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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It's Friday, and time again for StoryCorp, where everyday Americans talk about the moments that shaped their lives. Today, a Vietnam veteran. Harvey Hilbert enlisted in the infantry in 1964. At StoryCorp, he remembered one, particular battle during the war.
HARVEY HILBERT: It was coming on dusk, and we went into what's called a hot landing zone; means, we were under fire. We jumped off the helicopters, and took a position. And then the enemy stopped shooting. So my company commander sends out a three-person listening post to go out into the jungle and find enemy, and report back.
Usually, when that happens, they pick the three newest guys. And one of them was a young man that I had met. And he went about a hundred meters or so, out in front of the line. But the enemy hadn't gone anywhere. They were embedded in the jungle. And around midnight, they opened fire. And this three-person listening post was sitting right in the middle of this battalion of enemy soldiers.
They grabbed their rifles, and started running toward me. Course, it's like 1 o'clock in the morning, and I couldn't see who was running. All I saw were soldiers with rifles, and machine-gun fire coming at me. And so I shot at 'em. And one of them fell about 10 or 15 feet from me, and was screaming in pain; and it turned out, it was this young man that I had met.
And a few minutes later, I got shot in the head. I could hardly move, and I thought that if I fell asleep, I would die. So I was trying to stay awake, listening to this young man scream. He died just before I was airlifted out.
You know, I'm 65 years old. And I can remember, clearly, that young man - the color of his skin, his face, his cries. You know, there's a legacy of war that lasts forever.
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MONTAGNE: Harvey Hilbert at StoryCorp in Nacia(ph), New Mexico. His story will be archived at the Library of Congress.
StoryCorp has begun a new project, called the Military Voices Initiative; stories from veterans who've served since September 11. You can hear those starting tomorrow, on Weekend Edition. Get the StoryCorp podcast at NPR.org.