Saber Article Index

1999 Jan-Feb

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961
E-mail: mbodnar27@juno.com

SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE; That is the motto of this unit; call sign: MEDEVAC. I think that is a great motto. The command unit, 15th Medical Battalion, now 15th Forward Support Battalion, uses the official motto of: STANDING BY; and adds unofficially: LEAD THE WAY. Other great mottos: THIS WE'LL DEFEND; WE CAN, WE WILL; GARRY!OWEN; HONOR AND COURAGE; SEMPER PARATUS; LOYALTY, COURAGE; and many, many more. Whatever your motto to live by and fight with...FIRST TEAM!

SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE has special meaning to those of us who were privileged enough to serve on MEDEVAC and to be able to repay the sacrifices of service by our combative fellow Americans as soldiers by being there when they needed us. I know from having been on the sacrificing, needing end, in C 2\7 Cav in 1969, while we pursued the enemy, that MEDEVAC was more than special.

From the impressions of my fellow platoon members and 11-Bravos whom I served with in C 2\7 Cav, I found my way to serve on MEDEVAC when my DEROS arrived in December of 1969. Things had quieted down in our A.O. because we had done the job that was requested of the 1st Cavalry Division. At least it had quieted down where I was in C 2\7, compared to very busy and bloody months in the early and middle months of 1969, and when the 1st Cavalry Division first came down to III Corps at the end of 1968.

I felt that I could do more by flying on MEDEVAC, which covered the entire 1st Cavalry Division, so I had extended my Vietnam service six months to do that. The combat activity would always be somewhere, covering the entire division, even if all of the units had cleaned out their A.O.'s. Some enemy element would always be trying to find a new way to infiltrate somewhere, and somebody in the 1st Cavalry Division would find them. There has been recent, aggressive activity by veterans of MEDEVAC in the name of SNORE-a.k.a. Sherman BREEDEN-a MEDEVAC crew chief extraordinaire whom I served with, and thanks to the Internet, to locate fellow MEDEVAC veterans.

I ran into SNORE when he signed the 1st Cavalry Division Association's Web site Guestbook a number of times. I found SNORE's Web site and what he has been doing to organize and locate the veterans of MEDEVAC. SNORE and the other veterans of MEDEVAC whom he and they have found-over 150 MEDEVAC veterans in all, and counting-just had their first reunion on 17-19 April 1998, in Virginia Beach, VA. As all of the 1st Cavalry Division units seem to do, the MEDEVAC veterans have formed an association. Like the first President of the United States, George WASHINGTON, Sherman BREEDEN, also a Virginian, was elected to be the first president of the MEDEVAC Association. I am sure that the MEDEVAC veterans wanted to honor SNORE, like George WASHINGTON was honored, by electing him the first president, for the organization and leadership to unite everyone.

The charter members of the MEDEVAC Association and those attending the first MEDEVAC Reunion are: Dan BRADY, Barry L. BROWN, Larry ASH, Quinn H. BECKER, Sherman L. BREEDEN, Dillard CARTER, Robert "Tom" CAMPBELL, David COOPER, Wendell DAVIS, Jim FERGUSON, Mark HOLIDAY, Jim HUDSON, Ron HUETHER, Eldon H. IDEUS, Chuck LAWHORN, Jimmy A. NORRIS, Michael SMITH, Rich Jay TANNER, John G. TABOR, Tom J. WHELAN, Corky WALSH, Bob MCKINLEY, Tom TRIFIRO, Ray ZEPP, Thomas R. HUGHES, and John F. ZWALINSKI.

If I got anyone's name incorrect let me know and a correction will be noted. I hate to be inaccurate, especially with another veteran's name. These above names are of course nowhere near the over 150 MEDEVAC veterans recently found. It is, though, the start of the MEDEVAC reunions. The 1999 MEDEVAC Reunion will be May 1st and 2nd, at the Jackie Coughan Plaza in Las Vegas, NV. The room rates will be $50 + Tax as of this writing. I recently spoke to our 1st Cavalry Division Association Executive Director Art Junot (BG Ret.), and he mentioned to me that he has to remind the various units that submit columns, that the Saber is not for their newsletters. I am not intending for this column, if it can grace the pages of the Saber, to be a MEDEVAC or 15th Med\FSB newsletter. I just wanted to introduce the Saber readers to the belated organization of MEDEVAC veterans happening recently, so that the many veterans of MEDEVAC as well the 15th Med and 15th FSB who read the Saber know where to regroup with those whom they served with in those units.

