Gary Jostandt, Vietnam , Silver Star, CMB, CIB , POSer , Blog of Shame1
11/06/2014 by militaryphonies
His claims include that he was awarded a Combat Infantry Badge, ( he was never in the Infantry). Silver Star and Combat Medic Badge awarded by the 1st Infantry Division at the DMZ in about July 1969, (the 1st Infantry Division was never at the DMZ during that time).
|Photo was taken at the top of Currahee Mountain|
|Jostandt posted this photo of the vet shirt his local VFW made for him (actually he had made) with both a CMB and;a CIB.|
ArmChairGeneral ; http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=1631860
|Dustoff Association http://www.dustoff.org/guestbook/oct-dec99.htm|
|Google+ Account ; https://plus.google.com/116128173711241344742/posts|
|This Ain’t Hell Blog ; http://thisainthell.us/blog/?p=56268|
|Awards, NOTE ; No Silver Star, No Combat Medic Badge, No Combat Infantryman Badge|
It was just another day in Vietnam, same as the day before. After being here for almost 19 months, I saw hope and light at the end of the tunnel of this terrible dark nightmare I had been in for so long. In 2 weeks my time in Nam would come to and end and my time in the service would end as well. I had extended my tour 6 months so I could discharge early from the Army. The Army wouldn’t send you to another duty assignment if you had less than a certain amount of time left in your enlistment.
I was so looking forward to that great day and the freedom bird that would take me home. I had not been able to sleep one full night for 19 months because of my fear of dying while sleeping if the enemy attacked. I would sleep during the day while waiting for a mission or when I was not on duty. I recall flying over Seattle upon my return and thinking, now I can finally sleep and try to forget the nightmare, it was finally over!
Normally when men get this close to the end of their service in Nam, they were allowed by their commander to lay back and take it easy and not fly many if any missions. It was felt they had been through enough and risked their lives for so long, it would be almost a sin for them to die this close to going home. The term used “I’m too short” meant I’m not going to die this close to freedom. I to felt this way and was able to stop flying on a regular basis. Another newer medic had taken over my place on regular missions with the helicopter and crew I had flown with.
A crew and helicopter was requested by Eagle Dust Off located at Camp Evans near the DMZ, to step in while one of their damaged ships was down for repairs. Our company commander asked for volunteers; the crew I had served with for so long agreed to go. Mixed feeling raced through my head when hearing this. I knew the newer medic replacement might not have the experience it would take for this mission, because even though all of Vietnam was bad, the north and the DMZ would be worse. I also knew “I’m too short” to be doing this. At the same time there was a special bond with the crew and pilots I had known for so long and feelings of fear for them and guilt if I didn’t go. I felt I would be neglecting my responsibility to them if I didn’t go so I volunteered to go with them, forgetting what I had learned so many years ago, Never volunteer for anything!
We flew several missions in the DMZ during my time in Vietnam. During the last one we were shot down and crashed, but that is another story for another time. After our rescue in the DMZ, the crew and I were waiting at the airstrip at Camp Evans for an Army fixed wing aircraft to fly us back to our home base at Lane Airfield near Qui Nhon. We had no helicopter of our own to get back due to our crash in the DMZ and Eagle Dust Off was already short of aircraft.
The operations officer for Eagle Dust Off rushed up to where we were waiting and asked my commander if I would stay for another day or two. One of their medics had just been killed in an ongoing mission south of the DMZ and they had no replacements at the time. I looked at my commander and he looked at me…..he said “it was my decision” knowing I was about to go home. For whatever reason, which I don’t recall, I said yes.
I walked away with the operations officer with my medical bag in tow leaving my crew behind. Little did I know what I was in for… I was immediately put on an Eagle Dust Off ship flying to God knows where. It turned out to be a mile or two south of the DMZ about 50 miles northwest of Quang Tri, in the foot hills of the mountains. A battalion unit of the First Infantry Division was heavily engaged with an unknown size number of NVA regulars on a hill top the NVA occupied. The forward US company trying to reach the top of the hill was taking heavy enemy fire and had dug in to defend their position against an onslaught of NVA. I later found out the NVA force was brigade in size against a battalion of the First Infantry.
We had to circle for quite some time due to heavy fire from both sides. I could see at least 5 of our gunships circling the combat area supporting the US position with heavy rocket fire and heavy machinegun fire on the enemy. I now began to really worry about what I had gotten myself into this close to going home. Before long a “Spooky” or “Puff the Magic Dragon” showed up with its mini-guns. It was like watching a giant weed eater, eating and tearing trees and all that were in them to shreds. Spooky made at least three passes over the enemy positions and after a few minutes our commander received a call from the company RTO on the ground that all was clear for a Dust Off of wounded.
