Patrol Firefight, with Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Under Obama

Recalling a patrol in March 1968, Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration, later said: “We were conducting a bridge security exercise, and it was backed — what we talked about earlier, keeping the highways open at night, running those — those roads. And bridges were obviously important because that was a main attraction of the saboteurs, to blow up those bridges and disrupt as much of the flow as the VC could. So we were on a — on a bridge security detail. And it was late into the night, maybe even early in the morning, when we got a call to pack up and get to a village where it was believed that VC were in the village. And we moved very quickly into that village. [Source: Time, January 16, 2013 =^=]

“My track was the lead track going in, lead track being the armored personnel carrier. We surrounded the village with our APCs and dismounted and then worked in the village. And if I recall, there was not any activity in that village that night as far as any firefights or we didn’t find anybody. And we spent, I think, an hour, hour and a half searching the village and found nothing. Whereupon we mounted back up on the APCs and moved away from the village, the same way we came in. Since my track was the first track going in, my track was the last track going out. And as we were going out, my track, being the last track, we hit a 500-pound mine, which was detonated, had been detonated, through a detonation wire that VC were in the trees and of course chose us because we were the last track. =^=

“Fortunately our track did not take the full blast that — the track didn’t come right up on top of the middle of that bomb. And the — the bomb blew the track up, and it came up the side of the track. And I was on — sitting on the left-hand side was the leader of the track, and my brother Tom was in the .50 caliber machine gun, working the radio that night, and the driver. And as we engaged the force of the impact of that bomb, of course the track was blown up… The fire came up the side and hit me all the way up and down my left side, burnt my face, arms. My brother Tom was unconscious because of the concussion. And a lot of action going on. We had — also were experiencing some machine gunfire from the — from the jungle. And by the time our other tracks could get turned around and come back, what I did was get everybody off the track because I was afraid that it would blow with all the ammunition that we had in those tracks, and it would blow up.

So we were able to throw everybody off the track. Some guys got off on their own. My brother Tom was unconscious, and we took the earphones off of him. He had blood running out of his ears and his nose. And I didn’t know if he was dead. So we got him off. I threw him off, and I fell on top of him as we — as we dove off. And by this time, the machine gunfire had — had gotten even fiercer and heavier, but our tracks were coming back to get us. And we had to clear the area first. We had — I think we had people injured that night, too, and maybe even a couple killed from that. And Tom had had the concussion and been hit with, I think, some shrapnel. I had been hit with shrapnel and burnt my face and up and down. Both eardrums of mine were blown out as well. And until we could secure the area, they couldn’t bring any choppers in to get the wounded out.

“And so I’ll never forget take — they took Tom and me out. And Tom was burned a little bit, too. I was burned pretty bad. And they put the salve on me over my face and my arms. And they wrapped us up in a blanket and put us on another APC and took us on down the road where we could secure things. And we waited for the choppers to dust us off that night along with the other guys that were hit. And the burn — of course there’s nothing quite like a burn. The pain. And we didn’t have any medics there with us. And we did have some guys, again, I think, that were pretty bad shape, so the morphine, everything was used for them. They did give us some shots, but the pain was pretty bad. And I remember sitting on that track, another track, waiting for the — the dustoff to come and medical evacuation, and thinking to myself, you know, if I ever get out of all of this, I am going to do everything I can to assure that war is the last resort that we, a nation, a people, calls upon to settle a dispute. The horror of it, the pain of it, the suffering of it. People just don’t understand it unless they’ve been through it. There’s no glory, only suffering in war.

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