Taz and Kodak

by Rick Beck

Chapter 5

Short Impact

The stand down was given shortly after Kodak got back.

"What's wrong?" Hale asked, seeing Kodak's sour face.

"Nothing," Kodak lied.

"I showered him a few times for Washington. He's a handful all right."

"You can say that again."

"You simply go with the flow, Kodak. I told you, he'll say anything and doesn't mean any of it. He wants to be left alone and will say anything to be left alone. You got to ignore his mouth."

"I keep thinking we're making progress, and then he cuts loose with the stuff he says."

"Once he gets back he'll keep to himself and he won't remember anything he said. Just let it go."

"Easier said than done," Kodak replied, figuring Hale knew what he was talking about.

Taz was back and lying on his newer drier cot, when Kodak looked up from his book. He'd yet to touch the B.A.R. that day, but he'd disassembled and cleaned it each of the last three days. Kodak went back to reading and made no attempt to communicate with the man who fascinated him in more ways than one.

Kodak took his camera out that afternoon and photographed Washington using soapy water to scrub down the cot Taz pissed the night before. The sun had come around to the front of quarters and the light was good, which allowed him to use shadows to make more distinctive pictures.

Kodak clicked two pictures of the shirtless Washington without him knowing he had been caught unaware. He took a picture of the men of 2nd squad throwing around a football. It was a placid scene he might have photographed on a quiet Sunday afternoon at school.

He'd restrained the picture taking to 1st squad for the most part. Getting outside the tent and capturing the camp refreshed him. He caught a soldier coming out of the shower tent with a toothbrush in his mouth, shaving kit in his hand, and a white towel wrapped tight around his small waist.

He photographed men in tight groups walking toward the mess tent. He took a picture of the headquarters building, officer country, and drew a scornful glance from two men smoking on the front porch of the only building in camp.

The weather had cooled somewhat. The afternoon sun was no longer capable of burning the hide off of anyone who stayed in its direct rays for long. The ready status had been relaxed and whatever Sgt. Jacoby's concerns, they'd passed, but Kodak felt anxious even while photographing seemingly pleasant scenes.

The correspondent at the journalism office at the airfield continued to cross his mind. He found himself trying to imitate the flat drone in his monotone voice. Who would want to talk like that? He practiced it using a few of the lines he remembered, feeling way too involved in the description.

Even taking pictures, he thought about Taz. He had gone from quiet compliance to a form of hero worship in only a few weeks. Taz was an asshole and Kodak wasn't even sure he liked him any more. The feelings he'd developed for him were in upheaval. He was unique, disorderly, and blunt.

Kodak ignored him when he went back to 1st squad, staying in the rear of the tent near the card table to be in a more friendly circumstance.

The following morning when Kodak returned from the mess tent with Hale, he found a fatigue jacket with the sleeves cut off in the middle of his bunk. Over the left pocket someone had blacked out the name and had printed Kodak above the name tag in bold black letters.

Taz sat on his bunk with his cleaning rags and the B.A.R. across his lap as he buffed the dark wooden stock, not noticing Kodak's return.

Kodak immediately put the jacket on over his shirt, trying to see how it looked. It made him feel more like a member of the squad. It was a feeling consistent with how he saw his role. Looking around, he couldn't tell who might have given him such an appropriate gift. The answer came as a surprise.

"I asked Jacoby if it was okay. You need something to cover up those Hawaiian shirts you wear. Don't get me wrong or anything, I like them fine. I wouldn't wear one but I got to stand next to you and they make really good targets. I'd hate it for one to get a hole in it," Taz said nonchalant in a rush of words.

"Thanks," Kodak said, still trying to model it for himself.

"You cut the sleeves off of everything?" Kodak wondered aloud.

"Just the things I wear on patrol and a few T-shirts for comfort. The sleeves bind my arms and I need to be able to have full motion during a firefight."

