Today, we honor the mighty soldiers of Vietnam that braved the torrid jungles of another hemisphere to drive back the bloody Viet Cong.
He cocked his head to the side. Listening.
Like most of the other Tunnel Rats, as they were nicknamed, Army soldier Richard Blair had given up anything that would dull his sense from smoking to chewing gum and candy. The enemy Viet Cong had spent decades digging a maze of tunnels beneath the jungle floors, and it took sharp senses to stay alive.
Sense of smell, hearing…
those things kept you alive in the endless crawl spaces the Viet Cong had built. A soft scuttling noise caused Blair to freeze momentarily. Just a scorpion. With a dull thud, he crushed it with a nearby rock and turned his attention back to listening for a possible ambush.
Blair stood shirtless, gripping a shotgun and a flashlight that was emitting a narrow, sharp beam of red light that flashed faintly against the tangled green foliage of the Vietnam jungle. The mosquitoes swirled around him as Blair looked into the mouth of a narrow black hole.
“Three seconds,” Blair whispered under his breath. He reminded himself that was the average lifespan of a Tunnel Rat.
Blair had arrived to the fight in a famed Deuce-And-A-Half, but the roads he would travel would be much darker during his time fighting the Viet Cong. When he arrived, Blair’s commander had eyed his small frame and assigned him to train to teach soldiers how to fight taller men.
His short frame also meant that he had received an almost certain death sentence – the role of Tunnel Rat. But Blair had beaten the odds spectacularly. He was part of an elite group of only 100 men selected as tunnel-navigators and fighters.
As Blair steeled himself to brave the tunnel, a bat fluttered out into the twilight-lit jungle. Then, he dropped.
Viet Cong Tunnels Were a Vast Labyrinth
The enemy that moved beneath easily navigated tunnels that the taller Americans found suffocating and claustrophobic– for those brave enough to crawl through the tight, absolutely dark tunnels, they found booby traps of tethered poisonous snakes, poisonous gas, and explosives.
Hands and knees, mile after mile, some tunnels were expansive enough to shelter an entire army. Fathomless darkness tested the Tunnel Rats’ courage, but instead of buckling a sort of camaraderie arose among them. They never left a crew member behind, even though most of them were wounded at least once and many were killed.
100 Fighting Men
Although Tunnel Rats were made up of just 100 men, that averaged shorter than 5 feet 5 inches they were deadly effective. The Viet Cong reported that the Tunnel Rats killed over 12,000 communist guerillas and captured even more.
Truck Drivers Helping Vietnam Veterans Find Healing: The Wall That Heals
Today, their battle courage in the dark tunnels beneath the Vietnam Jungle are honored by the Wall That Heals. It’s a ¾ scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, and truck drivers are doing their part: They volunteer to pull this replica nationwide.
Whatever darkness they faced, the Wall That Heals is helping veterans that did their part find healing.
Interested in helping drive the Wall That Heals? Then, fill out the form below, to Haul the Wall: