It has been 45 years since I left for the last time from Vietnam. To make a long story short and a story I seldom speak of, I spent 26 months, 6 days + a few hours doing my part for my country in the republic of south Vietnam. I arrived in country on the 14 day of February 1968 and flew out of Cam Ranh Bay on the 21 day of 1970.
Toot My Own Horn During my time in Vietnam I was promoted from private E-1 to staff sergeant E-6. I worked my way up from cannoneer, assistant gunner, gunner to chief of section of a 175mm heavy artillery gun section.
I participated in 35 artillery raids, 15 operations in support of the 9th In republic of Korea, 9th infantry division and the TET offensives of 1968, 1969 and 1970.
For my efforts those in a higher pay grade than my own saw fit to recommend and approve that I be recognized with the Army Commendation Metal for Meritorious service, Army Commendation Metal for Heroism and the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious service.
I was either trained very well or just damn lucky. I nor was any of my soldiers were seriously injured.
I stumbled on to this Fox News opinion piece an feel I must share this with those that served with me and those that have served after my time in Vietnam.
Excerpted from Fox News anchor and political analyst Dana Perino’s new book, “And the Good News Is… Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side”
The hardest days were when President (GW)Bush went to visit the wounded or families of the fallen. If it was tough for me, you can only imagine what it was like for the families and for a president who knew that his decisions led his troops into battles where they fought valiantly but were severely injured or lost their lives.
He regularly visited patients at Walter Reed military hospital near the White House. These stops were unannounced because of security concerns and hassles for the hospital staff that come with a full blown presidential visit.
One morning in 2005, Scott McClellan sent me in his place to visit the wounded warriors. It was my first time for that particular assignment, and I was nervous about how the visits would go.
The president was scheduled to see 25 patients at Walter Reed. Many of them had traumatic brain injuries and were in very serious, sometimes critical, condition. Despite getting the best treatment available in the world, we knew that some would not survive.
We started in the intensive care unit. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) briefed the president on our way into the hospital about the first patient we’d see. He was a young Marine who had been injured when his Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb. After his rescue, he was flown to Landstuhl U.S. Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany. At his bedside were his parents, wife, and five year old son.
“What’s his prognosis?” the president asked.
CNO said “Well, we don’t know sir, because he’s not opened his eyes since he arrived, so we haven’t been able to communicate with him. But no matter what, Mr. President, he has a long road ahead of him.”
We had to wear masks because of the risk of infection to the patient. I watched carefully to see how the family would react to President Bush, and I was worried that they might be mad at him and blame him for their loved one’s situation. But I was wrong.
The family was so excited the president had come. They gave him big hugs and thanked him over and over. Then they wanted to get a photo. So he gathered them all in front of Eric Draper, the White House photographer.
President Bush asked, “Is everybody smiling?” But they all had ICU masks on. A light chuckle ran through the room as everyone got the joke.
The Marine was intubated. The president talked quietly with the family at the foot of the patient’s bed.
After he visited with them for a bit, the president turned to the military aide and said, “Okay, let’s do the presentation.” The wounded warrior was being awarded the Purple Heart, given to troops that suffer wounds in combat.
Everyone stood silently while the military aide in a low and steady voice presented the award. At the end of it, the Marine’s young child tugged on the president’s jacket and asked, “What’s a Purple Heart?”
The president got down on one knee and pulled the little boy closer to him. He said, “It’s an award for your dad, because he is very brave and courageous, and because he loves his country so much. And I hope you know how much he loves you and your mom, too.”
As they hugged, there was a commotion from the medical staff as they moved toward the bed.
The Marine had just opened his eyes. I could see him from where I stood.
The CNO held the medical team back and said, “Hold on, guys. I think he wants the president.”
The president jumped up and rushed over to the side of the bed. He cupped the Marine’s face in his hands. They locked eyes, and after a couple of moments the president, without breaking eye contact, said to the military aide, “Read it again.”
So we stood silently as the military aide presented the Marine with the award for a second time. The president had tears dripping from his eyes onto the Marine’s face. As the presentation ended, the president rested his forehead on the wounded warrior’s for a moment.
Now everyone was crying, and for so many reasons. The sacrifice, the pain and suffering, the love of country, the belief in the mission, and the witnessing of a relationship between a soldier and his Commander in Chief that the rest of us could never fully grasp.
Be tolerant. Let an old ex-soldier express his deep felt feeling to our living active duty, retired, prior service and most of all to those that did not survive.
I Salute Each and everyone. I wish to extend my deepest respect. Thank You for your service and sacrifices.