"You have nice arms," Kodak admired, biting his tongue immediately. "I mean the way they bulge."

Why did he say stuff like that? He didn't want to get Taz started again.

"Thanks," Taz smiled. "Those are nice shirts your sisters picked out for you. A bit pushy with the color for a war zone though, but I like them. I like them a lot. Honest."

"Yes, well thank you for the thought. I like the fatigue jacket," Kodak said, proud of himself for not biting the bait and looking at how his Hawaiian shirt sleeves covered his upper arms.

"I figure if I'm going to have a boyfriend, I don't want him to get shot. Not right away anyhow."

"Yes, I'll keep that in mind. I wouldn't want me to get shot right away either and that saves you from having to break in a new boyfriend."

Taz sat silent, realizing he hadn't gotten to Kodak, even if the gift was meant as a peace offering for constantly saying the things he said that upset Kodak so much. He didn't intend it to come out the way it did. Things just popped out of his mouth. He went back to buffing the stock vigorously.

Sgt. Jacoby gave the official stand down order for the day. The squad had two days before resuming normal rotation on patrol. There had been no enemy sightings in the past twelve hours and whatever had the camp on alert the afternoon before had passed.

The next day was payday and the beginning of a two day poker game. Taz played for an hour, bet almost his entire month's pay on one hand, and retired to his bunk broke and staring at the top of the tent. He said little and little was said to him. His presence was awkward for everyone, including Taz.

He played cards like he did everything else. It was like there was no tomorrow. He was in Vietnam. You might be dead tomorrow. He didn't have much to say and everyone gave him a lot of room to say it. Kodak couldn't help but want to know more. Everyone else was content to leave well enough alone.

As painful as it was, Kodak still envisioned becoming Taz's friend. He didn't know why. Taz left few opportunities to get close enough to accomplish the feat. This required a new tactic Kodak hadn't decided on yet.

He'd never been in a war zone before and perhaps Taz was the natural consequence of the environment, except there was nothing natural about Taz or his behavior. All the other men seemed fairly socialized and in need of some companionship.

Finding out about Taz's life before Vietnam might be the key to befriending him. Taz could be alone in the middle of a war and no one seemed to notice but Kodak. Not only did he notice; he wanted to do something about it. He'd been alone and never liked it, but it never once occurred to him that Taz might want to be alone.

Kodak had lived a relatively protected life and someone might wonder what the hell he was doing in Vietnam when so many 20 year-olds were doing all they could to avoid being sent there.

Voted least likely to leave home in high school, he couldn't wait for college to begin. Kodak knew he was looking for something to love and to devote his life to, and that's why he was heading toward Vietnam when so many were running the other way.

It was another day before they returned to the chopper landing zone above camp. There were two squads already waiting in the LZ, when Kodak arrived to take pictures of his squad's approach.

This was his attempt to tell the story of 1st squad. He'd been successful at photographing them at play and at rest. Capturing them waiting to go on a mission was another part of their story, and the return home, once a mission was completed would come next.

He'd put all the pictures together with the story he would write about being a member of 1st squad. He carried a camera, shooting friend and foe alike to tell a complete story that would bring Vietnam into perspective for the people at home.

Kodak hadn't come to Vietnam with a plan in hand. It took some time for him to understand there were parts to the story he needed to tell. Now it was clear and he knew what he wanted to achieve. What he needed to do was tie the pieces together.

Kodak didn't recognize any of the other soldiers, but he couldn't resist taking photographs of them as they waited to be whisked away on their mission. He noticed the same faraway gaze on most of the faces.

Standing off to one side, mostly unnoticed, he clicked his pictures. Then, as 1st squad approached, he captured his squad, singularly and as a unit, never telegraphing his shots. Being casual, he went about his work with a cool efficiency that alerted no one to the fact he was documenting their activities. Kodak was learning to be part of the scenery and not part of the scene.

