Medics, Doctors, Nurses and Medical Staff

Posted on April 20, 2010


To many, including myself, the Medic, Doctors, Nurses and Medical Staff in Vietnam were some of our True Heroes. The Medic is talked about by many and even the “Dust Off” or Medevac Pilots receive a lot of notice. The doctors, nurses and staff of the hospital don’t get the credit they deserve. Without one, the others would be useless.

The Medic was the first line life saver. Usually these young men had no previous training until they were chosen to go to Ft. Sam Houston for Medic training.  The medic was the first person you wanted to see when you got wounded. He was there with his medical bag, assessing the situation and making a determination as how to treat you. In some instances, he would decide that treatment would be of no use but then he would have to move to the next man without letting his last decision affect him. He was the one who determined if you needed to be removed from the field and sent to a hospital.  The medic had very little to work with when it came to medical supplies but usually they worked miracles with what they had. Think about it for a moment. Being 19, 20 or 21 years old and being responsible for making a decision on whether you can save this man’s life or move on to the next one. Think about people shooting at you and yet here you are doing your best to save someones life and then realizing you can’t.

The next thing you wanted to see was that “Dust-Off” or “medevac” helicopter. These pilots were very skilled. If the pilot could land the helicopter he did so many times in a “Hot PZ”. That is a Pick-up zone in which the enemy was still firing into. Sometimes they would have to hover the helicopter for several minutes while getting the patient(s) loaded. I can attest to one such situation where myself and one other man had to load five severely wounded soldiers on to a “Jungle Penetrator”. A Jungle penetrator is a  steel seat attached to a cable which was attached to a winch on the helicopter. It would be lowered through the thick trees and then each man would be loaded and retrieved one at a time. Sometimes medevac helicopters would take to long to get there and our own Lift Pilots would take their place. Many times the lift pilot would be used in the middle of a fight to evacuate the wounded and bring in replacements. This put the lift crew in extreme danger.

At the Evacuation Hospital, the doctors and staff would take charge. Cutting clothes off, giving shots, asking questions and then the required surgeries would take place with every staff member ( x-ray techs, lab specialists etc) doing their job in a professional manner. Sometimes the doctors could only do what surgery was necessary to stabilize a soldier before he was sent off to a better equipped facility. It took a team to do the jobs that these great people did. Without the x-rays or blood work the doctors couldn’t do their jobs. Some of these operations were made in a field hospital which was no more than a tent.


The Vietnam Nurses were saints. Look at the pictures above and look just how young these ladies were. Mary Banigan served two tours in Vietnam as many of the nurses did and when they went home they got spit on by war protesters. The doctors saved the lives but the nurses made us remember that life was worth living. Their smiles, kind words, sympathy, and their Tender Loving Care were the best medicine we could ask for. They were there in the middle of the night when the nightmares hit or the pain got so bad.

To all of the medical staff from the medic to the nurses, I say you are my heroes.

For more information about the brave women who have served as nurses in combat zones go