David H. Hackworth
13 Jan 98
A SALUTE TO COMBAT MEDICS
Like most old warriors, I have a bunch of heroes: fighter jocks, chopper crews, old fashioned platoon sergeants, forward observers and the guys who walk point. But I must confess I have a special place in my heart for combat medics.
Combat medics are a unique breed of distinguished, selfless warriors who from the War of Independence until today have served the American soldier and their country with unusual daring and rare intrepidity.
As individuals and as a group they're the bravest of the brave.
They go to the fallen, where the bullets, shards of hot metal, lethal mines and booby-traps have already cut warriors down. And there they perform the most astounding acts of mercy.
There is no job in the insanity of close combat that requires more bravery, steadfastness and coolness under fire than that of the combat medic. Medics go into the very center of the hell storm of battle -- where the grunt has fallen and where the enemy waits to strike again -- and carry out awesome acts with great skill.
Medics are almost always an enemy prime target, but they do their dangerous tasks with seemingly total disregard for themselves -- find the wounded, stop the bleeding, patch the wound, administer morphine and good cheer, and then drag and pack shattered bodies of the men they love as brothers across fire-swept fields back to the safety of a paddy wall or a hedgerow or a fold in the ground.
These remarkable men and their legendary feats more often then not remain unsung. Sure Hollywood has glorified Tom Cruise as a fighter jock in "Top Gun", Demi Moore as a Navy Seal in "GI Jane" and Meg Ryan as an Army chopper pilot in "Courage Under Fire." But there's been nothing, not even a trailer, about combat medics, who in the chaos and carnage of the battlefield are the miracle workers who constantly lay their lives on the line to save lives.
Perhaps this may change. "DOC: Platoon Medic" was just released by Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster). No combat book has grabbed me like Daniel E. Evans' memoir. It ranks with the WWI classic "All Quiet on the Western Front" and the WWII magnum opus "Those Devils in Baggy Pants."
This book captures the madness and horror of battle like no other war story I have read. It surpasses even the great fictional works such as "The Red Badge of Courage" and "The Naked and the Dead."
I cried, raged, damned the brass that were responsible for the insanity of Vietnam and sadly closed the book at the end having even more respect for the American grunts and medics who slugged it out in Vietnam, no doubt the toughest sustained infantry war America has fought.
"Doc" Evans, a rifle platoon medic in Vietnam, spent 10 years putting this riveting work together. He painstakingly chased down over 60 infantry grunts and medics who served with him in Company "B," 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry (The Hardcore) in the Mekong Delta.
The book is a chorus of voices which brings the battlefield alive. The reader is there among the smoke and shock of battle, smelling the cordite, hearing the groans of the wounded and the voices of the dying calling for their mothers, and witnessing the brutality and savagery of men killing men. You are there, right in the inferno of infantry combat, the ultimate Super Bowl.
Anyone who reads it will understand why combat vets love their "Docs" and are so violently opposed to permitting women to become part of this madness. The Pat Schroaders of this world must read it. And after, if they have even half a brain, they won't dare submit your daughters to this carnage.
This incredible story of the brave medical shepherds who protect their front line flock is a lasting tribute to the combat medic. Every politician should be required to read it before signing off on missions to such killing fields as Somalia and Bosnia.
Do I know if the story is true? Yes, Evans was a medic in a draftee battalion I was privileged to skipper. I had the honor of putting him in for the Medal of Honor for the deeds related in his masterpiece of war. He received the Distinguished Service Cross.