Saber Article Index

2003 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

William MEEKS MEEKS_W@MSN.COM , Troutdale, OR comments in the Guestbook: "1st time in this Web site, looks good. Have not heard from anyone in a year, would like to hear from you."

The following was printed in the NY Times: "November 4, 2002 Richard ROCCO, Medal of Honor Recipient, Is Dead at 63, By RICHARD GOLDSTEIN "Richard ROCCO, an Army medic in the Vietnam War who received the Medal of Honor for rescuing severely wounded fellow crewmen from the wreckage of a downed helicopter under enemy fire, died on Thursday at his home in San Antonio. He was 63.

"The cause was cancer, his wife, Maria, said.

"On May 24, 1970, Mr. ROCCO, a sergeant, was aboard a medical evacuation helicopter [MEDEVAC] that was shot down on a mission to remove wounded South Vietnamese troops besieged near the village of Katum.

"'We started taking fire from all directions,' he recalled in a 1998 interview with The American Forces Information Service.

"'The pilot was shot through the leg. The helicopter spun around and crashed in an open field, turned on its side and started burning. The co-pilot's arm was ripped off and it was just hanging.' "Mr. ROCCO suffered back injuries, a broken hip and a broken wrist, and the other four crew members were shot.

"'I guess I was going on reflexes,' he said. 'I jumped out and pulled the pilot out first. I looked for cover and saw a big tree lying on the ground. I dragged him to the tree, knowing that any time I was going to get shot.'

"Mr. ROCCO went back to the helicopter and carried the co- pilot, the crew chief and another medic to cover, one at a time, crossing 20 yards of open ground under a hail of fire, his hands and face burned by flames engulfing the helicopter.

"The next day, two American helicopters [MEDEVACs] were shot down trying to evacuate the crewmen, who had called in artillery and air strikes on their own position to turn back an assault by North Vietnamese troops. But all five crew members were rescued on that second day. 'They didn't have time for litters or anything else,' Mr. ROCCO recalled. 'They just threw us into the helicopter and took off.'

"The commander of the First Cavalry Division visited Mr. ROCCO at a hospital and told him he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor. But he heard nothing more about that until 1974, when he was stationed at Fort Campbell, KY, and was told he would receive the medal, the nation's highest award for valor.

"Mr. ROCCO had not known that the co-pilot he saved, Lt. Lee CAUBARREAUX, had been lobbying in his behalf.

"In March 1971, while Mr. CAUBARREAUX was preparing for a medical retirement in Texas, the Medal of Honor recommendation was mailed to him by a warrant officer in the First Cavalry Division awards office in South Vietnam who had found it in a desk drawer.

"Mr. CAUBARREAUX appealed to Army authorities to approve the award, then recounted Mr. ROCCO's exploits to Senator Russell LONG of Louisiana, Mr. CAUBARREAUX's home state. Those efforts finally prevailed when President Gerald R. FORD presented the Medal of Honor to Mr. ROCCO on Dec. 12, 1974.

"Louis Richard ROCCO, a native of Albuquerque, retired from the Army as a chief warrant officer in 1978 after 22 years of military service. He re-enlisted in 1991, in the Persian Gulf War, and spent six months at Fort Sam Houston, TX, recruiting medical personnel.

"Mr. ROCCO worked extensively as a veterans counselor. He also spoke to schoolchildren about drug abuse on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America.

"In addition to his wife, Mr. ROCCO is survived by his sons Roy, of Simi Valley, CA, and Brian, of San Diego; a daughter, Theresa DUBOIS of Carson City, NV; his mother, Lita ROCCO of Hemet, CA; a brother, Clyde, of San Antonio; four sisters, Sandra SCHMIDT and Gayle ROCCO both of Hemet, Mary ROCCO of San Jacinto, CA, and Diane CALDERON of Las Vegas; and five grandchildren.

"Mr. CAUBARREAUX, the helicopter co-pilot, his shattered arm having been saved by doctors, told The American Forces Information Service in 1998 that if not for Mr. ROCCO 'We would have burned to death in the helicopter.' "'I can't screw in a light bulb with my arm,' Mr. CAUBARREAUX said,' but I can still hug my wife.' Copyright The New York Times"

The following pertinent essay, by a military doctor, was forwarded to me by '68-'69 C 2\7 Cav 1st Plt. Sergeant Jerry "Snuffy" ARMSTRONG:

"I am a doctor specializing in emergency medicine in the emergency departments of the only two military Level One- trauma centers. They are both in San Antonio, TX and they care for civilian emergencies as well as military personnel. San Antonio has the largest military retiree population in the world living here, because of the location of these two large military medical centers. As a military doctor in training or my specialty, I work long hours and the pay is less than glamorous.

