Blind Baby The third platoon whooped it up as our Chinook lifted off the Khe Sanh tarmac. To the east, we caught sight of Hill 950 for the last time. Though we lost three KIA and more wounded, the mountain provided a haven during the siege. Other outposts suffered far worse. Leaving that troubled valley in one piece defined euphoria in the truest sense! Chinooks ferried us to Wonder Beach, an exotic, mile-long stretch of pearly sand on the South China Sea. After R & R, we took over a small perimeter inland near a bridge. The flat coastal plain, open fields, villages, even a dusty lane appeared opposite the steep jungle terrain of the cordillera. Sweltering nights, and sweat-drenched days under a blistering sun, describe the miseries of summer weather in Quang Tri Province. Corpsmen accompanied minesweeping patrols, slogging through flooded paddies. We passed a hamlet or two every kilometer, each step of the way a struggle to break free of the muck underfoot. We plowed into villagers’ waist-high rice fields, never asking ourselves the price paid for our callous indifference. Heat waves rose from the blinding white coral roadway at midday. Families passed our patrol lugging their produce in baskets balanced on a bamboo pole. Few vehicles traveled this route. As we waited to move out, a peasant approached me carrying her months-old infant. “Baksi, Baksi,” she pleaded. Vietnamese learned how to spot a Corpsman. She came closer, holding the child in front of me with her thin brown arms, nodding while pressing me for help. Her baby had no eyes! Sunken eyelids enclosed hollow cavities. She lay silent, motionless as her mother continued to plead in an incomprehensible language, her lament the sorrow of any caring parent. I made no response for awkward moments, then gave signs intended to convey the futility of her mission. Negative gestures achieved nothing. She tagged along, wailing louder as I became more and more hostile. In terms she couldn’t ignore, I yelled, “Dee dee mau,” and waved her away. What did she expect? Did she surmise that the people who dropped napalm from an F4 would offer a cure? Why is this brief, nonviolent incident one of the most vivid flashbacks of the war? Heartbreaking, but not more so than other scenes. Did her up-close, personal appeal threaten to shatter my wall of indifference? I ignored her agony, a defense against madness in a country shattered by decades of conflict.