Frank Castle’s War Journal
25th of October, 1971
War is not pretty. It’s filthy and disgusting. And yet unavoidable. Every generation goes through one. My grandfather fought in the first world war, my father in the second. My mother called it the ‘Castiglione curse’, and in a way, I suppose she’s right. My grandfather fought because he had moved to America just two years prior and he thought it was his duty to defend the country that had taken him in and accepted him. My father because…Well, because his father pushed him into it, I suppose. I am now on my third tour here in Vietnam, so the real question is why I am fighting this war? My father didn’t push me into it, I haven’t spoken to him in years. Maybe I felt some kind of duty? To continue what my grandfather started. Perhaps that was the reason why I enlisted, try to make my grandfather ‘proud.’
In the end, it doesn’t really matter why I’m here, fact is I am. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my three tours it’s that you can’t focus on the past. If your mind isn’t in the present, you will die.
On my first tour, I was assigned to a squadron with two other men I trained with. Joshua and Dirk. The day prior to deployment, Joshua’s kid was born. On the flight, he had a photo of the baby and his wife. It was all he could look at. I could relate to him, as just a few weeks before, me and Maria got married. I understood that he missed her and I felt sorry for him. Two days after arriving in Vietnam we were sent on our first mission, help to stop the enemy from taking a strategic outpost near the Cambodian border. It was one of the toughest missions I’ve ever been one. We lost over half of the troops. And the first one to go? Joshua. That’s how I learned if you don’t keep your mind trained on the present, you won’t last longer than two minutes. I’ve seen a lot of my brothers in arms die, many because of that reason, others because they underestimated the enemy. But I won’t ever forget Joshua. If it weren’t for him, who knows how long I would have lasted. If you want to survive, keep your mind trained on the present. And this takes us to today.
Twenty minutes ago, two Huey’s dropped twenty of us four miles from the base. We’ve received reports of enemy troops advancing on the base. We’re the last US outpost watching the Cambodian border, sooner or later Charlie would try to make a play. But luckily we have our trusty camp commander, Colonel Ennis along with us. Ennis insisted the Helis drop us off four miles from the base. Why? Because he was too tired to walk the distance. He’s the perfect example of an incompetent leader. There’s a running joke in camp that the only reason he was assigned here was that he married some General’s daughter. Frankly, I don’t care if that’s the case or not. He spends most of the time in his hut, high on marijuana which means I’m the one that ends up making sure Charlie doesn’t overrun us. But a lot of Saigon’s eyes are on us for this mission, so he didn’t have much of a choice but to join us.
I notice four men coming out of the woodwork up ahead. I tighten the grip on my rifle but recognise that they’re friendlies. The four scouts we had sent ahead an hour earlier. Sergeant Cooper signals us to halt while he talks with the scouts. A few minutes pass before he signals me and Ennis to come over.
"Sir scouts reporting enemy camp over in Valley Lotus. That’s about a mile East from here."
"What kind of numbers are we talking about here?"
"They’re not sure, reckon most of them are still asleep. Maybe twenty to thirty men. They got four on look-out, taking those out shouldn’t be much of a problem since we have the element of surprise on our side."
Sounds too good to be true to my ears, but Ennis seems to think we’ve finally caught a break. "Sounds like shooting fish in a barrel. How do we get there?"
"If we continue on South we’ll reach a clearing, that’s maybe a twenty-minute walk from here. Then continue on East and we’ll reach the site, that’s maybe another eight or ten-minute walk. Or we can head south-west, move around the valley. Ambush them from the West. However, this could take at least 45 extra minutes, as this route will force us to head through the more overgrown part of the jungle." The Colonel doesn’t even take a few minutes to consider both options, instead opting for the former. "Sir, if I may? I think we should take the latter, the first route sounds too easy, they might have a trap set up in the clearing. And they won’t expect us coming from behind."
"You’re giving Charlie too much credit here, Castle, they wouldn’t have the brains to think up a proper trap. Besides, we’ve covered enough jungle for one day, I don’t fancy another fifty minutes fighting our way through thorns. And besides, they’re probably all asleep, they won’t see an ambush, wherever it’s coming from." He turns to Cooper. "Tell the men to get ready, we’re moving out in two minutes."
Despite my protests, we continue on South. After a twenty minute walk, we reach the clearing Cooper told us about. Ennis slings the rifle over his back and takes out his canteen. "Alright, let’s take a short break. Give the men a minute to catch their breath, get something to drink–" A gunshot echoes through the clearing, and Ennis falls to the ground. As I suspected, a trap. Suddenly from all sides gunfire bursts through the green. I can see the men are trying to catch their bearings, but we were all caught off guard. Two more bodies fall to the ground. Everyone’s panicking, trying to see where the gunshots are coming from. We’ve gotta stick together, or they’ll pick us off one by one. "FORM A CIRCLE!" I scream "FORM A CIRCLE! STAY TOGETHER!" My voice barely travels over the sound of gunfire but luckily Cooper hears me and passes it on. We manage to fight our way back to where we entered the clearing and build up somewhat of a defence.
