Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Old Buddies on Memorial Day

Another Memorial Day is upon us as we still have Troops in Harm’s Way. Sadly, that means there will be more paying the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms, just as a few from previous generations have done.

Memorial Day has always been a special day to me, far from just an extra day off or a day to frolic with a barbecue to kick-off summer. It seems to that it become more emotional as I age and the further the time between me and my time spent in Vietnam.

In all, my unit saw 13 men pay the ultimate price while I was assigned to it, but two always seem to draw the most of my memories, Sgt. Scott Stanton and SFC Robert Pilk,

Upon first meeting ‘Scotty,’ seeing his infectious smile and easy going manner, you would have a difficult time believing he was a battle hardened warrior. But he was.

He was teamed with Warrant Officer Bruce Carlson, pilot of a ‘Loach’ (named for the Army designation LOH, Light Observation Helicopter) and Scotty being his Observer. Under Scotty’s tutelage, they became one of the most effective scout teams in country.

Scotty made nearly everyone feel at home and he looked out for us “newbies” when we arrived.

September 4, 1969, flying back seat, Scotty took a round through his thigh, severing an artery. No one could reach him, alone in the back seat, but he managed to pinch off the spurting artery as Mr. Carlson, ignoring the helicopters rated VNE (Velocity Not To Be Exceeded) flew him directly to the Army Hospital in Qui Nhon, where Doctors stopped the bleeding and gave him an excellent chance of survival.

As well like as he was by all, the entire unit was elated that he would survive.

On September 8, 1969, while on a flight to a better equipped hospital in Japan, Scotty was asleep laying down. They had him in a body cast and somehow, the artery began bleeding again with no one aware, not even Scotty.

He never woke up, passing away in his sleep some time during the flight.

The news greatly demoralized the entire unit for a few days.

Sgt. Pilk was another that we all looked up to. Like Scotty, he looked out for his men, well liked by all.

In May 1970, after our excursion into Cambodia, he performed an amazing act of heroics, ignoring his own safety in rescuing the pilot of another downed LOH, carrying the injured pilot some 150 yards with North Vietnamese soldiers chasing him, just yards behind and trying to cut them off. The Observer was already dead, but Sgt Pilk got the wounded and dazed pilot into the other LOH that managed to get off the ground, even though overloaded.

Just weeks later, Sgt Pilk was once again flying back seat when the helicopter received ground fire, causing it to crash, Sgt Pilk already hit, dying instantly. The pilot and front seat Observer survived with injuries.

At the time he died, he had an 8 month old daughter he never got to hold.

These are just two of the stories that never made any news stories back in America, the media preferring to seek out only the bad they could muster, even if they had to fabricate it.

I survived 18 months in country with barely a scratch. Over 58,000 didn’t make it home, at least not alive.

Throughout our history we have been involved in wars and conflicts. Hundreds of thousands of People like Sgt Stanton and Sgt Pilk have paid the price for the rest of us to enjoy our freedoms and liberties.

I’ll be at the Memorial Day Service later today, remember both of these two American heroes and the other 11 men I knew who paid the ultimate sacrifice, WO1 Jeffery Borr, 09 Sep 69, WO1 Terry Denney, 09 Sep 69, WO1 Fred Exner, 20 Nov 69, SP4 Henry Taylor, 14 Jan 70, SP4 Alonzo Garrett, 11 Apr 70, SP4 Richard Moden, 05 May 70, WO1 Danny Dewey, 05 Jun 70, WO1 Michael Dickus, 18 Jul 70, SP4 Otis Plants, 04 Sep 70, CW2 John Grisard, 19 Nov 70 and WO1 Stanley Struble, 19 Nov 70.

George Orwell said to us, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. “

Please take time today and remember those brave men who didn’t come home, but gave their all for our freedom.


REES LLOYD said...

Lew: Thank for this movingly written Memorial Day tribute to your fallen comrades in Vietnam. And thank you for your service, in war and peace, for God and Country.

LewWaters said...

You're welcome, Rees and thank you for all you do.

As in the Army, it is always a team effort, not an individual one.

You too are a vital member of the team trying to correct America and return her to the greatness we once knew.