All posts by Charles Stokes

Old Age

By Charles Stokes

Charles Stokes

What is old?

The beautiful Oak that was an acorn 400 years ago;

The great Red Wood that has stood for 1,000 years;

The tiny gnat that has flown for 2 weeks;

The graying of the mahogany black;

The touch of the once soft creamy yellow, and brown;

The eyes of clear blue, brown, and green -that haze over, but see more clearly;

That strength that was once defiant- out ran.

Fatigue, sadness and longing…

What is old age?

~Stokes~

© 2019 Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved, Email: cds4427@comcast.net

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DAY THREE (NIGHT)

By Charles Stokes

Charles Stokes

An Excerpt from Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam, 2018 Xlibris : A Classic Novel of the Vietnam War

Soldiers of the time will readily identify with the characters. The Garrison Soldiers, McNamara’s 100,000, black marketeers, Mamasans, business girls, recon Soldiers, the too often caught in the middle Vietnamese Villagers, and the Viet Cong. As their lives evolve and stories intertwine, war touches all of them from the middle school dropout become Recon Team Tail Gunner and from goose herder become lethal Viet Cong tracker.

Charles takes you on multiple journeys. Each one a story of its own. Each one intertwined with another. Whether it’s being conned by smooth ladies of the night or isolated and fighting for your life, he paints a vivid portrait and drops you right in the middle of it. You will feel the sweltering tropical heat and experience the chill of the monsoon rains. No doubt some will re-experience anxiety, relive the brotherhood of warriors in intense combat, feel the heartache of losing a brother, recall the brief reprieve of R&R, and feel the letdown of a too often unwelcome return home.
 J.D.

****

By nightfall, 1-0 had discovered the pattern of trails that zigzagged throughout the area. The trails ran generally parallel which allowed the enemy trackers to move rapidly to a location and turn 90 degrees and beat through an area to the next trail, slowly hemming in the recon team. 1-0 stopped his team and backtracked through an area where he had set a Claymore ambush that had killed several of the enemy trackers. He was hoping that the trackers would not check an area that they had already searched.

Without warning came a strong wind gusting from the hills west, just a single gust at first, then calm. The gust came on again so suddenly that it caused the vegetation to shudder. A third continuous violent gust of wind shook the jungle canopy causing the bamboo and trees to rattle. “Keep it up,” 1-0 thought. He looked west into the wind and saw the gusts coming in force. He could see the high, towering clouds behind the wind closing upon them from the northwest, enveloping the valley and the ridges. The team watched the approaching line of rain. As it advanced the wind shook the jungle above them. The rushing wind, so violent, seemed to vibrate the whole hill. Steadily a curtain of water advanced with the harsh winds blowing the rain horizontally, producing stinging water, not drops but cold jets crashing on them, and resonating through the foliage.

Under the covering noise of the storm, 1-0 moved the team into thick undergrowth within 5 meters of a high traffic trail. The idea of moving his team so close to a trail at night was crazy, but he was desperate. With the bad weather conditions in the team’s favor, 1-0 hoped it would be the last place that the enemy trackers would be looking for them. His plan which could be suicidal was to get on the trail, follow it as far as possible, then break back into the jungle and head for higher ground. “It just might work,” 1-0 thought. The trail led away in a general northerly direction toward the hilly area that the team was trying to reach. For the present, 1-0 and his team lay perfectly still, hidden along the trail as darkness and the drenching monsoon rain continued to fall.

The team lay in the thick brush near the high-speed trail as gigantic water drops swept across them in total inundation. The rain was a ricocheting mist in the pitch-black night. The recon team pulled their bush hats lower over their heads to no avail as the cold water ran over their rucksacks and down their backs. Although cold, the recon team was grateful that the rain provided complete concealment in the darkness. “What luck, miserable, but good luck,” 1-0 thought as he lay perfectly still and totally soaked. The team lay there listening and watching. They could hear enemy trackers move up and down the trail during the brief lulls in the rain. 1-0 again observed that the enemy trackers were using the high-speed trails to move quickly between locations to beat through the jungle searching for the recon team. He was now hesitant to move due to the frequency of the enemy troops moving along this trail. The number of other smaller trails surrounding the recon team confirmed that they had run deep into the middle of an enemy base camp area. He also knew that if he did not move the team before morning all of them would be captured or dead. For almost three hours, the team lay motionless and silent nearly on top of each other as they watched the forms of enemy soldiers move quickly by, some with flashlights and radios.