We immediately headed in that direction at around 3000 ft. in altitude and then started our Dust Off approach at over 100 miles per hour. We slid into a hover about 5 ft. above the ground as we could not land on the ground due to the angle of the hill. I jumped off the ship and started loading wounded men with the help of those on the ground. We had loaded and stacked at least 8 men when sporadic gunfire from the enemy started again. The last man handed to me was dead and under the circumstances we normally just took the wounded. The man handing him to me said he was their medic and we could not leave him even if he was dead. I lifted him up to the crew chief and he was hoisted in with the wounded.
At that moment something snapped within me, I don’t know what. This dead medic was their last chance at survival if they were hit and wounded and now these men had nothing. I contacted my commander in the Dust Off chopper and asked if I could stay until his return to take care of their wounded because their medic was dead. Before he could reply his co-pilot took a bullet in the head and the commander immediately took off leaving me behind.
I dove into a trench they had dug as a defensive position. I had never been in a ground combat situation before and was scared beyond description. Heavy enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire and mortars began again in earnest. I was frozen in fear as I found myself in my new situation. I had been in and out of hot LZs but never for very long and never this hot. All I could see were incoming enemy tracers and explosions of mortar fire everywhere. I felt the concussion of the numerous mortars and rockets falling around us. I heard screams from our men being hit and along with all of the noise from the fire fight I was in total terror.
All of a sudden something happened to me I cannot explain when I looked in the eyes of a wounded brother who had just been hit. It was a look of helpless need and a cry for help. I crawled to him and bandaged his wounds and gave him morphine for the pain. I turned again and saw man after man taking bullets from the enemy. I crawled from one man to another doing everything I could do to keep them alive. After I’d given the men first aid, many of them started firing again at the NVA. These brave men were men I’ve never seen before, who would not give in or give up. If they were able to hold a weapon they were fighting again.
The trench was about 50 ft long, and I was working my way down until I got to the RTO and company commander, a young teenage looking 2nd lieutenant. He turned and screamed at me “Who the hell are you.” I told him I was the Dust Off medic and I was here to help. His only reply was “Thanks” and he started firing again with his M16 and talking on the radio at the same time. He was calling in artillery fire and more gunship support. At that moment a mortar round hit not far from us and the RTO took shrapnel in the leg, some of it just missing me. I grabbed my medical bag, cut open his pant leg and pulled the shrapnel out of leg with my pocket knife. Then I packed his wound, wrapped it and shot his leg with morphine.
Men were still falling around me and I was crawling faster than I ever knew I could from man to man. For those bleeding the worst, I started IVs with the limited supply I had. The fighting was now an hour long and gunships were circling above us returning heavy fire to the enemy. Several minutes later heavy incoming artillery fire rained down on the NVA from our support base.
I’ve been on the shooting end of a 155mm howitzer, but never on the receiving end of one. If you have ever heard the song “I felt the earth move under my feet”, then I certainly felt what that song was about. The concussion of the exploding artillery rounds bounced me off of the ground and rattled my brain. The NVA were in a tree line some 100 yards away with a clearing between. The artillery rounds were hitting the trees where they were hiding and firing from. With what we could feel from the exploding artillery rounds, I knew the enemy was being torn to shreds.
Soon after the artillery fire lifted, Spooky returned. I now know why they refer to it as “Dragon”. It was like being at grass level and watching a lawn mower going by. The clearing between us and them just got bigger. The trees and everything hiding in them was mowed down like grass.
Again there was a lull in the fighting. Within a few minutes, my Dust Off commander reappeared from nowhere and was hovering to pick up wounded. I and other men from the unit started loading more wounded. We loaded and piled around 10 men on board and the commander told me to get on board. My answer was “No, I still have wounded.” He looked at me, shocked, turned his head and flew away. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful but I’m sure he understood. The men I was with needed me more than the few minutes I would spend with them in the air.
The moment the Dust Off ship left, all hell broke loose. Spooky was on his way back for refueling and darkness began to fall. By this time, I had little to nothing left in my medical bag to treat the wounded. The first man down had taken a bullet in the chest. I crawled toward him as fast as I could. I suddenly realized I was crawling through mud. I couldn’t understand why there was mud. It hadn’t rained. As I crawled forward, I looked closer at the mud. It was mud I’d never seen before in my life. It was dark red in color and I realized it was blood-mud. I was covered from head to toe and until that moment, never noticed. I almost vomited and gagged as I crawled to the man with a bullet in his chest.