This was where Kodak took advantage of his unrestrained access. No one there was all that focused on the LZ or the men in it. They thought private thoughts. It was the abstract that Kodak couldn't capture on film, but he could capture the soldiers no matter their state of mind.

These would be the most candid shots yet. It was the first time he'd separated from the squad to photograph them as they readied themselves for battle. He'd taken this kind of shot back at quarters. It was the first time he'd used this approach on a mission.

He felt a greater purpose at work. It wasn't simply an image he was shooting. He felt it had become more important than that. He was no longer doing a job for a paper back home. Kodak was creating art. He began to understand his responsibility to his men as he did it.

He'd get this film back to the airbase that afternoon. He hoped he would bring back the prints from his first firefight, anxious to see what he'd caught on film. The prints for the film he was sending off on his next trip to the airfield wouldn't return for two weeks or more.

He understood he could be recording moments that might be someone's last. If a single photo might give comfort to a soldier's loved one, he wanted to take it. It was the price he owed for the privilege of accompanying these warriors into battle.

He was subtle and quick, snapping off pictures from many different angles to be sure he included everyone. Having the photo of a man who did not come back would be difficult for Kodak. He tried not to imagine men dying, but in war men died, and he would take a picture of such a man out of his collection of prints and make sure the soldier's sergeant got it to his family.

He always shot the most pictures of Taz. He wondered if his editor might suspect he had a crush on the unorthodox soldier. It was the easiest thing for Kodak to do with Taz, who never paid much attention to him at times like these.

From the time they gathered until the choppers started coming out of the sky, the squads were subdued, waiting patiently for their transportation. They each had their own place to go at times like these.

Kodak worked his way around 1st squad, shooting them all at least once alone in the shot. The hardest thing for him to do would be to look through his pile of prints for the ones of a member of 1st squad that he'd hand to Sgt. Jacoby. No one close to him had ever died and these men had become like family to him. His was a big responsibility.

Once Sgt. Jacoby's men loaded into the chopper, it was too loud to talk, but no one had anything to say. The chopper banked lazily away from the landing zone, flying at treetop level.

Taz showed nothing in his expression. Each picture of him was like every picture Kodak shot of him. It really added nothing to the story, and yet when the prints came back, Taz was by far the most photogenic. Maybe the film was able to catch what Kodak couldn't see.

As soon as the chopper dropped down on the LZ to discharge them, Taz was out the door, the B.A.R. at the ready to protect his squad. One by one they streamed out onto the ground with Kodak bringing up the rear.

He took pictures from that point of view before falling into line behind Hale. He looked over his shoulder to see if he could find Taz without success. By the time the squad moved into the bush, Taz was off on his own.

Kodak made a mental note to get out with Taz next time and stick with him, until he was able to see how he managed to become invisible so swiftly. Doing things swiftly was the way 1st squad moved. Making mental notes didn't always make sense, depending on what happened between this time and next time.

The activities and the men were so intense it was difficult to remember a random thought about where he might want to be next time. Even the next time was a reach when you were just going out this time. Art didn't necessarily translate agreeably in a war zone.

Kodak stuck close to Hale. They moved quickly into the dense jungle. Kodak held his camera to keep it from jiggling and maybe going off on its own. The sounds of the invasion force were distinctive. The rattles and movement of equipment and men couldn't be muffled at this speed.

Kodak couldn't be certain if it was louder than on the last patrol, because he was way more focused on staying in contact with Hale. He no longer had time to consider where Taz might be.

Patrolling is routine. You move and follow the sergeant, until he tells you to stop, or turn, or until Charlie makes his presence known. It was at that moment that all bets were off and the squad was everything and you stood or fell together.

Kodak didn't know what the other men felt. He felt some excitement brought on by the swift pace and the anticipation of the fight sent adrenalin racing through his veins. He put himself into the middle of a conflict, bringing only a camera to the fight.

