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VFW Magazine August 2017 : Page 15

PHOTO COURTESY OF JESS JOHNSON ambush for North Vietnamese Army regulars, 30 of whom had been using a trail on a regular basis. Unbeknownst to the Marines, the NVA saw this and countered with an ambush of their own. Instead of the usual 30 NVA, more than three times that many showed up. “They pretty much wiped out our unit,” Kuklenski said. Seventy percent of those in his unit were killed or wounded. Kuklenski was one of them. Three sepa-rate times he was hit, incurring wounds to both arms and both legs. Unable to walk, the powerful fireplug of a man (he was a former star guard on the Dallas Jesuit High School foot-ball team) pulled himself along with his elbows treating the wounded as he went, remembering all along the man-tra of corpsmen and medics alike: ‘clear the airway, stop the bleeding, prevent or treat for shock.’ His deeds earned him the Silver Star. According to U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Historian Andre Sobocinski, more than 10,000 Navy hos-pital corpsmen served with Marines dur-ing Vietnam. Of those, 645 were killed in action and more than 3,300 wounded. Sanders Marble, Ph.D., is senior histo-rian, History Branch, of the U.S. Army’s Medical Department (AMEDD) Center of History and Heritage at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. He said, “There are no clear statistics on how many [Army] medics deployed to Vietnam.” There are, however, crystal clear stats as to how many medical personnel in Vietnam were awarded the nation’s high-est commendation for bravery. According to the Medal of Honor Society, 259 med-als were conferred for actions during the Vietnam War. Twenty of them went to medics, corpsmen and the like — one out of every 13 conferred. 1. Army medic Jess Johnson of A Co., 1st Bn., 501st Inf., 101st Abn. Div., cradles an M60 machine gun in 1971 in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley. A recipient of the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Johnson says providing a wounded soldier hope that he or she will survive can be as important as tending the injury. 2. Navy corpsman Steve Vineyard displays the Purple Heart and Navy Commendation Medal he earned on July 30, 1969, while serving with the Marine 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in Quang Nam province. To train for his job in the war zone, Vineyard attended 16 weeks of Hospital Corps School, twice the time Army medics were provided. 3. Army medic and article author Jerry Chandler of D Co., 2nd Bn., 501st Inf., 101st Abn. Div., prepares to move to his next base camp in late June or early July 1970 while at Camp Evans near Phu Bai. Chandler was later wounded on Hill 805 near Fire Base Ripcord, an incident in which some 70 percent of his unit was either wounded or killed. 4. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Michael Kuklenski receives a Silver Star in April 1970 at the Albany, Ga., Naval Air Station, for his actions during a May 29, 1969, firefight in Quang Nam province while serving with Alpha Co., 1st Bn., 7th Marines. Kuklenski, who was wounded three times in the engagement, “fearlessly crawled across the fire-swept terrain to reach wounded Marines and administer first aid.” He “continued to provide medical care to the other casualties” before accepting treatment for himself, according to his Silver Star citation. 1. PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE VINEYARD 2. PHOTO COURTESY OF JERRY CHANDLER 3. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL KUKLENSKI COURAGE, COMPOSURE AND GUARDIAN ANGELS Like Kuklenski, courage was part and parcel of Jess Johnson’s kit. Now 66, Johnson was 18 when he deployed as a medic with A Co., 1st Bn., 501st Inf. Regt., 101st Airborne Div. Courage was instilled in him by his father, a soldier with the 78th Lightning Division who lost a leg during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. One day, Johnson’s father took him aside and said, “You have 4. AUGUST 2017   • WWW.VFW.ORG • 15

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