The firing broke out just as my squad reached the edge of a long-abandoned ville. My adrenal gland red-lined as we rushed in to close with the enemy. Suddenly a man jumped up to my right and ran between some collapsing hootches. As I ran after him I yelled out to my fire team "I've got a gook over here!" In the center of the ville he crossed a clear area and jumped behind a pile of rubble. I shot at him but I missed. I wasn't crossing that clear area to get to him and I couldn't shoot him from where I was. I reached into the old Claymore bag I carried across my shoulder and pulled out a hand grenade. I pulled the pin, let the spoon fly and tossed the frag over the pile. The explosion sounded wonderful and the short scream that followed was the best thing I'd heard all day. In the moment of silence that followed I realized all the firing in the ville had ceased. Then from behind the pile of rubble came a horrible screeching. I approached the pile from the flank with my rifle up and ready. There lay a very dead gook and a horribly wounded dog. I shot it right away. As I bent down to search the body of my enemy, with tears in my eyes I asked God to forgive me. I hadn't meant to hurt the dog.

copyright © 1992 by John Musgrave, from his book "On Snipers, Laughter and Death: Vietnam Poems," all rights reserved.