They moved too fast for anything or anyone to listen long. They were on a mission and the squad was wasting no time getting to where they were going. Five minutes before they got to where they were going, they could hear sounds that weren't familiar to the jungle, unless the birds were armed.

The gunfire was distant and didn't sound like it did the last time Kodak was near it. It was significant and sustained this time. It went on for some minutes before they got to the scene. The smell of spent ammo hung heavy in the air as smoke drifted through the trees until it encompassed Sgt. Jacoby's fast advancing rifle squad. There was no hesitation, no reluctance, as 1st squad charged forward.

The men at the front of the formation were firing fast, spreading out as they came upon the battlefield. Kodak could see the engagement as the jungle thinned out to reveal the battle in progress. His camera worked furiously as he tried to capture it all.

No one needed to tell 1st squad how to go into battle. The enemy found itself caught between 1st squad and 2nd squad and the North Vietnamese were unaware they'd been detected this time, and with the entry of 3rd squad a couple of minutes later, the three rifle squads delivered a deadly crossfire. They'd finally caught up with the major force in the area. There would be no slipping away this time.

Hale had moved forward to join the skirmish line as Kodak found what looked like a safe place from which to photograph the scene. It was obvious the enemy force had been surprised and was making an attempt to retreat to reform their line and ended up running into 1st squad, forcing their line to collapse back toward the densest part of the jungle where they hoped to use the cover to hide their retreat.

1st squad closed off an idea of retreating to the north. They were wading in waist high grass, firing at the retreating Vietnamese and creating a serious impairment to their desire to split the scene.

As Kodak searched for pictures, he found Vietnamese also using the trees for cover, while remaining seriously exposed to 1st squad. Charlie moved back one tree at a time in an effort to escape the crossfire. Kodak documented the engagement, never giving a thought to Taz, until he heard the B.A.R. cut loose.

Off the path fifty yards from his own squad, Taz opened up on the retreating North Vietnamese soldiers. The sound of Taz's weapon overpowered the other sounds on the battlefield. The Vietnamese turned in time to see the man who killed them, falling and dying from overexposure to fire that came from the big rifle stationed in the way of their final retreat.

1st squad advanced excitedly, firing and leaping obstacles as they fought and won control of the field. By the time Charlie ran into the fire coming from Taz, they understood they were cut off and cut down before there was any chance of regrouping.

Taz's fire forced the survivors back toward 1st squad. 2nd squad closed in from their position and the fire became scattered and less intense after a ferocious exchange. The company of North Vietnamese regulars was no more. A few may have slipped away in the confusion but the body count came to over forty.

Kodak wondered if this was the same force of enemy soldiers they'd been hearing was in the area since he arrived. He remembered the Marine base up north and understood that this was a walk in the park compared to that but they'd taken light casualties compared to the enemies' loss. They were caught flatfooted and never had a chance to mount a significant attack.

Once the solders from 2nd squad and 3rd squad moved over the area, Charlie had met his match on this day, and Sgt. Jacoby called 1st squad off the hunt. 3rd squad pursued what was left of the enemy as they were last on the scene.

Taz stood opposite the other two squads and Kodak worried he'd be hit by friendly fire. The idea the sound his weapon made alerted everyone to where Taz stood, meant their best weapon was safe from friendly fire. If Kodak immediately recognized the sound of the B.A.R. the other squads certainly knew it was Taz.

1st squad fell back where Ramos had fallen next to the path as a medic attended him. The continuous fire was reduced to short bursts from the direction 3rd squad took to chase Charlie down.

Kodak stepped out from his cover and clicked off five pictures of his hero as Taz carefully made his way back toward his squad. There was a sudden motion and Taz fell back, bending his knee in an adroit move that had him firing toward the sky. He let go with two quick bursts before the big rifle clicked a half dozen times, stopping, only to click some more as he ran out of ammunition.