I was out of medical supplies. This poor soldier had a sucking chest wound from a bullet that pierced his lung. I pulled him to the bottom of the trench and tore his shirt off and ripped it to make bandages. I stuck a wad of his shirt into the hole and covered it with the blood mud to seal air from escaping his lung and collapsing it. Wrapped another shirt bandage around his torso to help seal and cover it. To drain the blood collecting in his lungs, I slowly pierced the left lower side of his torso with my knife to the lower part of his lung as he screamed in pain. I felt horrible for having to cause him more pain but had no choice if he were going to have a chance to live. Thankfully he passed out and for the moment he was out of the terrible pain.
At that moment another mortar round hit close to me and knocked me backwards several feet down the trench. A man closer to the impact had most of his left leg blown off. I crawled to him as fast as I could and saw that the mortar shrapnel had not just taken most of his leg, it had a broken his leg artery and was squirting blood all over the place. I covered and pinched the artery with my fingers. I had no way to stop the blood other than holding it with my hand. Men were dying all around me and I could not stay with just one man. I bent my head to this man’s chest in desperation, not knowing what to do and cried out to God to help me save these men. I had never been in such a desperate, terrifying situation with enemy fire, explosion and men screaming for my help everywhere.
As suddenly as I asked God for help a thought came to me. I took the cigarette lighter out of his pocket, laid it on his chest and with both hands and fingers I slowly pulled the end of the artery further out of his leg. With two fingers I clamped the artery closed. I took his cigarette lighter and burned the tip of the artery closed and slowly let go of my fingers. The burn worked and the blood stopped squirting. I knew he would lose his leg, but maybe not his life. With what bandages I had left, I wrapped the end of his leg and moved on to the next man.
By now it was dark and I didn’t know how many hours had passed, it seemed like days. I could only see what to do with the flash of explosions and flares floating in the air. I heard whistles blowing in the distance, but had no idea what that was about. By this time what had been a company of men was not putting out much fire. Most were wounded or dead.
I crawled over to the RTO and company commander who was wounded but still firing back. He screamed at me that we were about to be over run and get ready.
Get ready for what?
How do you get ready to be over run I thought in terror.
At that moment a mortar or rocket exploded so close to me it blew me out of the trench. Dazed, I lay prone on my belly wondering what had just happened. I wondered if I was dead or alive. I felt no pain, but I knew the body for a short time will cover the pain and I could still be wounded and not know it. As I lay dazed a hand grabbed my arm and pulled me back into the trench. The lieutenant had pulled me back to safety and in the process took a bullet in his jaw.
The RTO slapped me a few times in the face and I suddenly realized I was still alive. He told me the lieutenant had been hit. With the dim light from a flare I could see he was choking to death from his own blood and couldn’t breathe. I laid him on his side so the blood could drain out and not in to his throat. I took my knife a cut a hole in his lower throat to his esophagus so he could breathe. I shouted to the RTO to give me his ball point pen and tore it apart and stuck the lower half of the pen in the hole I’d cut. Then I grabbed the lieutenants shoe laces to tie it in place around his neck and pack mud around the hole. The company commander was in terrible pain and groaning, but there was nothing left for me to do. I had no medical supplies.
By now the whistle blowing was much loader and there was now screaming from the NVA. The RTO and I knew what was about to happen.
I remember thinking how do you get ready to die?
Why did I stay instead of just going home?
What would my mother do when she got that letter?
My last thought was God please have mercy on my soul.
I told the RTO to lie down and play dead. We might survive if the NVA thought we were already dead. I lay prone across the lieutenants head in an effort to quell his groans of pain.
My mind must take control of my body so I would look as dead as possible and the NVA would pass me by. Out of sheer terror my mind made my body as limp as a dish rag. As we were finally over run we both felt the heavy boots of the NVA running over us and using our bodies like stepping stones. It seemed like thousands had trampled us. Several NVA soldiers stayed behind to insure all were dead. The RTO and I were violently kicked in the head and torso several times to insure we were dead. My mind was in total control of my body and remained limp. I could see through the slits of my eyes several men being shot again or bayoneted by the NVA to insure they were dead. My mind raced, was it only a matter of time before we got the same treatment.
