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Gary Graves - Bravo Company 68/69



The location of this war story takes place at 1st Reconnaissance Battalion area near Da Dang, Vietnam. The date is TET (Vietnamese New Year) February 1969. The 1969 Tet was nothing to compare to the 1968 Tet offensive but most of the attacks of the 1969 Tet were centered on military targets near Da Dang and Saigon. Most of these attacks were beaten off but the Marines did suffer casualties. However, this is a story of one of those Marine casualties. Being a Hospital Corpsman, often refer to as Doc. I was attached to Bravo Company, 1stRecon Bn. And it was my duty to take care of the Marine’s sick, lame and lazy. The location of the Battalion/Bravo Company was near one of the main arteries leading into Da Dang, and being a main artery, it was well travel during the day. The road was used as a means of travel to the Da Nang, 1st Medical Hospital, 1st Marine Division Headquarters and Freedom Hill. Freedom Hill was the place to be during the day and I feel sure this why they called it Freedom Hill. Freedom Hill was a place for the soldiers, Marines, and sailors to relax from the stresses of war. You could take in a movie, eat a hamburger with a coke, visit the Red Cross ladies, visit the Post Exchange (PX), and of course visit the package store to buy liquor. By the way I shouldn’t forget the Bob Hope Shows. To travel this road at night was a different story. The road was rarely traveled at night due to the fear of an ambush are a sniper lying in wait for some idiot to drive by.

Now with the date and place in mind let’s talk about the well-dressed uniform for a Recon Marine in the jungle. The uniform compose of a boonie hat, jungle utilities with a button fly (no t-shirt/underwear, now refer today as going commando), M16, 80 pound pack, 4 magazines pouches (with 5 magazines in each pouch), 8 canteens of water, 4 grenades, either a smoke/tear gas grenade, gas mask, 100 rounds of ammo for the M60 machine gun, 1 stick of C4 explosive, map/compass, Unit 1 with battle dressings/medication carried by the corpsman, rations for five days, and wore-out pair of jungles boots on his feet with a pair dry socks. At this point you may be asking yourself why “no t-shirt and underwear.” The answer is simple; it was well known that the high humidity and staying wet would cause “jungle rot” where the sun doesn’t shine. (Jungle Rot are sores are lesions that occurred from the irritation of the T-shirt/underwear). For every day wear and walking around the company area the Marines in Bravo Co. would wear tiger stripes shorts with a zipper fly and Hoe Chi Minh sandals (sandals were made from recycled tires).

Now to the story of this wounder warrior. Remember the time is the Vietnamese New Year and we, Bravo Company, received word from headquarters 1st Marine Div. that all Marines should man their positions and be ON THE READY. A few mortar rounds and rockets had been reported slamming into military bases around Da Dang. Sergeants in Bravo Co. rush around to get his people into their firing positions. All were in their positions and ready for action and nothing happens. A day and night passed and still nothing happens. The second night came and the word was passed down, 50% in the trenches and 50% in the rack and rotate position at midnight. I knew from passed experience if a Marine wasn’t in his rack sleeping that someone would be getting sick or hurt. I really expected someone to step in a hole and turn an ankle, or an accidental discharge of a weapon. It was not to be. Sometime after midnight I was awakening with my rack shaking and someone calling “Doc”. With some difficulty I did managed to roll over in the rack and asked the marine what the problem was. His answer was, “doc, I have my dick caught in my zipper and I can’t get it loose.” My reply was “let’s see.” After close exam of the marine’s dick and zipper my statement was to him “man you do have a problem. That zipper is really on your dick good.” You have to remember this was during the Vietnamese New year and we are on alert and no lights. No lights, pitch back, and my pin light was my only source of light. The only solution for me to do is to pull and tug on the marine’s zipper, but I quickly determine this was not the right solution. Every time I pulled or tugged the marine would reply, “Doc, that hurts!”. After a few more tugs on the zipper I decided this was not a Band-aid procedure. A Band-Aid wasn’t going to fix this marine’s “boo-boo”. So, my next best solution was to cut the zipper out with my scissors and release some of the pressure from the tiger shorts and take him to the battalion aid station (BAS) for some real medical help that I couldn’t give him. The story doesn’t end here, the story just got started. Upon arriving, which was about a quarter of a mile from my hotch to the BAS, I knocked on the door as hard as I could to wake up the corpsman inside. All I got was someone yelling and wanted to know what I needed. I explained to the corpsman our situation and he said I would have to take him to the 1st Med Hospital and I could use the aid station Jeep. This brought up another situation, where are the keys to the Jeep. The keys were but nearly impossible to find in the dark. After stumbling and milling around in the dark I finally located the keys to unlock the padlock on the Jeep. All this time I had this crazy thought; it’s dark, TET, and I was going to be driving to the 1stMed Hospital with no lights. This was going to be a SCARY situation and I could get shot by a sniper over a marine’s zipper. I can see the citation now: Hospital Corpsman Gary Graves was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic action during the battle of the Zipper. After driving a mile to the 1st Med Hospital in the dark we arrived at the triage area. The marine was lucky that night. The marine with the zipper was the only war casualty that night and the physician saw him right away. The physician examines the Marine and said he would be right back. Upon his return he had a camera in hand and another camera around his neck and began to take pictures of the marine’s zipper and penis. Both the marine and myself were surprise. After the picture taken was over, he told the marine he was lucky he didn’t cut are lacerate the urethra and the zipper would have to be removed surgically. The following morning, I reported the ordeal and the disposition of the marine to the company’s first sergeant. With all the different situations we encounter that night, it had to be embarrassing to the marine. ALL IN A NIGHTS WORK FOR A HOSPITAL CORPSMAN IN VIETNAM. THERE WILL NO CITATION FOR THE CORPSMAN AND NO PURPLE HEART FOR THE MARINE.