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This IS The Corpsman Speaking

I served eight years FMF….I did three tours in Vietnam as a Recon Corpsman but time in combat ended up taking their toll on me…seeing too much combat and too much death put me in a private H&ll that only other Combat Veterans, could ever understand… you learn what the word “Frightened” is all about…. you learn how to walk away from your brothers when they are laying there dead in a shelter half, waiting for the Chopper to come in and take them home. To survive, you know that you have to shut down all feelings and just do your job. A lot of veterans coming out of combat have already lost their ability to “restart” their emotions and live a normal life. They will carry the memories of combat for their entire life. The civilian Dr’s have attached many names to our demons…from “survivor guilt” to the catch all “PTSD”. But they will never truly know what we are feeling.

For over 40 years now, I have dreaded a journey that I knew that I someday had to take. It involved me going to Washington DC to see the Vietnam wall. I asked my daughter to go to the wall with me because she was as impacted by the war as I was….I lost my mind in Nam, and she lost her dad. My daughter flew from Kansas and I flew from Florida to DC…..we planned to go to the wall in the morning. I woke up early the next morning and prepared for the trip to the wall…I honestly didn’t have the slightest idea of how I would react to being there. I put my service ribbons on my Jungle Utility shirt that said “Russell”…. “U.S. Marine”. and we left for the Memorial. The wall wasn’t as cold and frightening as I had thought it would be. I walked slowly by each panel of names…reading them….wondering if I would see names that I knew….while all along hoping that I wouldn’t. By the time I reached the end I was crying….The sight of all my combat brothers names on the Granite Wall as a lasting tribute to “Americas finest children” gave me a different view of Nam….the war is over…

Now this is the Corpsman speaking: If you are a Nam Vet and having trouble with PTSD….DOC says go to the wall….it won’t cure you, but it makes you feel like you were also “One of Americas finest children” in answering your countries call, and doing your best…somehow you’ll walk away knowing that your life mattered, and that you will always be a part of history,

Ron Russell

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Comments

Top Ram - June 10, 2020

Doc Russel, first I’m glad you are still with us and I always had respect for our Corpsman, not only did they treated us, saved our lives and many times they were forced to engage in fire-fights. I served 18 months in Nam as an 0311 with 3rdBn 26MarRegt from PhuBai to KCB, Jun 27,67 we lost 13 Marines n 2 Corpsman, Sep 7-8, 67 another 15 Marines n 1 Corpsman on Sep 10, 67 39 Marines n 4 Corpsman. Of course there were many more for the 26th Marines, but this was the period I was in the bush but enough to say there is the worse unseen injury that never heals and only us actual combat warriors that don’t “talk the walk” know PTSD is activated by noise, nightmares and the sound of choppers flying over us, I suffered for forty-four years till I realized I needed help and I did besides PTSD VA rating and CRSC due to being USMC retired. I once read but don’t remember where that is “The strange abnormalities of war that most times you didn’t have to dwell on the casualties as they were medivac out so quickly we didn’t know who lived or who died”. So here were are today, the nights are quiet and your mind starts to wonder as we did in Nam, why am I still here or am I? It is anger, fear and guilt, only the warrior has the answer. Top Ram USMC Retired

Loren Brown - June 10, 2020

The comments from all the FMF “Doc’s are so right on and they all eventually show we have one common problem and that is the feeling that even at uour best in Nam it was’t good enough to keep from losing our Marines. The trouble with being a “Warrior/Healer” is a large lifetime load. But the “Wall” did wonders for me.” Doc Brown. Lima Co., 1st. platoon, 3/9, 68-69.

Tony Woconish, Veterans Chaplain - June 10, 2020

“The CHAPLAIN says…Go to the Wall” Psl.23:3 “the LORD restores your soul”.

Doc MacIntyre - June 10, 2020

I hear what you guys are saying, and I’m glad that visiting the wall has brought you peace, but I can’t bring myself to look at that damn wall. I was a medevac corpsman with MAG 16 and many of the names etched in stone are my failures. There is no wall with the names of survivors, just the ones that I couldn’t save. The pilots and crewmen that flew those medevac missions risked their lives to get me to those patients, I just wasn’t good enough to save all of them. The Chinese use to hang a red lantern outside the healers building to record the number of patients he lost. For me the wall is like those red lanterns, an accusing finger from the grave for every Marine that died on me.

Jack Riley - June 10, 2020

Pat Vogt, Contact me at grunti39@charter.net with your email address so I can get you in the Flaming I loop. I have a couple of photos with you when we were at Camp Carroll that I’ll send you. Semper Fi….Jack Riley

Ramon Ortiz - June 10, 2020

Ramon Ortiz , I want thank all the Corpsmen who served in Nam and all other battlefields they were there for us when need we them to treat our wounds, and some our buddys that didn’t make it. I know for sure our Docs are also suffering form PTSD our war wounds that will take time heal and will always be in healing process, I serve in Nam in 1967 to 1968 with Charlie Co. 1st Batt. 9th Marines only went to the wall one a short visit don’t remember what Year. Making plans for this year to visit the wall. Thanks agian Docs for your service.

Kevin Baruth - June 10, 2020

Wonderful post from Corpsman Russell. He is right about needing to turn off your feelings to do your job in combat. Much harder to turn them back on later in life. Over the years, my respect and admiration for the Navy Corpsman, who served with my USMC units in RVN, has only grown. Their bravery and courage was unmatched and their skills saved many lives in the most trying of circumstances. I suspect most have gone through life unappreciated and unrecognized for their valor but don’t think for one second that any Marine in a combat unit will ever forget you. God bless you.

Tom Wilson - June 10, 2020

I was with 3rd Force Recon in ’69 and ’70 Mostly in the DMZ and the Ashau Valley. I was previously a grunt with with Mike 3/4 along the “D”. By the time I came back across the pond I was a mess. I Was drinking a lot and smoking a lot of weed and couldn’t get Nam off my mind. I was at the original dedication of the wall and have been there several times since for additional cleansing. It does help. In Nam I saw our Corpsmen perform miracles though in my year of hell I never got a scratch, except for some nasty jungle rot. Thanks to all our fleet Corpsmen.

Todd - June 10, 2020

Thank you brother for sharing.

Doc ‘chopper john’ Patrick - June 10, 2020

RVN 1966-67. I, like most of us earlier FMF Corpsmen, was not very well prepared for the shocks awaiting me in that very first combat experience. After that first ‘surprise and freeze’ wore off, then the day to day tolls began adding up rapidly. When returning to the world as an unwanted and cursed disabled vet, I was able to get my life back on track, ultimately becoming an Orthopedic Physician’s Assistant. I was able to function well and with some honors until something strange began happening. Appearing from nowhere began anxiety attacks… definitely not desired in the operating rooms of that city’s hospitals. This was still before the term PTSD had been actually coined, so I was convinced I had slipped into a serious mental illness of no return. I was forced by my ethics alone to resign my position and surrender my licenses for the protection of my future patients. I have remained retired all these many years. Perhaps someday I may have the balls to view the traveling wall, but going to DC seems out of the question. Thank you Ron DOC Russell for broaching a subject that surely needs more discussion.

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