I suggest going to SNORE's Web site, if you use the Internet, to read his newsletter and all of the other extensive information that he has posted. I recommend going first to his Web site map-like all astute soldiers do to locate themselves. The Web site map is at: http://www.vabch.com/mssb/SNORE/MAP15th.HTM It was my idea that I expressed to SNORE to be active with the 1st Cav Association which I have been a member of since I found out about it and I have been going to the 1st Cav Association reunions since 1985. He suggested that I start the writing of this column instead of him or someone else-as long as I thought that he should do one in the Saber for the MEDEVAC veterans of the 1st Cav.

I was surprised that SNORE and so many other MEDEVAC veterans have not recently been members of their 1st Cavalry Division Association. I think the reason that I, myself, did not know about the 1st Cavalry Division Association when I was in the 1st Cav in Vietnam was because I do not think that anyone responsible thought that we would live very long, so they did not bother telling us. I seriously believe that; but that is history; let us make up for lost time. The fact that life membership is only $10 should make it as easy as anything on this earth to do to join when you are a veteran of the 1st Cavalry Division. Being a veteran of the 1st Cavalry Division can only mean more than anything else on this earth if you are an American and a veteran of the United States Army.

I impressed on SNORE the many important reasons to join his 1st Cav Association and he finally just did. SNORE put out the word in his e-mailings to all of us MEDEVAC and 15th Med\FSB veterans, the important reasons for everyone to join their 1st Cavalry Division Association. Welcome home Sherman; and I do not say that lightly. We are waiting for our other MEDEVAC and 15th Med\FSB veterans who have not yet joined, to come home.

At this point I want to say that I dislike-and I have always disliked-the phrase bestowed upon Vietnam veterans, "Welcome home!" Personally, I never left! In 1986, while I was living in Los Angeles, there was a rock concert put on at the famous Los Angeles Forum, for Vietnam veterans. I was then a member of the Southern California Chapter of the 1st Cavalry Division Association. Herb EDWARDS, A 2\8 Cav, and his then wife Kathy, got tickets for all of us to that Vietnam veteran dedicated concert at the Los Angeles Forum. I wanted to go because there were a lot of rock musicians whom I always wanted to see. One of the performers was a controversial 60's activist and musician whose music I knew well; that musician being Country Joe McDonald. Country Joe did his first, acoustic song at the concert and I happened to be not in my seat but down in front of the stage. Country Joe, after finishing his first song, said into the microphone to the Vietnam veteran audience, "Welcome home!"

That irked me as that phrase always does, directed to Vietnam veterans, and I just sounded off back at Joe so that he could hear me, "SAME TO YOU!" I knew that Country Joe was a pre-Vietnam War veteran of the United States Navy. Country Joe apparently did hear me and he was affected as I had intended because he then started to mumble into the microphone to the Vietnam veteran audience about himself having been in the Navy in the early 60's, blah, blah; with great humility, as a fellow veteran. My mission was accomplished.

But to SNORE and all of the veterans joining their 1st Cavalry Division Association, you are coming home. You have been away from your 1st Cavalry Division that you helped to set into history with your dedicated service. You have always carried the 1st Cav with you as veterans; just as American veterans we serve our country and bring the country with us, fighting under our flag. How can we be welcomed home when we never leave in essence? But we do leave the division, and by joining our 1st Cavalry Division Association we are, coming home.

I am looking forward to seeing the MEDEVAC and 15th Med\FSB veterans' reunions being held at the big 1st Cavalry Division Association reunions, like the other 1st Cav unit associations have theirs. Then I will know that we are all home!

I am suspicious that someone started that "Welcome home!" phrase uttered to Vietnam veterans to belittle us. And then of course it was adapted by the culture, and used in a sincere context by the innocent and well intentioned. I think that "Welcome home!" phrase had its origins from the same people who like to say that we lost the Vietnam War. I recently read former President Richard Nixon's book: No More Vietnams. He says that we in fact won the "second" Vietnam War, and he presents Presidential evidence along with a detailed history of Vietnam as only he could at the level of government service that he achieved in his long career.