© 2019 Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved Email: cds4427@comcast.net

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As the myriad of life’s memories cascade

By Charles Stokes

While the autumn leaves of my life slowly stir in the wind, turn and stir the memories that cascade before my eyes,

And fall from the big oak in the forest of life drifting ever so slowly on the currents of my memory.

I see the beautiful hues of crimson, bright yellows, and gold, reminding me Of times I woke up with God’s sunshine on my face; the birds singing the Joy of a new day.

I see the cinnamon browns and rust reds reminding me of times between, when I did not stop to hear my children laugh at the joy of chasing a butterfly.

I see the dark and dull leaves burnt from too much…reminding me of times I did not drink in the morning dew.

All of life’s leaves are turning and settling in a resting Place.

I see the beauty of autumn…

Now the floor is covered with memories white and silent as winter snow waiting… Seasons pass… leaves of yesterday disappear… saplings sprout and grow from nutrients left behind, nourished they become great trees.

And the seasons come and the leaves fall…

                                                                                     Stokes

© 2019 Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved

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Lest We Forget

By Charles Stokes

We need to stay young,
And to stay young we need to stay around younger people.
We need to stay young,
We need to be around children, teenagers, grandchildren, –
We need to stay young,
Around someone who is now where we once were –
and had almost forgotten.
We need to stay young,
Take us back to those days when we could unabashedly do things –
just for the fun of doing it.
We need to stay young
Take us back to the days when we could run without tiring
– but didn’t know
We need to stay young,
For all the aggravation and heartbreak, and trying times that youth gives us


The wise can see that God has given us the greatest gift
– our children so that –
We can stay forever young.

© Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved, Email Charles:
cds4427@comcast.net

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Look Past What Meets the EYE

By American Journal’s Bard, Charles Stokes

I am old and gnarled with age
I am the poignant letter
I am the survivor of many wars
I fought and won the battles, but-
I can no longer carry freedoms torch
I am frail and jaded with time
I am you and you are me

What is it that you would have me do?

I am yesterday,
You are today,
Who is tomorrow?
What is it that we should do?

Yes, Look Past What Meets the EYE

© Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved, EMAIL Charles: cds4427@comcast.net

Eyes graphic: Istockphoto.com

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Where Were We

By American Journal’s Bard, Charles Stokes

When the sun is bright

We don’t see the beauty that lies within

It was there, but we were enjoying the sun

There is beauty all around

But, we were bathing in the light

Now the sun is going and the light growing dim

We pause and notice the beauty that was within

Only a short time left; now we can see

Now the light is dim, and the beauty graces the ground

Soon it will be gone, dried and withered

Where were we when beauty was all around?

~Stokes

© 2019, Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved

Email Charles: cds4427@comcast.net

THE COMBAT SOLDIERS

By Charles Stokes

An excerpt from Soldier’s Reverie: Vietnam, 2018 Xlibris

The 1-0 was watching as the 155mm rounds exploded around the hill where his team was pinned down. The artillery unit known as Red Leg was firing at maximum range making the accuracy of the big guns somewhat questionable.

The detonating high explosive shells slowed the enemy soldiers advancing up the side of the hill toward his trapped recon team, but had little effect in stopping them. 1-0 stopped, listened, and searched the sky. He heard the distinctive beating of rotor blades. Almost instantly, he saw a string of three UH-1 Huey helicopters coming in at max speed just under 120 knots 1,000 feet above the jungle canopy. There were two slicks and an escort gunship. The unarmed UH-1 helicopters were called slicks because they were used mainly to carry troops, cargo, or supplies. The escort gunship in this case was the same type of helicopter, but armed with 7.62 M-60 machine guns and rocket pods attached to both sides of the ship’s airframe. 1-0 immediately shouted into his radio, “Red Leg, check fire! Check fire! We have friendly birds inbound. Over.” Red Leg responded, “Roger, checking fire, standing by, over.”

