowhere!" Harry's butt was against the pool table.

With practiced moves, the rookie manipulated Harry face down on the table as the pool cue clattered to the floor. His cuffed his hands behind him, like a caged jungle beast, Harry roared over and over again, "I ain't going to jail! I AINT GOING TO JAIL!" The bar crowd watched in awe as "Who'll Stop the Rain" blared from the jukebox.

The young officer dragged him stumbling to the patrol car. Harry was still shouting and growling.  The officer forced him into the back seat.

As the black and white drove away Harry's bestial growl and violent movements behind him began to unerve the officer.

"What the hell are you doing back there.  Settle down!"

Harry put his body through contortions he recalled from the confining tunnels in Vietnam. Bending and twisting, shoulders pressed back, arms extended to the fullest, knees touching his chin, he brought his cuffed wrists under his heels to the front of his body. Desperate with panic he groped to grasp the .357 still tucked into his waistband.

"Pull this car over and let me out or I'm gonna kill myself right now."

By a glimpse in the rearview mirror Officer Thompkins  realized that Harry was struggling to retrieve a revolver from his belt.

"Oh my God!" He slammed on the brakes, rose and twisted round in the front seat.

The patrol car swerved off the road. Simultaneous with the sounds of the car careening off the metal guard rail, one deafening round exploded and filled the car with the smell of gunpowder.

The officer was found hanging at an angle from the open door of his patrol car. His service revolver was lying on the street beside him. He was dead.  A bullet had passed through the seat and split on a spring, The officer's life pumped from the  artery the shrapnel severed in his upper thigh.

When the police rounded the corner of a building in an industrial park near the vacated police car searching for Harry, they found him sitting in plain view, in the center of an alley, with the revolver resting on his knees.  He was in position, and he had the opportunity to fire on them. But, Harry never fired another round.

He was wounded eleven times from police buckshot and bullets. Unconscious, Harry was critically near the death he hoped for, but skilled surgeons saved his life. After surgery, he spent many months recuperating in a prison hospital awaiting his murder trial. A policeman was constantly at his bedside.

Attorney Thomas told the jury that  Officer Thompkins reached over the seat and struggled with Harry when he tried to kill himself. The shot that killed the officer was an accident.  He told the jury that Harry never fired at the police attempting to apprehend him because he wanted the police to kill him.  He was determined not to return to jail.


Harry maintained he was unjustly sentenced, and swore never to return to prison. His defense was based on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome occurring because of his military service in Vietnam. The disorder was just becoming recognized by the professional mental health community. Several well-respected Psychiatrists took the stand to testify about the disease.

At his trial, when he was asked to describe his Viet Nam experience, in part, Harry said:

"There was choppers bringing in bodies to the LZ where we were waiting to be picked up. The chopper that took us out came in and set down. We had to drag four bodies off. They were all bloody and burned up from napalm. The bodies stunk. I got sick. We made a combat assault on the hill and joined the company. I saw my first firefight and I was scared. It lasted on and off that night, and come daylight, it was over. We had to pick up pieces of our guys to send home-- arms, legs, three quarters of a whole person, burned up. You never got used to it. I was scared. I cried for guys I didn't even know."

Saying that he had killed twice in eight years, he asked the jury to sentence him to death... not sentence him to prison.

He said, "I think the state law says the Supreme Court can take away the death penalty and change it to life, but if they do, I'll kill myself. I know that I could not survive in prison as I told the Jurors.  Given the choice between life in prison and execution, I prefer execution as either means death to me anyway."

In a 1981 statement the jury said, ''We feel that the trial of Wayne Felde has brought to the forefront those extreme stress disorders prevalent among thousands of our veterans.  This trial will forever remain indelibly imprinted on our minds, hearts and consciences. But after long and careful deliberation, through exposure to all evidence, we felt that Mr. Felde was aware of right and wrong when Mr.Tompkins' life was taken.'' The jury sentenced him to death.

Wayne Robert Felde, aka Harry Hershey, was executed on March 15, 1988.
Harry's final words were:

"You can kill the messenger, but you can't kill the message."

He was electrocuted four times by the state of Louisiana before he died. A veteran nurse, Lynda Scott, who witnessed the execution was "shocked at the extent of the burning"..."chunks of skin were burned off the left side of his head toward the front, revealing his skull bone. The skin literally came loose from his body which suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns." Testifying before the Supreme Court, the ACLU used Wayne Robert Felde's electrocution as an example of cruel and unusual punishment, and the unconstitutionality of this form of execution.

President Eisenhower warned the American people after WWII to be wary of the  burgeoning growth of the military industrial complex.

"Americans need to be aware that the wealth and power of the military arms industry has the potential to overwhelm and control a free society."



home last updates contact