"One tends to become jaded by the long hours, lack of sleep, food, family contact, and the endless parade of human suffering passing before you. The arrival of another ambulance does not mean more pay, only more work. "Most often, it is a victim from a motor vehicle crash. Often it is a person of dubious character who has been shot or stabbed. With our large military retiree population, it is often a nursing home patient.

"Even with my enlisted service and minimal combat experience in Panama, prior to medical school, I have caught myself groaning when the ambulance brought in yet another sick, elderly person from one of the local retirement centers that cater to military retirees. I had not stopped to think of what citizens of this age group represented.

"I saw 'Saving Private Ryan.' I was touched deeply. Not so much by the carnage in the first 30 minutes, but by the sacrifices of so many. [writer's note: a fictional movie but no doubt well depicted] I was touched most by the scene of the elderly survivor at the graveside, asking his wife if he'd been a good man. I realized that I had seen these same men and women coming through my emergency dept. and had not realized what magnificent sacrifices they had made. The things they did for me and everyone else that has lived on this planet since the end of that conflict are priceless.

"Situation permitting, I now try to ask my patients about their experiences. They would never bring up the subject without the inquiry. I have been privileged to an amazing array of experiences, recounted in the brief minutes allowed in an emergency dept. encounter. These experiences have revealed the incredible individuals I have had the honor of serving in a medical capacity, many on their last admission to the hospital.

"There was a frail, elderly woman who reassured my young enlisted medic, trying to start an IV line in her arm. She remained calm and poised, despite her illness and the multiple needle-sticks into her fragile veins. She was what we call a 'hard stick.' As the medic made another attempt, I noticed a number tattooed across her forearm. I touched it with one finger and looked into her eyes. She simply said 'Auschwitz.' Many of later generations would have loudly and openly berated the young medic in his many attempts. How different was the response from this person who'd seen unspeakable suffering.

"Also, there was this long retired colonel, who as a young officer had parachuted from his burning plane over a Pacific island held by the Japanese. Now an octogenarian, his head cut in a fall at home where he lived alone. His CT scan and suturing had been delayed until after midnight by the usual parade of high priority ambulance patients. Still spry for his age, he asked to use the phone to call a taxi, to take him home, then he realized his ambulance had brought him without his wallet.

"He asked if he could use the phone to make a long distance call to his daughter who lived 7 miles away. With great pride we told him that he could not, as he'd done enough for his country and the least we could do was get him a taxi home, even if we had to pay for it ourselves. My only regret was that my shift wouldn't end for several hours, and I couldn't drive him myself.

"I was there the night Msgt. Roy BENAVIDEZ came through the emergency dept. for the last time. He was very sick. I was not the doctor taking care of him, but I walked to his bedside and took his hand. I said nothing. He was so sick, he didn't know I was there. I'd read his Congressional Medal of Honor citation and wanted to shake his hand. He died a few days later.

"The gentleman who served with MERRILL's Marauders, the survivor of the Bataan Death March, the survivor of Omaha Beach, the 101 year old World War I veteran, the former POW held in frozen North Korea, the former Special Forces medic - now with non-operable liver cancer, the former Vietnam Corps Commander. I remember these citizens.

"I may still groan when yet another ambulance comes in, but now I am much more aware of what an honor it is to serve these particular men and women. I am angered at the cut backs, implemented and proposed, that will continue to decay their meager retirement benefits.

"I see the President and Congress who would turn their back on these individuals, who've sacrificed so much to protect our liberty. I see later generations that seem to be totally engrossed in abusing these same liberties, won with such sacrifice.

"It has become my personal endeavor, to make the nurses and young enlisted medics aware of these amazing individuals when I encounter them in our emergency dept. Their response to these particular citizens has made me think that perhaps all is not lost in the next generation.

"My experiences have solidified my belief that we are losing an incredible generation, and this nation knows not what it is losing. Our uncaring government and ungrateful civilian populace should all take note. We should all remember that we must 'Ear n this.'

"Written By Cpt. Stephen R. ELLISON, M.D." (If you send this story along to friends, please include the author's name. Thank you!)

Ron STRUB REDHOT_RON@HOTMAIL of La Crescent, MN, Co C, 15th MED '65-'66, writes, "Just wanted to say Happy Veteran's Day and a big thank you of all the 1st Cav soldiers from yesterday & today."

Joe KELLY JFK2559@AOL.COM from Walden, NY tells us, "Medic 11\69-4\70 with A 1\7 & from 5\'70 to 11\'70 flew on MEDEVAC."

Kelley GODSIE KLELY@HOTMAIL.COM signed the Guestbook: "My father is Norvell GODSIE who served his country well." Ike GODSIE was a MEDEVAC crew chief while I was with the Air Ambulance Platoon in '70. Although I had flown with him quite a lot I never knew his first name and we always just called him GODSIE. I assume he is Kelley's father. He was a great MEDEVAC crew chief and someone with whom you would like to be on his good side, i.e. good 1st Cav personnel. I had posted a photo of him in a previous Saber issue.

