I Would Do It For You, Man
...another tale from the 'hood as a generation slowly fades into memory
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: May 15, 2017
Another tale from the 'Hood to consider every time you gaze upon an older person...
The year is 2005....
Porfi looked upon Vinnie as he lay on the floor curled up in pain ... the police continued to knock on the door and loudly shout "Police! We have you surrounded! Open the door and come out with your hands up!" Porfi could see numerous police lights coming from several police cars that had surrounded the small duplex he and Vinnie had shared together for almost 35 years.
Porfi looked at the loaded 45 caliber pistol in his hand ... and then at Vinnie ... tears came to his eyes as he heard Vinnie painfully moan "I would do it for you, man" ... and he thought back...
FLASHBACK TO: 1970
Porfirio Gomez and Vicente Lopez had been friends since childhood ... and now they found themselves facing death together in the jungles of the Viet Nam War.
They had both struggled to learn English after Porfirio's family came from Guatemala and Vicente's family came from Cuba when they were both 7 years old. Their families had settled in West Los Angeles, and they were considered "just more Mexicans" in their neighborhood of mostly Latinos and Blacks.
Growing up together in Los Angeles was tough enough, but Porfirio, who became known as "Porfi", and Vicente, who became known as "Vinnie", were both chubby young kids and not considered very handsome or athletic, thus were frequently teased as being "nerds" or "weirdos", so they were not invited or included in the cruel social world of the childhood schoolyard.
They were teased and made fun of, and were sometimes bullied, but they survived by sticking together and staying out of people's way. They became steadfast friends, going to movies and local baseball & football games together. They experimented with drugs & alcohol in private.
Porfi & Vinnie...the local nerds....
Middle school & high school were not much different, with neither of them getting invited to parties or dances very often, and neither of them ever had a pretty girlfriend.
Shortly after high school graduation and their 18th birthdays in 1969, both Porfi and Vinnie received draft notices from the U.S. Army ... something that seemed like an accomplishment & source of pride from their families, who saw serving the United States as a soldier during a war as an honor, and the Viet Nam War had reached it's peak height by 1969.
Surprisingly, both Porfi and Vinnie adapted well to military life, qualifying for paratrooper school & duty, something almost every soldier dreams of. Both of them became lean,muscular soldiers, and they now took pride in their appearance, vowing to never get "Fat & flabby again."
After successfully completing boot camp, Infantry School, and Paratrooper Airborne School, Porfi & Vinnie were ordered to Viet Nam in late 1969.
Just before leaving, they were given a 20-day leave, which they spent drinking, dancing, and partying with the prettiest girls they could find, and settling "old scores" on the street with some of the childhood bullies, with Vinnie taking a real pleasure in kicking the shit out of the local street hoodlums who had beat him up in the past when he was a young kid.
Porfi & Vinnie were assigned together to the U.S. Army's legendary 173rd Airborne Division in Viet Nam, a famous American airborne infantry unit that had inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy while sustaining a high rate of casualties themselves. It was rumored that the 173rd Division had a kill ratio of 18-20 Viet Cong killed for every American life lost by the time 1970 rolled in ... and they had suffered heavy casualties of 100 or more a month.
Vinnie & Porfi found themselves fighting in, and surviving many battles in Viet Nam. Within 11 months they found themselves promoted to the rank of buck Sergeant, leading "search & destroy LRRPS" (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols), inflicting heavy enemy casualties while becoming hardened men, aging well beyond their young ages of 19.
After each battle, when the American dead and wounded were evacuated, Porfi & Vinnie would comfort each other that neither of them had been killed and wounded, vowing to make sure their buddy's body came home if they were killed or wounded, and to comfort their families that they had died in battle a brave soldier.
"I would do it for you, man," they would promise each other.
Another Army buddy they fought along side with was a young Black guy from Houston, Texas, named Wilford Simmons, who spoke surprisingly good Spanish, nicknamed "Willie Midnight."
