Under perpetual siege by North Vietnamese guerilla fighters, the 2nd battalion of the 501st infantry found no refuge in their remote jungle clearing encampment. Medic George Banda, during a routine night watch, was ambushed by a group of enemy combatants, and shot in the side of the head. He fought off the first wave of attackers alone, and then retreated to cover to hide from the burning white phosphorous raining from above. As the assault continued, Banda began acting as a medic–his actual role, not a foot soldier–and treated those wounded around him. His bullet wound was painful and spurred blood from a severed artery on his temple, but he recognized that it was not immediately life-threatening. Banda sprinted nearly a hundred yards to a pile of debris to rescue his friend Ed, who had been critically injured, dodging countless rounds being fired from the insidious jungle surrounding him, and dragged him up a hill to safety. Air support for the battalion did not arrive for hours, and George had to administer first aid to the best of his ability with severely limited supplies. Ed passed away as the evacuation helicopters appeared on the horizon.
I have never been a supporter of any war, and stories like these are precisely why. Such carnage and suffering, with each death–each loss of life–having such a negligible effect on the overall outcome. George Banda acted heroically, risking his life to perform his duty and save as many lives as possible. Yet the cruel irony is that he returned shots against the North Vietnamese, participating in the same killing they were exacting on his friends. In such a situation, on that scale, there is no moral high ground. Both sides are fighting for what they think is right (or simply following orders), yet they brutally slay other human beings to achieve a political objective. That being said, I have nothing but respect for Mr. Banda. He put his life on the line so that another might live; that is the noblest of any possible human action. Reading Banda’s explanation for his bravery brought a tear to my eye. He explains, “I’m bleeding to death… But I couldn’t leave Ed. He was my friend.”
It’s just a shame to know that others on the opposite side were experiencing the same thing at the hand of our military. I recognize that war might be seen as necessary under some circumstances, but that does not mean that I will support it. Instead, I’ll support the humans involved with and affected by it. Because life matters more than any political objective.