The slicks had just finished a milk run near the border, ferrying cargo and mail to outposts, when they heard the radio traffic about a pinned down recon team. 1-0 watched from his observation point and knew that the two slick pilots would be pulling pitch, allowing the helicopters to descend, and trying to touch down for a rescue attempt of the trapped team. He watched as the gunship Eagle Three continued its run picking up altitude before turning and laying down a stream of deadly rocket and M-60 machine gun fire while the other two UH-1s would attempt to land and pick up his pinned down team.

As the two helicopters descended flaring in an attempt to land, green enemy tracers from small arms and automatic weapons began tracking their downward descent. Small arms fire was also coming from the unseen enemy under the jungle canopy in addition to those advancing up the side of the hill. One of the slick pilots keyed his microphone and called the gunship, “Eagle Three, this is Eagle One. Landing zone is too hot. Receiving heavy fire; will try approaching from the leeward side of the hill. Can you keep them pinned down, over?” Eagle Three responded almost instantaneously, “Roger that, I’m swinging around now to start a gun run. Over.” The pilot of Eagle Three peered down and quipped in a southern drawl over his radio, “It looks like somebody done stirred a stick in a hornets’ nest down there.”

The upside of the hill was speckled with enemy troops converging on the small perimeter where the five recon team members lay in a wide semicircle behind fallen trees and rocks firing at the approaching enemy. The gunship had climbed to 1500 feet and, as the pilot banked hard left, fired salvos of 2.75” rockets into the hillside. Simultaneously, Door Gunner began firing his door-mounted M-60 machine gun. Door Gunner’s gun was a belt-fed, gas operated weapon that fired a 7.62mm cartridge making it one of the deadliest light machine guns in existence. Door Gunner softly mumbled to himself, “Come on, pig, root them out.” Pig was a pet name that he had given his gun for the way it chewed up its targets.  As the linked ammunition belt fed the 7.62 armor-piercing rounds into the chamber, the bolt of the M-60 moved back and forth faster than the eye could follow. The firing pin centered in the bolt face hit the cartridge primer causing the powder inside to ignite. The expanding gases forced the rounds through the 22-inch long barrel at 2,800 feet per second. As each round fired, expanding gases were forced into a gas port that caused a piston to push the bolt rearward. On each cycle of the bolt the extractor caught the rim of the spent brass cartridge ejecting it to the side and rear while the cartridge link dropped away.

The metal links from the disintegrating ammunition belt clattered and tinkled as they fell from the gun. Each round was taken from the linked ammunition belt and fed into the chamber by the reciprocating bolt. The empty brass casings flew in a continuous, graceful arc as the bolt moved rearward to grab another round. His gun smoked as it cycled 650 rounds a minute into its chamber, never missing a beat. Door Gunner’s face showed a grim smile as he listened to the casings rhythmically bouncing, “ting, ting, ting,” off the skids and falling into space.  It made him feel good as some of the empty casings hit his fatigues’ trouser leg. The empty casings hitting his legs briefly reminded him of wind chimes on a windy day. After a short bit of daydreaming, Door Gunner refocused and concentrated on where to aim his gun as he watched the red tracer rounds hit their targets on the ground.

Door Gunner wore a restraining harness that allowed him to place his feet on the skids of the helicopter and lean out as he fired. While this gave him a good view of any target on the ground, it also exposed him as a prime target for ground fire. Enemy soldiers on the ground looking up at the helicopter could see Door Gunner leaning out of the helicopter and firing rounds down on them. Instinctively they returned fire, aiming at the helicopter where it was instead of where it would be by the time their rounds arrived.  Door Gunner watched the chaos and fired his M-60 machine gun as green tracers from the ground curved well behind his helicopter. The harness that held Door Gunner in the helicopter fit like a vest. It was held together in front with a quick release metal fastener. The round aluminum fastener could be rotated a quarter turn and hit sharply with the palm of the hand to release Door Gunner from the harness.

Door Gunner had designed the vest from a parachute harness, the kind that the paratroopers used. He had removed the parachute and its deployment bag. In the center back of the harness Door Gunner had sewn a two-inch wide, four-foot long, adjustable nylon strap. The end of the strap was attached to a locking snap link which was hooked and locked to an anchor point on the inside airframe of the helicopter. Door Gunner’s converted harness prevented him from falling from the helicopter as he leaned out of the door, seeking out and firing at targets on the ground.

© 2018 Charles Stokes, All Rights Reserved

EMAIL Charles: cds4427@comcast.net

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