Albert H. CLAY AHC@DIRECWAY.COM of Sequim, WA signs in as "B Co 15th. MED - '66-'67 Ssg."

Samuel H. ARMES ARMES71@AOL.COM , Clinton, TN, writes to say: "I served proudly with the 15th MED Bn. 1st Cav Div. from May '63 to June '64. What a great division to belong to. I was with D Co as motor Sgt. and asst. motor Sgt. Would like to hear from James (Jim) ADAMS, James D. LEE, Ssg. DANIELS, Ssg. NAPIER. ALSO: LACKY, CARTER, WHALEN, HAMM, TODD, THOMPS ON SP/5 LACY AND John JOHNSTON from New Orleans. If any of you fellows are out please drop me a line. I think of you guys a lot. P.S. I am a proud member of the 1st Cav Assn."

Bruce S. LEWY LEWY153@COX.NET from Southern California signed the Guestbook, "Nice site. While not an "Airedale" or even a 'doggie,' I have and had many friends in the Army, some in the Cav. Though a Marine, I did work with 229th AHC for a short time in '68. Have a friend, Sam "Snake" ROMERO, formerly with B Co, 2\12th, 1st Cav and 15th MEDEVAC who lives in San Juan Capistrano, CA. He doesn't have Internet access, but his phone number is: (949)481-2538, and would appreciate hearing from anyone from the 15th. He served in Nam from May '67-May '68, with a Cpt. PONDS and a Lt. Dwyane J. CAROT, as a helo crewman. Things have been rocky for him the past few years. Bigfootmarine."

David FLOYD TAMPARED*&^@WIKTEL.COM who was at Tay Ninh, Quan Loi, & LZ Jamie wrote: "Several A 2\7 troopers are seeking a Medic we knew as David NELSON who served as company Medic for A 2\7 in 1969. He may have changed his name at some point in his life during or after his tour of duty in Nam."

Corky WALSH MEDEVAC454 of Eugene, OR writes, "Just proud that I served with the 1st Cav and flew in MEDEVAC '67-'68 in Vietnam."

D.P. REAP ES347FAN@HOTMAIL.COM of Newnan, GA says, "I was a member of the Cav in Vietnam, and at Ft. Hood. In Vietnam, I was in the 229th AHB, at Hood, I was in the 15th MED Bn. Was a real eye opener for some to see a pair of Cav patches adorning my uniforms. I retired in 1988."

Floyd THOMPSON SR71US@AOL.COM directed a message to Henry LAND, for us to read, "I was nicknamed Medic Tango and was the heaviest of the Medics. I'm from Boston. I flew with MEDEVAC from Jan '68 thru July '69. I had Rick FREEMAN as a crew chief for many months in Quang Tri and LZ Stud. While flying out of Quang Tri I had a B-40 rocket go up our exhaust that didn't explode. Remember hearing about that? "I remember a mission where we had 3-4 birds shot down on a nasty hoist mission. Some of the pilots were wounded. It was flown from Headquarters Company I believe. Were you one of the pilots?

"I also flew with Danny TOOTHMAN <MEDEVAC19>, Gil Moran <MEDEVAC20) name? I'm also in contact with the first sergeant Gordon RUSSELL too. He is in Georgia; retired of course.

Henry LAND replied: "Floyd THOMPSON, Cpt. Hook is alias for Henry LAND, MEDEVAC pilot Aug '67 to Mar '68 when I got shot on a hoist mission near the 'Rock Pile' near Caison. My 'cherry' peter pilot flew us back to Camp Evans where the main rotor seized on the MEDEVAC pad and had to be hoisted out by a 'Hook'(shit). W/2 Roger BADERSCHNEIDER later took the mission. I got a Purple Heart and a hook to replace my right hand for this aerial action. Hope this helps. Live in Tangerine, FL."

More along these lines, "FYI, Gunner Murray GIBBS. I was with Cpt. Hook (Henry LAND) MEDEVAC 449, replacing his gunner that day when Henry got shot. When we got back the rotor did freeze immediate upon landing. I got on my MEDEVAC 447 and flew back out with W0 BADERSCHNEIDER to do that hoist mission."

William D. BURNS BBURNS@ALAWEB.COM from Geneva, AL signs in, "Served in A Co, 15th MED. Left Ft. Benning in Aug, '65. In Nam from 9\'65 until 8\'66. Interested in hearing from other Medics who may have served during that time period."

Bob MCKINLEY USARETBOB@AOL.COM of Largo, FL said, "Happy Holidays to all you guys. Hope to see you all again soon."

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