Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Mountain Too Far

Dear Madam,

We regret to inform you that your son didn’t make it this time. He fought alongside his unit with valor and honor and gave all he had to give. Our mission was an all volunteer detail. We were to take four major hills all in one day. The fact that he knew the enormity of what was being asked and still took that step forward with only six other seasoned Grimpeurs speaks volumes about his courage and fortitude. You should always be proud.

Our mission was far beyond anything we had done before. We trained as best we could but for some things you just can’t be fully prepared. We pushed on for many miles through the woods and took two pitched battles at Mud Pike and Jumonville without losing a man. That much should have been enough. I could see it in the sallow faces of the men. Retreat at that point would have been unquestioned and without shame. That we fought on, and the horrors that followed, I alone take responsibility for that.

I know I shouldn’t go into detail, after what I did to your son, but I feel a need to unburden myself. I led the boys into uncharted territory. By the time we got lost the first time, we were already down two men. There were rumblings from some of the others that we should turn back. Despite the wounds already suffered by your son on this, his first Grimpeur mission, he was not among them. His only complaint was that he might slow us down. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of his bravery in the face of extreme physical adversity.

I had been told that Ohiopyle hill was a real meat grinder. One grizzled old veteran had told me that if we ever were to assault that point, we would never make it past Mt. Carmel. To have taken on the task after already fighting two arduous uphill struggles was simply madness. But, sometimes in the heat of battle—when the sweat of our endeavors reddens the eyes and our muscles burn like slow fuses ready to explode—the forward push becomes all encompassing.

Initially, we rolled up the mountain with little resistance. I have to admit I was a little drunk on the tap of our easy progress. Surely we would be heroes, taking such an imposing chunk of territory so quickly. I forgot that heroism always comes with a price. I cannot describe the fear that overcame me when I saw our foe rise up to its full height before us. I admit that I myself sat down and cried for a brief moment at the sight. Honestly, we would have turned back but we had already passed the point of no return. We were caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

Against an impossible gradient we flung ourselves again and again until finally we reached the safety of high ground. We had made it but no one rejoiced, there were too many miles to cross before we were thrown into the breech again.

Despite his best efforts, your son began to succumb to exhaustion, dehydration and general trauma. The boys tried to feed him and pull him along as best they could but it was no use. Killer Bee Stayed behind with him and called for a rescue evac. That was the last I ever saw of him. We remaining three fought our way up one last mountain on route 40. Just a few miles from home one of our strongest men even faltered and fell behind. In the end we logged more uphill miles and elevation change and a greater grade than Mount Ventoux in France. That’s without counting the rollers in between.

New grunts are always razzed and nicknames for Larry such as “Kid Dynamite,” “Dwarf Star” and “Trizilla” were playfully mentioned. But, for the way he kept tagging along like a little brother, and for how the boys nursed him along without complaint, “Cubby” is the name that stuck. He will live on in Grimpeur lore.


Philmeaux said...

OK, that is hilarious. Wish I could have been there for the gruel, what was the total log in miles? - Pheel

Craig, The Flanders Fat Cat said...

63 miles

bluecolnago said...

such tales of heroism bring tears to my eyes.... awesome!

glad you made it back to the blogosphere!