Anderson begins to feel the strain on his third tour
Mail arrives at Firebase Ladybird, and sergeant Anderson receives a letter from his ex-wife. In the letter, she tells him about their three year-old daughter and how she is doing. She tells him that she is starting to ask questions about her daddy. She asks Anderson to write their daughter a letter, something that will mean a lot to her down the line. Anderson is close to tears. He doesn't know what to put in the letter, and his personal life begins to affect his performance in the field. While on a routine patrol around the surrounding area of Firebase Ladybird, Anderson is reluctant to lead the men across an open field, telling Lt. Goldman that Charlie is watching them. But they have a schedule to keep, so Goldman ignores Anderson's apprehension and orders the men across, after confirming via the radio that there are no friendlies in the area. And on cue, mortars begin to drop around them. Anderson is knocked unconscious, but no one else is hurt. The men begin to worry about Anderson, and when Baker and Purcell are chatting about him, Ruiz shuts them up, reminding them that the man is on his third tour - he's just been in combat too long. But things come to a head when Goldman informs Anderson that their platoon is to be sent into the Dong Ho Valley - NVA territory. The mission: a massive bombing campaign is to be unleashed up north over the next view days, and the Air Force are trying to minimise pilot casualties. The pilots have co-ordinates to crash land in the Dong Ho valley if they come under trouble, and Goldman and his men have been chosen to be dropped into the hills to wait for and then locate any pilots that are forced to eject. Anderson freaks out... he informs Goldman that on his last tour, he was part of a battalion of American troops backed up by another battalion of ARVN troops that went into the valley. They were slaughtered by the NVA, and Anderson was one of the only 138 that walked out of there in one piece. He tells Goldman that it is suicide, but orders are orders, and Goldman has to ignore him, ordering him to get it together and get the men ready to move out. Before they leave, Anderson turns to the firebase chaplain to ask him to write the letter to his daughter. Up in the hills, Anderson begins to unnerve the men, as he is really on-edge, refusing to let the men cross any open ground. Doc tells Goldman that all Anderson needs is rest. That night, Johnson approaches Anderson as he sleeps in his foxhole, telling him that if he needs to talk, he can talk to him. The next morning, a pilot is forced to eject but the wind sends him away from the platoon's position. He gets caught up on a cliff, and Purcell climbs up to take him down. A nearby NVA patrol spots them and ambushes them, and it isn't long before Goldman's men are overwhelmed. The pilot turns out to be a higher rank than Goldman, and orders him to leave him behind, as he is in really bad shape and is only slowing them down. But when they leave him, Anderson snaps out of his fear and anxiety and charges back down the hill heroically to save the man. The rest of the platoon follow, and they successfully fight their way back up the hills on open ground and reach the chopper, sustaining no casualties. But the pilot dies on the chopper, and ironically, before he dies, he asks Anderson to write his daughter, telling her that the last time he seen her father, he was safe. "Roadrunner" is a fantastic episode; without a doubt one of the best of the entire series, primarily because of how it portrays the strain that combat has on the average soldier. Anderson was the perfect character to use for this story, as he is on his third tour in Vietnam. And in a week where a US soldier in Afghanistan on his fourth tour massacred about 10 innocent civilians in Afghanistan, this episode serves as an eerie testimony as to how everyone has a breaking point, and how fragile the human mind can be when it is under constant strain and anxiety, as every soldier's is when he is in combat.
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