Saber Article Index

2005 May-Jun

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

Kenneth W. SIERS, Civ AFRL/VSOSR KENNETH.SIERS@HANSCOM.AF.MIL e-mailed: "Hi Mike, Read your article in the Saber regarding the MEDEVAC crash on 5 Jan 1970. I was a squad leader with D 2-5. On that day, as a matter of fact, I was about 20 feet away from the crash.

"I remember a couple of door gunners hopping out to see if they could help with the wounded. Never got to know their names, but I think they came from Quan Loi because this crash happened about 1 click from LZ Ike....I knew Doc MOORE, but not real well....hope this information helped, Ken SIERS, Chelmsford, MA."

Guy C. LAMUNYON HTTP://airassault.bizhosting.com  GLAMUNYON@AOL.COM Vietnam '71 comments: "PRESS RELEASE: For immediate publication in newsletters and online postings: letter writing campaign for retroactive Air Assault Badge. The Air Assault Parity Coalition has begun a letter writing campaign requesting the new Secretary of the Army make the current Air Assault Badge retroactive to the Vietnam war for former airmobile and air cavalry combat veterans. The Army previously considered and rejected the retroactive award of the current Air Assault Badge to former members of the air assault units.

"The Air Assault Parity Coalition is also seeking a congressional sponsor for a Retroactive Air Assault Badge Bill. For more information and sample letters, visit the Air Assault Parity Coalition website at: HTTP://airassault.bizhosting.com .

"Please help obtain this long overdue recognition for the pioneers of the current Air Assault technology (Put The Air in Air Assault). Submitted by Guy C. LAMUNYON, Coordinator, Air Assault Parity Coalition Glamunyon@aol.com "

Bob Richards PAWBER@AOL.COM of Woodbridge, VA. 22192 notifies: "I was a MEDEVAC pilot from Jul '66-Jul '67, Mercy 35; and served with a great bunch of pilots, Medics, crew chiefs, and gunners during that year."

James Clay KEYS Jr. JKEYS3@WOH.RR.COM Dayton, OH, writes: "I am looking for Monty HALCOMB. I have met him, and I think, his wife. On a movie I took at LZ Mace I have found some that are in the movie, but am still looking for others."

I noticed a Guestbook sign-in by one of the best MEDEVAC Medics that I knew of, Bill KELLER WMKELLER1@NETZERO.COM  now living in Bozeman, MT. He signed: "Medic...MEDEVAC, 1969- '70. Flew with Mr.ZEPP, Mr. TANNER, Mr. RICHARDS, door gunner PARKS, mainly out of Tay Ninh. Stationed with Doc Dew, Gus and TRUCKS. Anyone know any of these guys?"

Having known that Dave PARKS had mentioned that Bill KELLER was the Medic on the MEDEVAC that he had crashed with on Jan. 05, '70, I contacted Bill. He replied:

"Tuesday Evening, Good Evening Mike. Yes, that was me. I've lived in absolute fear and dread to hear/see the words that we killed not just one grunt, but in fact two, or so you say, on that unforgettable day. God, how sorry I am to hear this. I just can't express the way I feel, have felt, for the past 35 years. I don't know what to say so I'll try to tell you what I remember.

"Dave PARKS was the best gunner there was. He helped me a lot when I first came into the unit to be a good Medic. The peter pilot was a Capt. (a fat little FNG that I had never flown with) and a weaney. He had a little shrapnel in his back and the back of his head. Nothing big but he cried the whole way out to the LZ that night. A real weaney.

"After quite a bit small arms fire we made our second approach and I was operating the hoist when everything became very quiet, as in not a sound could be heard. There was a brilliant orange light and smoke all around me and I think I was outside the aircraft (but I did not go far because for the first time I was wearing my monkey vest tethered to the floor of the aircraft).

"I remember thinking that I did not know what was going on but that I knew that something was very, very wrong. Then I realized that I was in mid air and that this was really going to heart when I hit the ground. I was telling myself to remember to unhook the monkey vest before I tried to get out of the aircraft. "Once outside I started yelling at Mr. LEONARD as to why he did not 'pull max collect' to brake our fall. He just looked at me and pointed to the lack of rotor blades (cut off by the trees as we fell). I then went and started doing my Medic thing. First wrapping up the crew chief's ribs and dealing with the peter pilot, then tending to some of the grunts. But, here I felt like an uninvited guest with these guys, knowing that I had just f'ed up big time.

