When our bird has flown

Growing up in Australia, I’ve known Diane Merrick’s family since I was a youngster, she and her brothers were always sharing our apple tree, the mischief.

Here’s part of the story when catching up with Diane, some 15 years later:

‘So Charlie, picture this, February 1971, I’m 20 years and 3 months old, six weeks into my senior year of nursing as I find myself deep in the Vietnamese jungle – the so-called ‘wrong’ jungle. Our ‘ride’ had flown and left the two of us.

Cradled in my arms is a US Marine (a Grunt) not much older than myself but with a hole through his stomach the diameter of the ‘bud’ can, he was clutching. The wound is clean, I’m able to see my left boot curled below us where we sit. 

Nothing is heard above the cacophony of exploding shells, cartridges whirring about our heads. I don’t see anything but the pleading, blood-shot blue of my ‘patient’s’ eyes, an expression of disbelief as he uttered ‘they got me, the b—–ds shot me.’

I held him … don’t give up, please don’t give up.’

I can still see those eyes today, mine was the last face he saw, I was caring for that man as he died …

Silence. I had nothing to say.

I was sat beside Diane Merrick’s hospital bed, forty-one years on, she presents a slight figure with eyes that burn with determination, she is almost enveloped amongst the tubes, the ‘lifelines’ that monitor and maintain her position, propped-up amongst the linen.

Sitting almost adjacent me, on the other side of the bed, is Paul, her husband, a slightly older, equally determined-looking, weather-worn fellow

Charlie, I’m almost 63 years of age, I’m ill and told I’m dying, said Diane. Turning toward her husband she added, I want our story put down, I want you to write my story because I’m not ready for giving up.

Diane Merrick, an independent young woman, a nurse who took to the armed forces for economic reasons during the Vietnam War wants her story told,  ‘before I forget.’ 

“Where’s our bird?” is the story of Diane Merrick, published Spring 2020.

Never give up.

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