YOU'RE ON FAAR.....YOU'RE ON FAAR!!
Mashburn ako The Preacher, was from Northern Georgia...his accent so thick you could cut it with a knife...and the knife better be sharp!
As I woke up...I smelled the burning hair and flesh..it just didn't register that it was MY hair and flesh!
The incredible amount of pain was my first clue....you see...this night had started like any other night in a Ranger's life. We had parachuted onto Vancouver Island....linked up with the Canadian Navy, then boarded a Destroyer anchored in the harbor. After boarding, the Destroyer immediately departed for our objective. We were herded into the bowels of the ship and giving a hot meal with a briefing on our next mission. Around midnight we climbed over the side of the ship into landing craft and headed to shore.
After landing we linked up with partisans who took us part of the way to the objective and then they disappeared and we were left to our own fate. As a young Specialist Fourth Class, these were exciting times. I had recently returned from Ranger School and was only 10 or 15 pounds below my ideal weight. I still ate everything I could get my hands on and I was constantly falling asleep; Ranger School is the most demanding experience a Soldier will have...to include combat...I can't speak for everybody but for me...when I was in a combat situation..I was never that hungry or that tired as in Ranger School. I'm glad I did it but once was enough!
One of the scariest and weirdest things to happen to us on this particular patrol was when we surprised a homesteader chopping wood at night...the look on his face was priceless...he hollered "Indians!" and took off at a pretty good clip down the side of the hill. Expecting our wide-eyed woodsman to return with other sceptical islanders, we also high-tailed it. After quite a hump we finally arrive at our Objective Rallying Point (ORP) and 1LT Garrison disappears into the darkness with a small element of Rangers to conduct their recon of the objective. Unfortunately, the incident with the traumatized axeman made me lose my bearings. I was totally turned around as to our whereabouts and this was very frustrating to me...I had been drilled and drilled to always know your position...at least down to an eight digit grid coordinate.
I whispered to the Preacher....Mashburn!.....
Well, what had happened is the warmth from that little candle was just enough to put me into a “Ranger Trance” and I fell asleep. A couple of unfortunate events transpired; the poncho that I was holding above my head burst into flames like a Roman Candle on the Fourth of July and the sticky burning goo acted like napalm and stuck to my jungle fatigues which immediately burst into flames. I now look very similar to the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four Comic Book series. As I am rolling down the side of the hill trying to put the flames out, Mashburn is helping by beating me with an entrenching tool since, as he later explained: “Well Rogers, I figured you was in quite a fix..you being on faar and all..,so I grabbed the first thang handy and commenced to help.” After this, I promised Masburn that I would NEVER ask for his help again.
I am not sure which hurt worse...the second degree burns on my face or the multiple blunt trauma wounds on my ribcage and torso. We finally got the flames under control and I was no longer on fire..just smoldering. It was now time to make an assessment of the damage. For starters, the flames had burned the pocket flaps right off my jacket. One entire side of my uniform was gone. My eyebrows looked liked remnants of a used SOS brillo pad. Most of my hair was gone..and what wasn't gone was was still smoking. The pain was incredible, but I didn't tell anybody because we had a mission to complete. 1LT Garrison finally comes back from his recon, we attack the objective and head back to the Destroyer anchored off shore. We get back aboard the ship and all my friends get a really good laugh at my predicament...our medic gave me some aspiring for the pain and told me to go on sick call when we get back to base.
As our Destroyer is pulling back into harbor, 1LT Garrison has us all standing up on deck in formation...as he walks in front of my squad he finally notices that one of his men looks like an extra from “Apocolypes Now”. “Rogers, what in the world happened to you!”
“Sir, I can explain..you see sir...I was just checking our grid coordinates when my poncho caught fire and Mashburn beat me with his entrenching tool so as not to cause me any further damage..although I think two of my ribs are broken..”
1LT Garrison raises his hand for me to stop explaining... ”Forget I asked...and Rogers.......you will pay for those unauthorized alternations to your uniform..is that clear!”
Even though my burns healed and my ribs mended....I have never been able to look at a candle or a shovel the same way ever again! I still get shivers when somebody lights a birthday cake. The morale of this story...always, always have fresh batteries and NEVER us a candle...for anything!