"I went back to the chopper but the second bird came over head and dropped a hoist line. I looked at the grunt I was with and we both took off running like hell with true fear in our eyes knowing full well neither of us wanted to be under the chopper when this one came down too. We made O.J. SIMPSON look slow that day.

"I have not been to a 1st Cav reunion nor called Dave PARKS back when he once called me several years ago. The memories of that pile of trees under our chopper and the two grunts trying to pull their comrades free is just more that I think I can deal with at this time (ever?). Sorry. Say hi to Dave and Mr. LEONARD if your ever hear from them. To this day I truly love, remember, and respect the people I met in the Cav and MEDEVAC. We did not lose the war in our AO. Bill KELLER."

I told Bill that the only ones to blame for that incident were the NVA. How anyone could feel different is beyond me, but that is the way conscientious people are.

I had seen Bill's name on a '70's MEDEVAC roster posted on SNORE's old Web site, which I have saved. It shows that Bill KELLER had received a Silver Star, amongst other decorations, so I asked Bill about that, and some other things compared to Dave PARKS' recollections. Bill said, "24 March 05, Good Morning Mike. As far as I remember Mr. LEONARD was fine and not injured at all. In fact, he and I were pushing each other late that night as we boarded the last MEDEVAC out of the LZ to see which one of us would be the last to leave that god forsaken place; he won and was the last to board.

Capt. Winnie was hit in the back and neck and we carried him out on a stretcher, he just whined too much. We did NOT lift one WIA, but on the second approach we were at a hover just starting to hoist up the first WIA when we rotated the tail due to too much small arms fire, and opened up our side to the B-40 coming right over the crew chief's head. The blast went at about a 33 degree angle hitting the peter pilot in the head and me in the low back (thank god for chicken plates), both of us minor.

"I'll have to think about going into more detail as this is still very painful. Not because of the trauma that we experienced, but that we didn't get the job done to help the real heroes, the grunts on the ground, but just made things worse. Yes, I got an SS for this but as I've read other accounts of SS recipients, this was truly a light weight action for such an award. Thanks for the picture. Boy, what a mess. BK"

I remember that Bill KELLER had imparted some wisdom to me when I had met him when I had first joined MEDEVAC; in essence, don't cower, don't try to hide behind the hoist, it doesn't do any good. He was right about that on those aluminum cans. As well, I learned that courage goes a long way. I think that I had read in the past somewhere that Bill KELLER left Vietnam early on another shoot-down, also because of an RPG. If anyone reading this knows more, let me know.

Steve DIBENEDETTO STEPHEN.DIBENEDETTO@AMEDD.ARMY.MIL  Olympia, WA wants to say: "HHC 15th MED Bn. 4-'66/4-'67.  Flt Medic MEDEVAC AC #802 then #856 (after 802 got 'broke').  Is anyone still out there?"

Terri HASSELL BRYAN BRYANHORSES@YAHOO.COM from Andalusia, AL, writes, "Looking for any info on my dad, Jimmie Joe HASSELL. Flew 15th MED Battalion 1967-1968.

'70-'71 MEDEVAC PSG James E. MCDONALD, Database Operator 15th MED Bn. Association CSMRET@TDN.COM Tel: (503) 743 2692 contacted me:

"Mike, Norm ROBERGE e-mailed me in reference to the miss spelling of the words 'SARGEANT' (6 Times) on John's [HOLCOMB] bronze memorial plaque. ROBERGE tried to get them (officials in Oregon) to change it but they can't find the MOH insignia that is on the original design. Could you pass this on to the 2-7th Cav and let them coordinate with ROBERGE and the MOH Association to resolve this problem. POC: ROBERGE: NORMKARENN@AOL.COM "

This would be in reference to D 2-7 Cav 11B John Noble HOLCOMB, who was born in Baker City, OR, and joined the Army in Corvallis, OR. John Noble HOLCOMB was posthumously awarded the C.M.O.H. for heroism on 03 Dec 68, in War Zone D, RVN, at LZ Bitch. "Sargeant" is properly spelled "sergeant." Is it too late now? The memorial plaque is cast in bronze. The word is now out to the cavalry. Saddle up! And, get this corrected. Who has that insignia?

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