By the grace of God, the last of the NVA moved on down the hill with their comrades in their quest for additional enemy kills. After what seemed like hours of playing dead after the NVA moved down the hill, we finally believed they were actually gone and slowly moved our heads to look around. They were GONE!
I whispered to the RTO to radio for help so we could get ourselves and any remaining wounded out. The RTO knew better than I the kind of help we needed. Shortly after his call, he shot a flare into the air straight above us. I thought he was crazy! Within a few minutes two phantom jets flew past our position and dropped napalm on the NVA and burned them to the ground. The heat from the napalm was so intense we had stay low in the trench to keep from getting burned ourselves.
Shortly thereafter, a light appeared out of the darkness above us. Another flare was fired to mark our position. My Eagle Dust Off commander had returned to get us. The only thing I could think of better than seeing his light would be the light from the Son of God returning to earth.
We loaded another 6 or 7 wounded with the last being the lieutenant who was barely alive. I stood on the runner of the Dust Off ship as it lifted off and in the glow of a flare looked down at 16 brave Americans laying dead in what had been or defensive position. As we rose higher I was staring at these men who fought with such courage. I did not leave as a whole human being; I left half my heart with them.
We returned to the surgical hospital at Camp Evans with the last of our wounded. After they were off loaded and taken into the hospital, the commander of my ship walked up to me and hugged me like a baby and with tears in his eyes, turned and walked away. I stood there for some time in a daze not knowing if this was a dream or did this really happen. A corpsman from the hospital broke my trance and asked if I wanted to clean up. Man did I! I wanted to wash not just the dirt and blood off of me but the memory of it all. I was still in shock and could not cry. All I could do was bury these men in my soul as I have done with all the others.
I caught a fixed wing back to the 498th at Lane field later that afternoon. When I got back, I asked LTC. Scott if I could spend the last few days in an empty officer quarters until I left. I could not be around anyone right now and wanted to be alone. He granted my wishes. In a few days my time had ended in Vietnam and I caught that freedom bird home and was honorably discharged.
About 9 months after my return I had re-entered college and was preparing for a new life. One afternoon as I returned to my dorm room, a large envelope had been placed under the door. It was from the Department of the Army. I was afraid to open it thinking my reserve status had been revoked and I was going back to Vietnam.
Several days passed before I got enough nerve to open it. I pulled a piece of paper out addressed to me. It was from the lieutenant I worked on in that hellish place. He wanted me to know he’d been in the hospital for the three months and his jaw had been rebuilt and in time he would recover. He also wanted me to know and thank me, 24 of his men were still alive and were going to make it.
I will never forget his words, “Twenty-five of us are here today because you stayed when you did not have to”. It was signed by all 25 men.
I sat in my dorm room looking at that letter for a long time, tears rolling down my face. When I finally gained my composer, there was a post script I hadn’t noticed. It said we of the 1st Infantry Division would like to show our gratitude and it is enclosed in the envelope.
I pulled 2 citations out with two medals. The first one was a citation for the “CMB” Combat Medic Badge for spending 7 hours on the ground in combat with the 1st Infantry Division.
The second citation was a Silver Star recommended by the commander of his brigade who learned of what had happened from the lieutenant and awarded by the Department of the Army.
Again I sat staring at the two citations for quite some time. I was not expecting a thank you and especially one of this nature.
My feeling sense Vietnam is that the greatest award a man can receive in trying save a man’s life…. is for that man to live.
The greatest burden a man can carry in trying to save a life….. is lose that battle.
I thought this was very honorable for the lieutenant, the 1st Infantry Division and the Army to show their thanks for what God used me to do.
Somehow though, I could not forget those 16 men left behind.
I’ve always carried the guilt of those 16 men buried deep in my soul. It has haunted me for more than 40 years and impacted my whole life.
Two very close Nam Vet friends I’ve been talking to a lot, knew I was carrying demons from my past in Nam….They told me the best way to let those demons go free is to dig them out of my soul where they have been buried so long and put it on paper.
This was the hardest thing to do since Nam.,.and don’t mind telling you I cried….
I feel now that it’s on paper my burden is lighter.
When I sent this story to them, they urged me to share it with other vets in hopes other vets might do the same and let the burdens of the past go free…. If it helps another brother, I will…..but it’s as hard to share it as it was to remember it.
