On this day in 1968, some ten years after I sat in a bank in Mukwonago, Wisconsin – where I purchased my first silver coins out of a bag in a Vault – I landed in Viet Nam where I would experience a twenty-one month long adventure – one that would guide me for the next half century. Although I was not a Medic – I flew along side them on each flight that I participated in – as a ‘Patient Protector’ and assisted them in many of their medical procedures – including one particular flight where we were transporting a wounded enemy combatant to a hospital – he grabbed for the Medic’s sidearm once too often, and thus the ‘patient’ learned to fly – from a 3,000 foot altitude. No apologies here – not even to this day so many decades later.
The following is a personal commentary of one of my Brothers. ~ J. B.
It seems like maybe only two years ago I was running to my chopper…putting on my flak jacket and flight helmet….untying the main rotor blade….watching the engine compartment for fire as the pilots cranked it up….sliding the pilot’s side armor plate forward and closing the pilots door….jumping in the back and hooking up the cable to my helmet…looking over at my crew chief to see if he was ready….and keying my mic on the intercom telling the pilots “ready rear” and “clear right”…and my crew chief would say “clear left” and the pilot would begin pulling up. That adrenalin rush was so awesome knowing we were flying out to pick up someone that desperately needed us…and we might be the difference between him living and not.
During our flight to the patients, usually at 3000 feet, the pilots would talk to the guys on the ground giving us a detailed description of the Landing Zone (LZ) and the activity. When we got close the guys on the ground would “pop smoke” and then we could see the LZ for the first time and quickly calculate what we would encounter going in and landing. As we came screaming in at 100 knots, and then the big flare to land, it was all reaction as our brains processed it all.
I had my M16 locked and loaded ready to suppress any fire as we landed, as we always flew with the side doors open. As we touched down, I hung my M16 on the wall hook, jumped out of the right side of the chopper and my crew chief would jump out of the left side as we looked for the patients and quickly loaded them with the help of the ground guys. When we had them all…or we were full….I’d jump in, look for my crew chief to make sure he was in…as he had been doing the same thing on his left side of our Huey…and tell the pilots “ready rear” with my M16 back in my hands…and off we would go. It was a good mission if we didn’t have to shoot our way in or out of the LZ.
As soon as we were clear of the LZ, I would start sorting out the patients…seeing which needed my care first….stop the bleeding, keep them breathing…mouth to mouth, start IVs, and treat for shock. Of course many times they all needed my care first. I would do the first steps and then tell my crew chief what to do next as I went to the next patient. And as this was going on I would keep the pilots informed of the status of the patients so that information could be relayed to the hospital. As we landed at the hospital the medics from the emergency room would be waiting on our “hot pad” to carry them into ER. If we didn’t have another mission we would fly a few meters to our revetment and my crew chief and I would get the chopper ready for the next mission….wash the blood out, restock our supplies, check our weapons, sit down and try to rest for five minutes. Then I would go into ER and watch my patients being treated.
The ER doctors, nurses, and corpsman were amazing as they quickly treated the patients, cutting off the patient’s clothes to expose all the wounds, starting IVs, quickly sending them to surgery if necessary. After watching for some time I would go back to our operations office next door and wait for the next call on the radio to come in…”Dustoff, Dustoff we need an urgent pickup.”
Neal Stanley is a Vietnam veteran, a VVMF volunteer and a VVMF donor. We are currently unaware of his being or well-being.
Written by Neal Stanley for publication on VVMF ~ December 7, 2012.