No greater love (story)
Whatever their planned target, the mortar rounds landed in an
orphanage run by a missionary group in the small Vietnamese village. The
missionaries and two children were killed outright and several more children
were wounded, including one young girl, about eight years old.
People from the village requested medical help from a
neighboring town that had radio contact with the American forces. Finally, an
American Navy doctor and nurse arrived in a jeep with only their medical kits.
They established that the girl was the most critically injured. Without quick
action, she would die of shock and loss of blood. A transfusion was imperative,
and a donor with a matching blood type was required. A quick test showed that
neither American had the correct type, but several of the uninjured orphans did.
The doctor spoke some pidgin Vietnamese, and the nurse a
smattering of high-school French. Using that combination, together with much
impromptu sign language, they tried to explain to their young, frightened
audience that unless they could replace some of the girl's lost blood, she would
certainly die. Then they asked if anyone would be willing to give blood to
Their request was met with wide-eyed silence. After several
long moments, a small hand slowly and waveringly went up, dropped back down, and
then went up again.
"Oh, thank you," the nurse said in French. "What is your
"Heng," came the reply.
Heng was quickly laid on a pallet, his arm swabbed with
alcohol, and a needle inserted in his vein. Through this ordeal Heng lay stiff
After a moment, he let out a shuddering sob, quickly covering
his face with his free hand.
"Is it hurting, Heng?" the doctor asked. Heng shook his head,
but after a few moments another sob escaped, and once more he tried to cover up
his crying. Again the doctor asked him if the needle hurt, and again Heng shook
But now his occasional sobs gave way to a steady, silent
crying, his eyes screwed tightly shut, his fist in his mouth to stifle his
The medical team was concerned. Something was obviously very
wrong. At this point, a Vietnamese nurse arrived to help. Seeing the little
one's distress, she spoke to him rapidly in Vietnamese, listened to his reply
and answered him in a soothing voice.
After a moment, the patient stopped crying and looked
questioningly at the Vietnamese nurse. When she nodded, a look of great relief
spread over his face.
Glancing up, the nurse said quietly to the Americans, "He
thought he was dying. He misunderstood you. He thought you had asked him to give
all his blood so the little girl could live."
"But why would he be willing to do that?" asked the Navy
The Vietnamese nurse repeated the question to the little boy,
who answered simply, "She's my friend."
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his
life for his friends."