When I as others came home, we didn’t want to talk about it and no one wanted to listen anyway. We were considered “Baby Killers” and forgotten. © Gary Jostandt
My First Dust-Off Mission
My first duty station in Vietnam was as a surgical ICU Tech at the 85th Evac Hospital in Qui Nhon. After 3 months, being young and stupid, I became bored with hospital work and started wanting a new and exciting assignment. I kept seeing these Dust Off choppers bring in wounded and really wanted to try it. Even though I had never flow in a helicopter before, I volunteered for Dust Off and was assigned to the 498th AA Dust Off Helicopter Company.
It was my first night in a new company, with men I did not know and a responsibility to save lives, to keep the wounded alive that I had never experienced before. I was now on the front line, not in the rear with some doctor or nurse to back me up. I stood between whether a man might live or die before we got him to a hospital. I was scared shitless!
Questions filled my mind….
Will I be able to do what was necessary? Would I remember what I was trained to do? Or would I just fail?
About 1 am, we got our first call from a Korean roadblock about a wounded American. Everyone in the crew jumped into action and we were soon airborne. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the roadblock on Hwy 1. We landed with no problem or hostile fire. No one messed with the Koreans. The Koreans threw the wounded GI on the chopper and we took off.
Flying at night we could only use red lights in the chopper to keep from being seen by Charlie. The first thing I noticed was the man was wet from head to toe. I thought he must have been pulled out of a flooded rice patty. There was a faint pulse in the neck artery. I ripped the front of his shirt open looking for wounds, then checked his face and head, legs, arms, and complete torso and found no bullet holes, then turned him over and did the same thing, with no results.
I started an IV in hopes of keeping him alive. Finally when we reached an altitude of around 10,000 feet I asked the pilot if I could turn on the white light because I still could not find what was wrong with this guy. He granted permission because we were too high to be hit. Upon doing so I discovered why the man was wet. He was covered from head to toe in blood. I too was covered in blood as was the whole chopper and crew!!! Since we flew with our doors open, the wind had blown his blood everywhere.
Finally with the light on I found the problem. He had taken a bullet in the back of his neck, just below the skull. The entry hole was so big you could insert two fingers. There were no exit wounds.Sadly, by this time he was dead and with that much blood loss there was not much I or anyone could do to save his life. I told the pilot and we dropped him at the nearest evacuation hospital.
On the way to the evac hospital all I could do was just kneel beside him… hold him… stare at his lifeless body with tears running down my face. I had never seen a man die in my total care before, nor held one in my arms as he lay dead before me that night.
The next day I learned he was a crew chief with the 129th Helicopter Gunship Company stationed next to us. He’d been out drinking all night and was too drunk to stop at a Korean roadblock. They shot him as he raced through the road block not knowing whether he was friendly or Charlie. A part of me knew there was nothing I or anyone could do to save his life, but the biggest part of me felt pain, sorrow and guilt over his dying. He was not just another brother, but a fellow crew member from next door.
After the mission, I sank into a deep depression for about three days. I could not eat, sleep or even talk. I was trying to comprehend his death and my part in trying to save his life. I was thinking what a terrible waste of life to be drunk and killed by Friendlies. Here in Vietnam, if you must die, it should be because you’re fighting Charlie. OH MY GOD…what a waste of precious life!
The guilt and terrible…sadness was overwhelming. Those who have served in Nam have heard the expression “it don’t matter”. I learned what that term meant! It was our way of dealing with the terrible pain of losing a brother, burying the pain deep within so we could cope day in and day out.
Finally after three days I came out of it. I threw up a wall of defense around me and buried this man deep in my soul. After that the dead and dying never affected me like that again.
I buried each person I could not save in the graveyard of my mind. This defensive wall became thicker than steel by the time I left Vietnam. I cried inwardly each time a man died, but not for him. I cried for his family and all those that loved him. They would spend the rest of their lives in the constant pain of their loved ones loss.
I wondered how my poor little mother would feel if she had gotten a notice of my death – her youngest of 10 children. The terrible anguish and pain she would feel.
This still haunts me today when I see a military casket. When a soldier dies he has been robbed of all he is, his dreams, hopes and all he ever will be.
Those that live…. live the rest of their lives with a hole in their heart.
As I am older and pushing 64, the thought of my mortality has risen. I thought it had been forgotten…left in Vietnam. I know there are more days behind me than ahead. With age and the resurrection of my mortality, the memories of Nam and the horrible face of death from Nam come with it. The memories you thought were buried too deep to be resurrected, have now broken free from behind this steel wall. Death is…. now looking at me…. face to face… with the brothers I left behind.
This is what is called PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It comes to all who have been in battle sooner or later, without warning….in many different forms.