Willie Midnight was a good bridge between the Latino & Black soldiers, especially when they were given short R & R leave (rest & recuperation from battle) in the Philippines, Hawaii, Okinawa, or Hong Kong, where soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen could walk into any bar or nightclub in uniform and never be asked for age identification. The partying, drinking and women were non-stop in the Orient during a time of war, and the 3 young soldiers indulged themselves every minute they were there.
Just 6 weeks prior of returning home (known as "short time" before rotating back to the World to Veterans) Porfi, Vinnie, and Willie Midnight were assigned one last LRRP, which was supposed to last 5 days, afterwards the rest of their time in Viet Nam would be known as "gravy," or no more duty, as they waited for their flight home.
Their 6 man patrol's mission was to go 5 miles into the jungle and set up an ambush of a weapons convoy point patrol, and then call in an airstrike on the convoy location before choppers would come in and fly them out.
3 days into their patrol, they themselves were ambushed by a Viet Cong patrol who chased them for over a mile before they accidentally ran into a minefield.
2 men were blown up and killed immediately. Willie Midnight and another man were shot and went down. As Porfi and Vinnie took up positions behind some rocks and put out covering protective fire, Willie Midnight tried to pick up and carry the wounded man to cover amid a hail of gunfire and grenade explosions, while Porfi was able to radio for chopper support.
About 10 yards away from their position, Willie Midnight and the wounded man he was carrying were cut down with seemingly hundreds of enemy bullets, which killed the wounded man Willie Midnight was carrying, and virtually cut Willie Midnight in half.
The sight of Willie's body cut in half with all his internal organs gushing out in what seemed to be gallons of blood while he could still flail his arms and talk put Vinnie in shock, as Willie screamed out in what must have been unimaginable pain. Still alive, Willie heard choppers in the distance and the enemy getting closer.
Crying out in pain, Willie Midnight screamed "Do me, man! I'm not gonna make it, and I don't want them damn gooks killing me! You know I would do it for you, man! Please! It hurts so bad ... don't leave me here alive and suffering! ... do me before Charlie does ... please, man!"
Still in shock, Vinnie drew his 45 caliber pistol and put a bullet in Willie Midnight's chest ... as he drew his last breath, Willie smiled at Vinnie ... and died with his eyes open. Vinnie turned around to see Porfi crying in disbelief.
The ground seemed to erupt in fire as the enemy force, which numbered about 25 men, all opened up at Porfi & Vinnie's position as they closed in. Vinnie was struck in the shoulder but continued firing his weapon.
He heard Porfi scream and turned to see him shot several times, with his right leg a mangled piece of bloody red meat, with blood gushing in large spurts...
"I ain't gonna make it, Vinnie," Porfi winced in pain."Do me, man ... just like Willie Midnight ... don't let Charlie get me alive, man. Do me ... and then get ready for for the choppers. Just take my body home if you make it alive ... I would do it for you, man..."
As Vinnie came of out his temporary shock, he stared into Porfi's eyes in disbelief just before the ground all around them lit up in a firestorm as a squadron of U.S. Army helicopter gunships flew in overhead from behind them and literally obliterated the ground and every living thing within 50 yards in all directions around where Porfi & Vinnie were crouched, with thousands bullets and fire from napalm ignited jell-gas, killing the entire enemy force.
The sound was deafening.
As soldiers and medics ran to the 2 men and administered first aid, Vinnie ran up 10 yards and picked up the top half of Willie Midnight's body, and ran back to an awaiting chopper.
As medics put the half of Willie Midnight's body into a body bag, and the chopper began to lift off, Porfi & Vinnie embraced in tearful brotherhood relief ... and Vinnie whispered into Porfi's ear, "I would do it for you, man!"
BACK TO 2005:
After brief hospital stays in Japan, Porfi & Vinnie came back home decorated war veterans in early 1971. They were honorably discharged soon after.