I have the instinct to believe him and his strong evidence over those who do nothing but criticize. I know firsthand the hard work that the American military produced to carry out his, as American, policies. I think of the 1st Cavalry Division then and now doing as ordered to defend peace and democracy. Notwithstanding, I find in reading the autobiography of Hamilton H. Howze, whom some of you may know of, that he takes experienced issue with the concept that those that fight and sometimes die in military service do so "in the defense of freedom." He says that maybe that is why they enlisted but he thinks that after little training, soldiers do not fight and sometimes die primarily for country, or freedom, or other lofty purpose-but they fight for their buddies, their squad, then their platoon, their company, and maybe their battalion, and upward in descending order of importance.

That was in extreme combat that he experienced. So too it was with us flying on MEDEVAC. We had the immediate concern; and that was to extract the wounded and dying from combat. I think back and I feel like Pluto's dog, guarding the gate to the dead, not allowing anyone to enter. In the September\October edition of the Saber the 1\9 Cav column had a graphic account of combat in Tay Ninh Province in 1970. (I was beginning to think that everyone in 1\9 Cav had retired from the Association) I am presently reading Kregg JORGENSON's excellent book Acceptable Loss, which is as engrossing and well written as his Saber column story was about "men of steel." I would not let anyone sit on my buddy either-none of them-not even the ones that I do not know! Thanks to Kregg P.J. JORGENSON and Matt BRENNAN for their books, and David BRAY for his articles telling us about their and the other 1\9 Cav scouts so that we know what they did, can be done. Thanks to all of them who have written about their experiences which were above and beyond the call of duty.

Although, I know of one veteran of the United States Army who would reduce that to just, duty: Roy P. Benavidez; R.I.P. The reason that I mention all of this in this column is because Kregg JORGENSON mentioned in his Saber story that MEDEVAC came out when they needed to extract their wounded. I was flying on MEDEVAC then and in Tay Ninh at times-the 1st Cav's 1st Brigade A.O. I do not remember ever picking up for 1\9 Cav but it is good to know that we did and that we could help them like we did the other units that did not have their own helicopters like 1\9 Cav did. Because I do not remember making any pickups for 1\9 Cav does not mean that I never did, nor that MEDEVAC did only rarely. As one of my squad leaders in C 2\7 Cav, Roy STERN, would tell me at the reunions, "Vietnam is just a blur." That could be the case more than I would like to admit. Of course in MEDEVAC there was also a lot of competition among crew members to fly. It was supply and demand.

A close to full roster in the air ambulance platoon was maintained, and only three active crews were assigned to cover each of the three 1st Cav brigades. Until the s hit the fan, everyone not immediately assigned, was on call. When the Cambodian Incursion happened from May 1st through June until July of 1970, everyone in MEDEVAC was assigned as a crew and we were all flying, extracting wounded for every U.S. Army and A.R.V.N. unit in the III Corps sector of Cambodia. We were very busy, with over a thousand sorties which is documented in the U.S. Government Printing Office book: Army Aero-medical Evacuation in Vietnam. With that kind of activity, I know that there has to be at least some stories-I have found a few already that I will work on getting into print-from that period anyway, for the Saber, that all of you MEDEVAC crewmen-to include our great pilots-can test your writing ability with.

Send them to me, or even better, to SNORE to also put on his Web site. I can get them from him. If you are not online that is what the Saber is for; for the last fifty years. To all MEDEVAC veterans, 15th Med, and the present 15th FSB, I encourage you-if you got through the Army I do not need to give you courage, write a short story about your service, your unit, your 1st Cavalry Division, that shows the importance to serve your country and your fellow Americans, when so many Americans never put on the uniform of their nation's military. Let us know that you are proud to do that mature, responsible job, that is inspirational. I will hold you in suspense until the next issue of the Saber about the list of names of the over one hundred and fifty MEDEVAC veterans that have been found; everyone else, let us know that you are alive, write!

Always remembering our 1st Cav troops on duty around the world; over and out.

FIRST TEAM!
Garryowen,
Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE