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Chuck Merrill

“When I went to Vietnam in 1968 I was only 18 years old and very naïve. Nothing the Army trained me for prepared me for what I experienced. Only four days into my tour of duty, four men were obliterated not more than 10 yards away from me. Because I was a medic, it was my duty to pick up the pieces of these mend and put them into body bags. Only the first of many times I have heard the final zip of the bag being closed. Even after all these years I can still hear the sound of all those zipper closing on all those dead bodies. At times it’s overwhelming.”

“Right after Tet most of our operations were search and destroy missions. Most of our wounded were booby traps and mortar / shrapnel wounds. I did my job well and was fully accepted into the company as one of the men. At first, I was terrified and scared all the time. None of the training back in the states was anything near what I was seeing here. Have you ever had to stick your hands inside someone’s body to try to reach an artery to stop the bleeding? Or have someone step on a mine and lose everything from the waist down but still be alive and conscious and you have the feeling of being totally hopeless and frustrated knowing that there was nothing you could do and this person would die? From touching so much blood and trying to treat so many wounds I still can see the blood on my hands and cannot get it off. Have you ever had a man die in your arms crying softly for his mother? Or have a man scream continually from a gut wound until the medevac helicopter picked him up? I still hear those screams and cries in the nightmares that haunt me continuously.”

… “the company commander radioed the platoon leader to pull back and leave the wounded behind. We were heartbroken. It was nightfall and we had to wait till morning to go back. We did in force, but of course they (VC) had pulled back, but not before they did absolutely hideous things to the men we left behind. They had hog tied all 3 and then mutilated all of them horribly. It’s the first time I cried in Vietnam – I had to put them in body bags. They were part of my platoon, my friends. I should have been there with them and I wasn’t. God, I wish I was dead; I can still see their faces.”

“As a medic, it was my responsibility to determine who would live and who would die” (by having to make the decisions which wounded would be medevac’d out of the war zone for treatment due to limited room on the helicopters). “I wish I could have taken their place, those left behind to die. I was only 18 years old. I can’t believe I took that responsibility – it will haunt me to my very end.”