Porfi lost his right leg below the knee, and had been fitted with a prosthetic leg. Vinnie had been shot 4 times in the upper torso, and lost one of his kidneys.
They vowed to stick together for the rest of their lives, take care of each other, never to get married or have children, as they had met many wounded soldiers in Japan and heard horror stories about Agent Orange poisoning and birth defects.
... besides, they thought, nobody would believe or understand what they had been through, so what the hell ...
They bought a small bar and a duplex complex together for income in the old neighborhood, and for the next 34 years lived a non-stop party together.
They enjoyed many women, minor adventures, and lots of bar fights despite their conditions, never leaving the old neighborhood and all their family and old friends, while having a good time and never thinking it would ever end.
As the years passed, family, friends & customers began dying off as most generations eventually do ... but the World just kept turning ...
The spirit of the 1960's and 1970's was starting to fade away ... but Porfi and Vinnie vowed to stick together "To the end."
After suffering from extreme stomach pain for about a month, Vinnie came home from a Dr.'s appointment one day and gave Porfi some bad news ... he had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver & pancreas ... and had less than 4 months to live.
The two men tried to make the best of it, having small parties at the bar and at their home with their small circle of friends, but Vinnie's stomach pain became worse and more often ... so no more parties after awhile.
After 2 months, Vinnie had to be prescribed Morphine 3 times a day ... which made him a virtual vegetable, much to his and Porfi's chagrin.
Times were just getting worse and harder to cope ... everyday was becoming more painful for both men ... neither knew what say or do anymore....
Porfi tried running the bar by himself, but after a week, his heart wasn't in it. He soon put it up for sale. On the last day of business, he told a lady friend, "I don't know what to do without Vinnie. If he goes, I go with him ... one bullet to the head ... no big thing..."
After closing the bar for the last time, the lady friend offered to walk with Porfi home for company, out of concern after hearing what he had said.
As they walked in the door of the home they were shocked to see Vinnie loading his 45 caliber pistol that he had for many years. Porfi quickly ran over to him.
After a brief struggle, Porfi was able to take the pistol away. The 2 men began to argue, and the lady friend said she was going to call police for help.
"Let's go, Porfi! Take me out! Do me! I can't take this pain anymore ... I'm going to die any day now ... this pain is more than I can handle ... I don't want to take those damn drugs no more! I don't want to die in my sleep! I want to die with my eyes open like Willie Midnight!"
"You're crazy, Vinnie!" Porfi yelled back. "I would kill myself before I killed you. You're my best friend, my brother! ...what happened with Willie Midnight 35 years ago was different! I couldn't live without you knowing I took you out."
"What was different?" Vinnie cried. "Willie's insides were shot out, he was in pain and dying and didn't want suffer, and he asked to be taken out! My insides have rotted out, I'm in pain, I'm dying, I don't want to suffer anymore and I'm asking to be taken out ! If you can't do it, give me the gun, I'll take us both out ... I'll take you with me!"
Porfi saw a police car pull up in the driveway, and he saw the lady friend point to the duplex.
He quickly closed the door and locked it, then ran to the back door and locked it as well. Soon, 3 more police cars pulled up, lights flashing.
Soon, police started banging on both the front and back doors...
In a fit of pain, Vinnie fell to the floor, crying out in pain.
"Please, Porfi ...t his pain is unbearable ... I can't take it no more, Brother ... please! Do me, or give me the gun ... I'll do us both ... PLEASE!"
..."I would do it for you, man!"
..Porfi looked at the loaded gun in his hand ... then at Vinnie lying on the ground moaning like a dying animal ... the police continued to bang on both front and back doors ... he thought about their lives together ... the police began kicking the doors in...
...Porfi took a deep breath ... pulled the hammer back on the pistol, his finger on the trigger...
..."Fuck it," he thought...
Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is heard daily on World wide Internet Radio station www.eastLArevue.com and is a regular contributor to this fine web magazine since 2001.
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