1st Purple Heart:
On the day I got the Silver Star. In the middle of a HUGE firefight where I was on the point vehicle of a “V” formation that was sweeping through a rubber plantation. Hit in right shoulder by shrapnel from RPG hitting rubber tree limb just above the APC where I was firing M-60 machine gun from. Nearly knocked me over between concussion & impact.
Remember thinking, “Damn! Someone REALLY is trying to kill me. And they don’t even know me. I’m a nice guy!”
Next thought was, “What the hell an I doing trying to kill you? I don’t even know you. In fact, growing up with Oriental friends in Calif, if we met on the street, we’d probably like each other.”
I knew not to look down so as to avoid seeing the damage & going into shock. Just kept on firing. Pieces actually worked themselves out by end of all the action (!). Few minutes later, had all the hair on my right side burned off by napalm strike just 25 meters in front of us. (but it probably saved our lives)
Seriously exciting day.
2nd Purple Heart:
We ran into a huge bunker complex while in an inline formation. I commanded right flank end APC. Was ordered to maintain contact with fresh company that charged up on our right to “help”. Problem was, there were few bunkers in front of them; we had hit the main defenses. So they kept advancing while our guys on the ground were fighting hand-to-hand clearing the maze of bunkers.
As me & my driver were fighting out ahead of our troops trying to keep the “charging cavalry” in sight, the .50 caliber barrel burnt out from so much firing. Serious, oh shit! We started into the change-the-barrel routine. Howie, the driver got the old barrel out & turned to dive into the track for a new one. But instead of coming back with a barrel, he slammed the APC into gear & punched it… straight into the bunker complex.
I thought he had flipped out. He wouldn’t stop. So I grabbe a M-16 & started firing BACKWARDS into the bunker openings as we raced by them. As iwas doing so, got my head spun around by an exploding grenade that our guys had lobbed into one of the bunkers I was shooting back into! The shrapnel hit the left side of my upper lit, below my nose. Of course blood started flowing into my mouth & figured we were goners for sure… BOTH sides were hitting us! Figured, “I’ll get as many of them as I can before we’re nailed.”
Then, all of a sudden, the truck rocked to a stop & started twisting in place. Then I knew what Howie was doing… he’d drived on top of a bunker & was crushing it. A bunker that he saw an RPG crew swinging around & loading for a point blank shot at our gun-less APC. He had saved our lives (but not my face). (Although we still had to back the hell out of there FAST!) I put Howie-from-the-Bronx in for a Bronze Star for his smart, fast thinking & gutsy driving that saved our lives.
We honor you, Kenneth Thurman.
(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)