Vietnam was just starting to raise it’s ugly head. I had just finished high school and really didn’t want to go to college at this time. My father was a paratrooper in WWII, and even jumped the day after D Day, so I thought anything my Dad could do so could I. So I enlisted in the Army and took my basic at Ft. Polk, La. I was in a airborne basic training group, lots of extra PT and we ran everywhere we went. Upon graduation instead of sending me to Jump School at Ft. Bragg, NC I was sent for my Military Occupational School at Ft. Sam in San Antonio for my basic Medical Training. At this time Ft. Sam was a country club compared to Ft. Polk and I really never wanted to leave their. So after my Basic Medical , I qualified for advance Medical and spent a longer duration at Ft. Sam. I knew with this training that I would probably end up in Vietnam but at least well trained as a Combat Medic. I arrived in Vietnam in July 0f ’68 and was assigned to Charlie Co 2/60th 9th Infantry Division as the Senior Medic. My first duty assignment was at a forward observation area off the Mekong River at a small base camp. I was to oversee the other medics, hold sick call, day and night operations with the infantry and provide medical assistance with some of the civilian population.
I remember my first night in country at my duty assignment. Upon arriving almost at dusk and seeing my platform aid station and my sand bag bunker, my home, I was told that I was the replacement medic because it was just over run by the Vietcong not too long ago. Now it is night and I have to unpack my things in the bunker, no lights but just a small flashlight illuminating my bunker. My field phone rings and as I pick it up, I heard the ” Cinnamon Buns are Ready.” Could this be the code for we are going to be attacked… my first night we are going to be over run. I grabbed my steel pot, my two aid bags and my rifle and waited for the war to break out. I’m not sure how much time had passed but the field phone rang again and this time it was “Hey Doc are you coming over. I baked you some nice cinnamon rolls for you.” Now that was paranoia and that was Vietnam. You were constantly looking over your shoulder everywhere and all the time.
I had 23 days left before I was coming home back to Texas. I was pulled out of the field and was working inside a Battalion Aid station and working with the Battalion Surgeon when we received a message that one of our companies was hit hard and still under attack. They wanted the Battalion Surgeon and two other medics to be picked up and dropped in the rear with extra supplies so we could treat all the wounded. I volunteered and another medic who had nine days left from Louisville, Ky also volunteered for this mission. They picked us up and dropped us in the wrong area in the middle of an ambush with a different unit that had already suffered many casualties. The three of us spread out and started attending to the wounded. I was on my third soldier and I had to perform a field trach. Just as I placed the airway, I was wounded and the enemy fire was all around us. I suppressed the fire as best as I could and tried to drag out the wounded to a small clearing and called for med evac to come in and pick up the wounded.
I got out about 6 o’clock in the evening where I was airlifted to a small field hospital and treated. The following day I was sent to Japan for Surgery and further treatment. It wasn’t till I was in Japan I found out that my fellow medic from Louisville, Ky and with only 9 days left, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
I’m proud that I served with all my fellow brothers and I am proud to be a Texas Veteran.
We honor you, Charles Byers.