"THERE ARE TOO MANY OF THEM!" Cooper screams. He’s right, we don’t stand a chance. Charlies got the advantage here, they were obviously lying in wait, knowing we would come this way. I look at Copper. "Go. Get the men out of here, call in the Hueys and head back to the LZ!" He looks confused for a moment. "If we run now they’ll slaughter us like dogs! And what about the Colonel?" I look back to Ennis’ body. He’s moving, meaning he’s still alive.
"I’ll be staying back, give you cover. Hopefully, I can buy you a minute or two." I half expect him to fight back but he doesn’t, instead he gives me a thankful nod before signalling the men to fall back while I proceed to fire my assault rifle into the bushes, in hopes it will give them as much cover as possible.
There were at least twenty men in the ambush, but ten of them split up, undoubtedly trying to cut off Cooper and what’s left of the group. This means I’m facing around eight or seven. I might be able to survive this.
Something small and dark falls from the sky, landing a few inches from me feet. Recognising what it is, I quickly grab it and lob it back into the bushes. An explosion erupts and three trees surrounding the area where I threw the grenade catch on fire. I see four men stumble out of the green, desperately trying to douse their flaming clothes. I pick up my assault rifle and fire off four quick shots at each of them before I hear the hollow clicking of an empty mag. However, before I get a chance to reload, someone jumps down from a tree a few feet away from me. He falls on top of me, causing me to tumble to the ground. I barely have time to catch my breath, because next thing I know there’s a knife a few inches away from my face. I grab his arm and with as much force as I can muster up, push him away. We struggle for a little until I finally manage to twist his arm with one hand while grabbing his throat with the other. There’s a crack as his arm breaks. He tries to yell out, but his scream is lost somewhere in his throat. There’s one final struggle until finally, his lifeless body falls on me. I push him off, but only to be greeted by the end of a rifle not six centimetres from my face. Without hesitating, I quick grab it and pull it away. The gun goes off but luckily manages to miss me.
My ears are ringing from the gunshot, but I try not to pay any attention to it, instead I proceed to punch my assailant. He doubles down and tries to push me to the ground. Quickly I pull out my combat knife and slice his throat in one flawless motion. All of a sudden, his body jerks forward and blood explodes over my chest. I’m not sure whether it’s his or my own. Standing behind him is the last man that was part of the ambush. Upon seeing he didn’t hit me but rather the dead body of his former brother in arms, he decides to give it another go. It seems though I have more than luck on my side today, as miraculously his gun jams. AK-47s never were very reliable, and right now I’m thankful for that. But instead of fumbling for another mag like most would do, he pulls out a bayonet and attaches it to the end of his rifle. His mouth motions a scream and next thing I know he charges at me with the bayonet. I stand my ground until the last second when I dive to the left. He runs straight past me and drives the bayonet into a thick tree trunk. I quickly get back on my feet while he desperately tries to remove it. Upon seeing me run at him with a knife, he leaves the AK and instead goes for a handgun tucked in his pants. However before he manages to pull it out, I’m already there, combat knife in hand. He tries to scream for help, but I quickly cover his mouth with my hand and slice his throat open with my knife. An explosion of blood errupts over my face and he gives one last struggle before his lifeless body falls to the ground. I wipe the knife clean on his clothes before putting it back in its sheath.
My hearing seems to be coming back, as a groan diverts my attention back to Captain Ennis, who is still lying in the same spot where he was shot just minutes earlier.
"C-Castle…" He coughs up blood and is obviously having a lot of problems breathing. "Y-You…lucky fuck…c’mon…help me up and..let’s get out of here." I stare at him for a little while. His shirt is soaked in blood, I’m sure he’s got a few bullet holes in his chest and stomach. Maybe if he gets medical attention within the next half hour he might have a fighting chance of survival. Maybe.
"I warned you."
"I warned you not to go into the clearing. Told you it was sure to be a trap." I walk over to one of the dead bodies and pick up a bayonet. "But you just wouldn’t listen. And now…" I crouch beside him. "…Four good, honest…Brave men are dead." I glance at Kody, Dean, James and Christopher’s dead bodies. "All because you wouldn’t listen to reason." I position the bayonet over his heart.
"What are you– ARGH!" Will all the force I have left in my arms, I thrust the bayonet into his chest.
"I’m sorry, I didn’t want to do this. But you’re a liability." I twist the blade, silencing Captain Ennis once and for all. I stand over his body for a few minutes contemplating what it was that made me do this. Did he deserve to die? Perhaps, but not like this. He was out of his depth, he never should have signed up in the first place and he definitely never should have been assigned Colonel. Maybe he thought he’d spend most of his time in Saigon as some kind of reserve.
I asked myself earlier why it is that I’m fighting this war. I didn’t realise until now that I always knew the answer, I just never wanted to accept it. This is where I belong.
This is my Home
Here’s something to get y’all in a festive spirit, MURDER! 😛
I’d like to apologise for this rather poor build, jungle builds are not my forté, mainly due to me having very little plants. And 80% of the few I do have are currently packed away in boxes. So I hope the story makes up for that, I rewrote it 5 or 6 times. 😛
Anyway, this is a role I’ve been meaning to write for a good few months now. I noticed very few Punisher stories here on Flickr focus on his time in ‘Nam and since that is a subject I’ve been very fascinated by I figured why not combine the two. Anywho, I hope you guys enjoyed it and Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Merry Atheist Day, whatever you celebrate I hope you’re having a great time!
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