"Special Forces Soldier With Grenade, 1968" © Dana
One man wounded, clenched with
pain. The other man's hand clenched around a grenade as he
heads for the crest of a hill. Something on the other side of
that hill has pinned the unit down. The man with the grenade
runs toward it, silhouetted against a perfectly blank sky.
camera cannot see snaps invisibly through that emptiness. But
the men on their bellies know. The photographer, Dana Stone,
is on his belly, too, because he knows. The air is alive with
photograph reminds me of Robert Capa's great work. One moment
in a war: stark, pure, uncomposed. The plainness of the dark,
scattered earth. The empty abyss of the sky. The utter
randomness: One man is down. Another is up. Their places could
have been reversed. They could have been anyone. They could
have been you or I.
But you were
not there, and I wasn't there.
We did not
know how it felt that day to have only the gentle slope of the
hill protecting us from what was on the other side. We did not
hear the bullets cracking through the empty air or wonder when
one of the enemy on the other side of the hill would rise up
and lob a grenade into our midst.
But if we had
been there, we would have hoped beyond reckoning that someone
among us would stand up, clench a grenade, and run to the
crest with it. Maybe the one who stood up would have been you.
something that can only be known in the moment, then never
forgotten by those who survived. Yet for all the rest of us,
this overwhelming moment might have been just one more
terrible event in a multitude of such events that made up one
long, agonizing, but relatively small‑scale war. For us, it
would have been as if the thing had never happened, preserved
if at all by a few names etched into a dark wall. Yes, of
course, men stood. Men fell. Men survived. Men died. And life
Stone not been on that hillside, the moment would have been
lost. One man was down. One was up. And the third, he bore
witness so that in some small, inadequate way we might know
the moment, too.
covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, Time
magazine, UPI, and CBS. He was captured in April 1970 in
Cambodia by the NVA and remains missing in action. Jack Fuller
is the president of Tribune Publishing. A former Army Vietnam
War correspondent for Pacific Stars and Stripes, he won
a Pulitizer Prize in 1986. He is the author of seven books,
including the novel Fragments. Museum-quality prints of
this photo and others in a series entitled "Under Fire: Images
From Vietnam" are available for purchase from
www.pieceuniquegallery.com This is the third in a series
initiated by combat journalist Catherine Leroy.