Kodak heard a single report from another rifle he couldn't identify. It fired one shot with a singular sound at about the time Taz opened up. There was a high-pitched sound of a bullet passing Kodak's left ear, smashing into the wood of the tree he'd been using for cover until a moment before.

A slow cracking sound from limbs breaking got his attention back on the tree Taz was firing into and a man dressed all in black fell about ten feet with limbs cracking as he plunged before the rope tied around his ankle stopped him dead. Kodak realized the bullet was meant for him and only Taz stood between him and a body bag.

All was quiet on the western front, for a minute anyway.

"You damn dumb son-of-a-bitch," Taz screamed, cradling his empty rifle and charging toward Kodak like some agitated bull.

This scared Kodak far more than the just ended battle or the idea he might be dead right now if Taz wasn't on the job. Taz was having none of it and stood directly in front of Kodak as the soldiers yelled at each other for counts and for helicopters to get the wounded off the battlefield and into the nearest Aid Station.

"What did I tell you?" Taz yelled, paying no attention to anyone else, and no one else came near them.

"Stay down until you tell me I can get up," Kodak remembered for him.

"You asshole. You're lucky I didn't run out of ammunition ten seconds sooner. You'd be dead now. Those guys aren't playing, Kodak."

"I know that. I wanted to get some pictures of you in action. I couldn't help it. It's what I do. Quit picking on me."

"I can't keep you all safe if you're going to act like fools. I'm not always going to be nearby. Do you understand that? You have no way to defend yourself, Kodak. This is war."

"Yeah, I understand."

"When you hear gunfire, what is it you do?"

"Get down, but I was behind the trees, Taz," he explained.

Taz put one finger up over Kodak's lips as Kodak wanted to offer some explanation for having exposed himself to danger.


"Get down," Kodak capitulated to a man who knew more about war than he ever could. "I get down and I wait for you to say I can get up."


"Ramos took one in the shoulder," Washington announced, jogging up to bring Taz two more clips.

"How bad?" Taz asked, slapping a fresh clip into his weapon and pocketing the other.

"Bad enough we'll lose him. Probably a million dollar wound but he'll survive. Cohen's going to get him to the LZ."

"Anyone else?" Taz asked.

"Not our guys. Two from 2nd squad took hits and one from 3rd squad is pretty bad. That guy you took out of the tree had someone in his sights. There's a lucky soldier walking around here that don't know he was almost dead," Washington blurted excitedly, remembering Taz's marksmanship..

"Yeah, he does know," Taz said, looking at Kodak who started to blush again.

"You? Shit!" Washington said surprised. "You're kidding?"

"I might have to put him in diapers and hold his hand," Taz growled. "I nearly wasn't in time. He broke a branch as he was leveling his rifle."

"You okay, man?" Washington wanted to know.

"Yeah, it missed my head by a few inches. I heard the bullet go by my ear. He saved my life all right."

"There's a lot of Charlies who ain't quite so lucky," Washington explained, patting Taz's shoulder. "We caught them flat footed."

Taz went where Ramos sat on the trail with his shirt off and a large bandage marking where the bullet had come out his back. Temple held an IV up behind him as the medic checked him for other wounds.

Taz leaned in to say something to Ramos and they shook hands as Taz backed off a few paces to the rear and toward where Charlie had last been seen heading for parts unknown.

Cohen became a pack horse and Ramos wrapped his legs around him to stay up on his back. He only had one arm to hold on with but the medic and Temple went along as they headed for the closest LZ.

Sgt. Jacoby met with the sergeants of 2nd and 3rd squad and they gave each other a high five in celebration of finally catching Charlie between their squads. The tension left the scene and the rest of the soldiers sat quietly at the side of the trail, expecting no more action and worn out from the battle just concluded.

Taz stayed close to Kodak once they moved out to be pulled out of the jungle. Ramos was gone and no one expected to see him again. He appeared to be seriously wounded but not anything life threatening. By the time 1st squad was waiting in the LZ Ramos was getting the best medical care in the world.

