A soldier’s story


During Vietnam foreign nationals living in the U.S. holding a green card fell under the draft act. If called, they either went into the U.S. Army or returned home. We had five in our company in Vietnam. Nathan, one of our medics, was from Jamaica. An English fellow I didn’t know was attending college in Colorado when called. He was killed in Vietnam. John Boucher, a Canadian, was working at the Colt Arms Co. in New England test firing M-60 machine guns. Yes, the U.S. Army made him a machine gunner. No, he didn’t want his civilian job back if he managed to survive….“Colt can shove it.”

Another Canadian, Gabriel Grenier, almost drowned in a night river crossing when the safety rope broke. “I half swam, half was pulled to shore puking river water I swallowed and the smell of a nearby decomposing enemy killed the day before. The next day I was ordered to Saigon to replace my lost green card.”

Pat Daly was from Ireland. He was shot in the hip during the Saigon fighting. At our 50 year reunion this last August six of us were sitting at a table reminiscing. “Daly, your Irish luck held even on your way out. Klemme and I were on the foot of the stretcher running you from the aid station to the chopper. Two bullets ricocheted off the side of a building and buzzed just in front of us and just over you.”

“When the bullet hit me in the hip I went right down,” said Daly. “McIntosh tore a door down so I could be carried to an armored personnel carrier. I was put on its ramp. I’ve never told anyone this for 50 years. The track commander, a young guy with a perfect red handlebar mustache, looked me over, motioned to his crew and then spoke to me.”

“We’re going to put a G.I.’s body on you.” When I asked why, he continued. “You’re bleeding. We have to get you to an aid station. We’ll have to fight our way out of here. The machine gun mounted above you will be showering hot bullet casings down.”

“They laid him on me. I held him by the shoulders a bit off my face so I could breathe easier. Over the years I’ve thought of that G.I.’s mother and what she may have thought had she known her son’s body shielded a wounded G.I. from hot brass.”

No one at the table spoke for a few moments. Sometimes it’s not the terrible things in combat that leave their mark on the soul.

Erin go bragh….,Patrick

William Sirtola