By Lynwood Hughed, Army
Writing Type: Prose
By Lynwood Hughed
Not all promises that you make can be kept due to whatever circumstances blocks you from keeping them. It is also true that it might take a long period of time to fulfill a promise, but you do not let anything stop you from doing so. This is my situation, and although it took years--32 to be exact--I will try to condense my journey into a few pages.
So many events regarding who, when, where and the big one WHY come into play, it is difficult to leave any detail out because all are so important but I learned through this that nothing is impossible.
As of Dec. 14, 1967, I belonged to Uncle Sam- all five-foot-four and 120 pounds of me. I was at Ft. Bragg, N.C. for basic. It was my first time being away from home. Being raised by Mom, Grandma, and three older sisters in the projects and being so small was a challenge, but it made me a stronger person as I learned later in life. Basic training taught me how important teamwork was, and as a team we became one and were named honor platoon for eight straight weeks.
I did not realize how much of a man I had become and what was in store for me.
After basic was AIT, then directly to Ft. Lee, Va. for the next eight weeks learning how to refuel helicopters. This was basically classroom work and hands on training, and I did not experience the teamwork and comradeship that I experienced in basic. Little did I realize what I did experience in basic would play a huge role in my life as time went on.
My first stop in Vietnam was Pleiku with the 4th Infantry Division. At Camp Holloway I did guard duties and whatever I was told to do--no choppers to refuel. Six weeks later I was sent to Darlac. I was now an E-4 and attached to the 5th Special Forces Unit. There was Sgt. James Warren Smith, a medic, who took me under his wing and began to school me on what was to come. This was Sgt. Smith's second tour in Vietnam, and he showed me what to do and what not to do and gave me advice for what situations might occur. We quickly became a team, and the bond and comradeship I felt in basic was back.
On Aug. 23, 1968, at around 5 p.m., Sgt. Smith and I were ready to sit down to eat when the first round of incoming fire from the VC hit outside of our perimeter. It was followed bv continuous hits at different places. Sgt. Smith and I went to our designated area and began to return fire at the VC. We had gotten two rounds off from our location when there was this tremendously loud explosion. I do remember that Sgt. Smith was in front of me as I was handing him another round to fire just seconds before the explosion. Realizing we received a hit right in front of the pit, Sgt. Smith turned and grabbed me and next thing I knew we were in the bunker.
I said something about being lucky to Sgt. Smith who was standing with his back towards me. Not realizing that anything was wrong with either one of us, I heard Sgt. Smith say "l be damned" and he went to his knees. My whole life changed at that very moment. Sgt. Smith received a chest wound, and he was having difficulty breathing. I eased him to the ground and took my shirt off to apply pressure to his chest to stop the bleeding and help him breath better. I kept telling him that he was going to be ok and yelling for help at the same time. The incoming fire did not stop, and it seemed like hours before help arrived. Sgt. Smith knew how critically hurt he was but was so courageous and strong. I kept telling him everything was going to be ok but we both knew otherwise. As they carried him out, I promised him that I would tell his family that he was not alone and how brave and at peace he was because he was not afraid to die and he loved his family dearly. As they carried me out I glanced back at the pit where we were hit; there was nothing left.
Sgt. James Warren Smith went home to be with our Lord that day, and I went to the hospital for 35 days, home for 30 days then back to Vietnam. Later I was wounded again and spent six months in a hospital tin Japan before being sent to Ft. Hood, Texas ,to be processed out and go home. Sometimes what you think might be the end of something might be only the beginning.
After 32 years. On Sept. 22, 2000, my wife and I flew to Houston to meet Mrs. Smith. I wish I could include all that took place through the years to get to this point, but it would be a book when I finished. I had spoken to her on the telephone and answered some of her questions to verify who was and that I was with her son 32 years ago.
Nervous and excited, I said a prayer that God be with me and Sgt. Smith be my Guardian Angel to bring peace of mind to his Mother and loved ones.
After meeting Ms. Smith, going to Ft. Sam Houston to the cemetery where Sgt. Smith is buried, sitting down and having meals together and talking into the early morning hours, I am so proud to call her Mama Smith. Upon saving our goodbyes, she hugged me and told me she loved me and thanked me for bringing peace into her life, and I thanked her for the same. For a long time I felt that it should have been me instead of Sgt. Smith, but Mama Smith also made me feel at peace.
It is now Jan. 5, 2020, I will be 73 in June and Mama Smith will be 102 years old in June also. We don't get to visit due to the distance, but she lives in her own apartment and travels with her family. The effects of Agent Orange, compliments of Vietnam, keep me from doing many things but not from keeping Mama Smith in my prayers and thoughts.
Oh, one more thing want to add, I also found another buddy of Sgt. Smith who was with him in Vietnam. Sgt. Jack Wesson and Sgt, Smith swapped items when one tour was finished. Sgt. Wesson had Sgt. Smith's Special Forces ring, and Sgt. Smith had Sgt. Wesson's knife. By my finding Sgt. Wesson, not only did he also get to meet Mama Smith, but he coukld give her Sgt. Smith’s ring. She wears it on a chain around her neck to this day.