That evening was quiet. Sgt. Jacoby had already announced that another force had been spotted near where they'd engaged him earlier in the day and the camp went on alert. Charlie was building forces in the area and they'd intercepted a new company, according to the orders they'd recovered from the dead soldiers.

Before daylight they were loading back onto a chopper and heading back toward the area they'd fought in the day before. It changed nothing. The enemy was the enemy and 1st squad went out to stop him. 2nd squad stood down, too short handed to field a full rifle squad and 3rd and 4th squads went into action with them.

Except for grabbing sandwiches that were set on a table outside the mess tent, no one got breakfast. As the chopper raced across the treetops, the sun peeked out for the first time. By the time they hit the ground first light was filtering down through the trees.

They were quickly on another one of those hikes that kept Kodak winded from the time they hit the jungle trail. They moved continuously south and east. There was no briefing, simply a call to hit the deck running and in ten minutes they were on their way to another party given in Charlie's honor.

Twenty or thirty minutes into the hike Kodak heard the firing. Both groups opened fire at the same time but Charlie wanted to get into the jungle more than he wanted to see how many US soldiers they'd run into. 1st squad went in pursuit, since that's what they were there for. It was child's play compared to yesterday's battle.

1st squad had come to fight but Charlie was caught by surprise, heading to a spot where other units were gathering. Kodak used a tree for cover to get a good look at the firefight. Taz would be proud, but he didn't check to see where he was. Almost as quick as he began taking photographs, 1st squad was moving in a line toward the enemy who had broken and was moving away from the trail, using the jungle for cover. It was a chance meeting of two like size forces traveling in opposite directions on the same trail.

Short bursts of fire were followed by silence, more short bursts, and more silence. At one point Kodak identified the B.A.R. barking at a distance he couldn't be sure about. He couldn't help himself and with the skirmish taking place on the west side of the trail, he headed into the bush in search of Taz. He could find cover if he caught up with the fighting but he didn't want to miss anything.

There was no thought or plan, simply a response to the sound the big rifle made. The firing had all but stopped, except for a couple of shots now and then at quite a distance. Then, there was another loud burst from Taz.

Kodak thought he wasn't going to win any rewards chasing the battle. After a few minutes of moving in the direction of the fighting, he had become disoriented and wasn't sure where the trail was in relationship to where he was. He was lost. There was only the rifle fire to tell him where 1st squad was from time to time.

He thought he'd run into them or they'd run into him before long, or maybe he'd find Charlie, or heaven forbid, Charlie would find him, or Taz might. He thought maybe Charlie would be easier.

This would not end well no matter how it ended, because Kodak knew Taz would find fault with him following a gun battle that was on the move. It was too late to turn back, because he didn't know where back was, as he stood, looking around him, wondering how anyone could find their way in the undergrowth where he stood. All of 1st squad might be lost forever.

Much to his relief, Hale was walking back toward the trail with his M-16 resting on his shoulder with the barrel pointing behind him as he walked, and he ran right into Kodak.

"Hey," Hale said. "They're on the run. I'm tired of chasing them. Washington and Taz are still on their trail."

"Oh," Kodak said, trying to sound unconcerned.

"They'll give it up soon. You know you shouldn't be out here, Kodak. What if you got lost? This jungle is a maze once you get off the trail."

"Can't they get ambushed?" Kodak worried, not wanting to think about being lost. "They didn't send all these men out here for a half dozen enemy soldiers."

"Not usually what happens with that small a force. They're looking to get away," Hale explained.

"Couldn't they run into the larger force?" Kodak asked.

"Didn't give that much thought. I suppose they could. Maybe I should have stayed with them to keep them out of trouble."

"The shooting has stopped," Kodak observed.

"You shouldn't be out here. It's too unstable an area. One of those snipers might be anywhere around here. They frequently go up to get away."

