Inspired by the experiences of Stephen Henderson

"In Country"

Jim Wildman
12″ x 18″ • Watercolor

Artist Statement

“In Country” Is a watercolor painting that I created about a young marine going into combat in Vietnam. As a former Marine myself I remembered the feeling of first setting foot in a new country and the sights and smells that and were so different from home. I tried to capture that feeling in the painting to go along with the story that was told.
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My first 6 Days in the Bush

by Stephen Henderson

After I arrived in Viet Nam, I was sent in to Quang-tri to meet with India Company, ¾, 3rd Marine Division. I was issued all my gear and went thru a makeshift orientation that proved not to prepare me for anything. I was flown by CH53 helicopter to the VanderGriff Combat Base nicknamed STUD, where I met up with my company. There we stood lines for 24 hours before heading to the bush.
I was taken by chopper to the DMZ to hump patrols for the next three weeks. The first day in the bush was somewhat uneventful, dealing with the heat and leeches, and weight of the gear was enough.
Second day in the bush, after two hours of humping our gear, we got into a firefight with the NVA. This is when I realized what all my training had been about. When I was told to move out amidst the fire around us, I moved out and did my job. After the firefight was over, we did our first body count… we killed several NVAs. This touched me in a surreal way, but I noticed that for the Marines that had been there for months, this was just a regular day of work for them.
The third day in bush , this young man I had met, he was the largest man in the platoon. 6’ 4” Polish kid from New England. I remember he had a great smile. The gunnery sergeant informed him that morning that he would be walking point that day. After eing in a firefight the previous day, everyone was somewhat on edge and alert. Several hours into the patrol that day, a shot rang out from an AK 47 I assumed to be a sniper. The bullet hit this good looking Marine and we watched the Navy corpsman work on him until he succumbed to his wounds. It was like a horrible nightmare unfolding before me. The radio man called in for a medivac… 2 choppers flew over us and radioed back they were unable to land due to large concentrations of NVAs on 3 sides of us. They said they would try again the following day.
Day four we all took turns carrying this Marine in a bodybag, trying not to fathom what we were really doing. We had to keep moving due to the heavy concentration of the enemy and get away from the horseshoe of NVA around us. The chopper could not land safely on this day either. Needless to say, carrying this Marine around was taking a toll on all of us, both physically and mentally.
On the fifth day, we continued to hump to a safer place, taking turns with the body bag.
On the sixth day, we were out of C-rations, water, and ammo, due to the earlier firefight. Radio contact confirmed helicopters were returning to get the body and bring us supplies. The chopper dropped our supplies first, and then we hoisted out the body bag and one man injured due to heat exhaustion.
The first six days in the bush, I felt I became a grown man. This time made me realize that I would do whatever it took to get my follow Marines and myself out of the bush alive each day. I have always wondered how this affected this man’s family and friends… and why he was denied the life he could have had.