It must be dealt with….. NEVER IGNORED! There is no need to spend the last years of your life in memories of misery. Get help!!! I know, I’ve been there, done that and I’m still healing. Brothers have cried on my shoulder and I’ve cried on theirs.
If you can’t get help from the V.A., get help from somewhere or someone!!!! I have your back and I know you have mine…….
NOT TILL I HAVE YOUR WOUNDED….. © Gary Jostandt
Dust Off Did Its Duty…..
I was stationed at one of our field LZs and paired with a different crew chief. My usual crew chief was on R&R. This was one guy I did not want to be around nor he around me. For whatever reason we both hated each other and to this day I can’t remember why. We would rather be anywhere but with each other and especially not on the same chopper during a rescue mission.
We got a call for a downed chopper on a mountain side under enemy fire. Our crew took to the air and when we arrived there were three of our gunships circling the downed chopper in the tress on the mountain side returning fire to the enemy in an effort to protect them until we arrived.
We could not hover and hoist them due to the angle of the mountain side and being directly in the line of enemy fire. The pilots pulled to the left of the downed chopper to a spot that provided some cover and tried to set down. The clearing was small and due to the tall thick underbrush could do nothing but hover about 8 to 10 feet above the underbrush. The commander asked if I could jump to the ground and make my way to the men in the chopper we were trying to rescue.
I jumped and when I landed I could see no way to make it through such thick dead under brush. I had never seen such thick brush in my life. With the helmet cord still attached to the chopper, I told the commander it did not look possible. Just as I was about to turn around and jump back on board as ordered, something dawned on me.
Weighing only about 130 lbs at the time, I remembered my chicken vest was still on. With that armor I now weighted around 180 lbs. I wondered if I threw myself down on top of the underbrush if a path could be cleared and therefore reach those on board. I tore off my flight helmet and tried it. Sure enough the dead brush crumbled and there was six feet of small path cleared. I kept doing this six feet at a time. Throwing myself down and getting up and doing it again, six feet at a time.
As I neared the crash site I could see and hear enemy fire near me and I wondered each time I stood when the next round would hit me in the head. For some reason it didn’t happen. The gunships saw what I was trying to do and were pouring return fire to protect me.
Upon reaching the site, I grabbed the least heavy of the six wounded and carried them on my back to our waiting chopper. It was a real struggle to get the larger men back in that I could not get them on my back despite the Adrenaline rush I was experiencing so I drug them back to the chopper by the shoulders. Each time I returned to the chopper with a man, the pilot would lower as far as he could and the crew chief would grab them and hoist them in.
When I finally got back with the last man, I gave the co-pilot a thumps up to let him know we were finished and lets get the hell out of here. At that moment I jumped for the runner and grabbed hold and with the last bit of energy left, lifted my legs to the runner as we lifted off. As I noted, the last bit of energy. My adrenaline rush was gone and had no strength left to pull myself from the runner into the ship. I hung upside down from the runner cross legged and cross armed as we rose higher into the sky. The pilots were concentrating on getting us out and thought I was on board.
I’ll never forget thinking at the time: this is the day that I’ll die. As I grew weaker, I knew my crew chief, based on our feeling for each other, would never save me. Then, out of nowhere…
I heard a loud voice from above from a man twice my size that sounded at that moment like the voice of God, scream at me, “Grab my Hand.” I reached out and he grabbed my arm and lifted me like the hand of God and pulled me like I was a feather into his arms like a baby and set me down inside the ship.
Neither of us said another word but we both worked our asses off in a team effort to keep the wounded alive until we got to the evac hospital. I don’t think the pilots ever knew what had transpired or our feeling we had toward one another. We never mentioned it to them.
Each member of the crew received an Air Medal with “V” device for that mission.
We were not there for that; we were there because of life versus death.
We were simply doing our duty as all others in Vietnam were doing.
I did not tell this story to bring praise to myself, but to bring praise to what I learned that day about the men I served with in Vietnam. The man I hated saved my life! The man I hated did everything he could to support our mission and save lives. We were a team regardless of feeling, attitude, elements, and enemy fire.
We were in Vietnam for each other! All those who served had faith in knowing “I have your back”
A lesson I will never forget and that is a bond that holds Nam vets. together as no others can feel.
After that mission, the crew chief and I became close friends.
We both leaned a lot that day.
© Gary Jostandt 5/27/2010
I sincerely hope that the guy is not embellishing his service and expecially the Army Medic Corp. It tarnishes all the good work done since 1917