Kodak hadn't thought much about casualties in 1st squad, but it was the first time the fighting had been out of range of his camera. This increased his worry about Taz, because he was out there in parts unknown. His rifle had gone silent and that worried Kodak even more. Could someone have stayed behind and shot Taz?

This sequence of events would leave an impression on Kodak he wouldn't soon forget. He realized how easily he could have gone in the wrong direction if Hale hadn't found him. That scared him too. He was still learning and this was a lesson worth remembering.

"You better come on," Hale advised, seeming to know where he was going.

"Damn you," came an angry growl as Kodak was taken down. "I'm going to put you on a plane back to the States myself."

"I was only trying to see what was going on. No one was firing," Kodak pursued a new approach.

"Don't you ever do that again, asshole," Taz yelled, standing over him with the big rifle pointed at the ground next to where he landed. "I don't know where the hell Charlie is, how the hell do you think you know?"

"I didn't know where you went," Kodak apologized. "I was safe as long as I was behind you. You said to stay…."

"Down. Stay down. You are supposed to stay down if you hear gunfire and wait for me to tell you to get up."

"I know," Kodak said, sensing something more than anger from Taz this time. "I forgot. I get excited. I'm a photographer already."

"Don't worry about where I go. I'm doing my job. You stay behind us and take your damn pictures, but don't you ever follow me into the bush again. Hell, I could have cut your ass in half before I'd known it was your skinny ass wandering around out here. You've got to use your head, Kodak. This is a war zone, not Disneyland."

Hale remained silent until Taz cooled down a little, and only then did he add his two cents worth.

"Lighten up, Taz. I was with him. I wouldn't let my personal photographer get hurt, now would I?" Hale remarked. "He's got a job to do too, you know. He's going to make 1st squad famous."

This did give Taz something to think about. The way he tried to protect Kodak might be extreme. What he wanted was for Kodak not to be at risk, but he was there and that put him at risk. He was going to be there and Taz could only protect him within reason. Why was this so important to him? This question came to him out of the blue.

Kodak had never seen his role as making anyone famous. It wasn't about him. It was about telling a rifle squad's story in pictures. His job was to tell what it was like for the men who fought the war. The story he was telling was their story. He doubted any of them would be made famous. If they got to go home he'd be happy.

"Come on. Let's see what the damage is," Hale suggested, sensing an intensity between Taz and Kodak that needed to be broken.

Kodak moved back onto the trail behind Hale and in front of Taz. He felt relieved. There was a lot of movement and excitement when they rejoined 1st squad.

Washington took one in the helmet. It went in one side, leaving a small entry hole before going out the other side, ripping a chunk out of it. The helmet looked like someone took a can opener to it.

The force of the bullet knocked the helmet free of Washington's head, likely saving his life because he didn't have the strap pulled tight. He was still a bit shaken. The squad examined his damaged lid.

While the helmet said whoever wore it took a round in one ear and it went out the other, the round had not gone through Washington's head. It found an easier way to exit, leaving him with a war trophy worth talking about. Kodak took pictures of it on and off Washington's head. Everyone was all smiles as they wiggled their fingers through the hole.

1st squad took out three of the enemy in what was likely a splintered force. It could have been the remnant from the battle the day before or part of another force that was moving into the area. The sightings were consistent and the contacts with the enemy were growing.

Kodak had learned some valuable lessons. He wouldn't go wandering in the jungle on his own again. 1st squad knew exactly where the trail was at all times when they chased Charlie. In a matter of a minute or two Kodak could get lost. He did need to use his head before putting himself in danger. He was lucky this time.

The incident with Kodak was forgotten and Taz went back to being nearly invisible. Kodak snapped pictures and the squad marched easily toward the same LZ that they'd used the day before. It was the first time Kodak recognized this kind of landmark without being told. They met up with the other squads at the LZ and they hadn't engaged the enemy or seen any sign of Charlie.

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