Every time I hear news on the television that one of our servicemen was killed overseas it brings to mind my time when I served as a corpsman with 2nd Bn 5th Marines in 66 and 67 in Vietnam. Our Battalion had lots of Marines killed and wounded and I personally was involved with providing medical care to many of them either in Hotel Company or while at the Bn Aid Station. The Marines depended on their corpsmen to perform their duty when the time came. Far too often, many of the wounded had horrific wounds from mines or other high intensity explosions and our best was not good enough to save their lives.
Heroic acts during these times left the corpsman to ponder their own mortality when nothing worked. We all knew things would happen that we could not control and all we tried to do was save a good buddy’s life. We knew most of the Marines we took care of as we lived among them for months and considered them our brothers and at times cared more for them than our own family members. Combat does that to people.
Most of the corpsmen serving with grunt units were young, usually 19-22 years of age and some older. Our medical training was adequate at the time but not enough when things got really sour. We were expected to provide emergency medical care that a trauma trained surgeon would be hard pressed to perform under the circumstances. When our best failed and we lost a Marine, we were the first to know it, many hours before their family would receive word. I remember thinking I let my Marines down when I was unable to save a friend. It haunted me then, it haunts me now and even more on the day when they died. It never fades for memories last forever and I remember every wounded and dead Marine I took care of. I am sure many others out there feel the same way. Marine corpsmen never forget and I just wanted to express my thoughts because Memorial Day is almost here.
2/5, 66-67, Vietnam