War Stories

Hock's Night Out

by Dave Muxo

Hock's Night Out

by David N. Muxo

I remember one day we stopped humping early, maybe three or four in the afternoon. We hadn't had any contact for a while, and we were in the middle of nowhere, so we were not expecting any trouble. We put out security and dug fox holes, cut poles for overhead cover, filled sand bags and covered the poles. Then we put up our shelters by snapping two ponchos together and hanging them over a rope tied between two trees. This was all a daily routine, and we had gotten pretty good at doing all this fairly quickly.

The previous night it had been pretty dark out, almost no moon and cloudy. So we figured that it would be darker, with no moon. We ran string between the shelters and the fox holes, and between fox holes so that we could move around after dark without problem. Then we put out trip flares and claymore mines. It was still light, so after we ate we cleaned our M-16s (not everyone at once, of course). I'm sure that there was a red-haired guy, from Texas I think, in the fox hole with me, and Hock. "Red" (I can't remember his name) was new in country, and was nervous about making sure that his weapon was clean, because he had heard stories about the M-16 not working when it got dirty. Anyway, I checked it for him, and it was beautiful.

Night fell, and we bedded down for the night, with "Red" on guard in the fox hole. Hock and I went to sleep, I thought. Well, apparently Hock had forgotten to answer nature's call before we settled in. Before I go any farther I have to say a couple of things about Hock. He wasn't a bad guy, but he shouldn't have been a grunt. He couldn't move without making noise. If he had been an indian in the old west he would have died young. The fact that he survived and went home (way to go, Hock!) had to be the biggest stroke of luck during the war.

Well, it was quiet, too quiet. I was just about asleep, when I heard a shot. Even though I wasn't fully awake, I knew that it wasn't an ordinary shot. Didn't sound right somehow. It turned out that Hock had gone outside of the perimeter, in the dark, without making a sound... I'll let that sink in for a moment. Remember, this is Hock we're talking about. Somehow he got by "Red" on the way out without "Red" knowing about it. Once out there, Hock did his thing, and then realized that he didn't know where he was! It was so dark he got turned around and didn't know which way to go to get back. He panicked and started stumbling around and making so much noise that "Red" thought there was an attack in progress.

"Red" had a round chambered already, so he fired. Well, if you know anything about the M-16 you know that the spent shell casing flies out to the right through a hole in the right side of the rifle after the bullet fires. So the right side is the weak side. Luckily most of us had our cheek on the left side, and that was the case with "Red". The right side of the rifle blew out, and the round never left the barrel. That's why it didn't sound right, but we didn't really know until the next morning how extensive the damage was to the weapon.

In the meantime, Hock had made it back to the foxhole without getting shot at by anyone else. I'm convinced that Hock would have been dead if the rifle hadn't blown up, because it turned out that he had only gone out a couple of yards. I don't think he was even out beyond the trip flares, because he didn't set any of them off.

End of story, right? Well, not quite. Seems that the Army, represented by the company CO, decided that the rifle had blown up because it was dirty. And it was dirty because "Red" hadn't kept it clean. They wanted to charge him $140.00 to replace it. I made a lot of noise about that, and swore up and down that the weapon had been cleaned that day. The CO decided not to charge him, but he was mad at me for a while. I didn't care. "Red" was one of my guys, and it was my job to take care of him, just as others had taken care of me. That's the way it was over there.