Defending America
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
18 April 2000

REST IN PEACE, BILLY, YOU EARNED IT

Billy Scott, age 52, is dead.

The docs down South Carolina way say Billy died as a result of wading through too much Agent Orange. You know, that poison the Pentagon and those other liars at the VA said was less harmful than raindrops.

Yet another casualty from that dumb, dumb war that will probably burn in our souls and our memories until all Vietnam vets, their children and their children's children are dead.

Billy was a deeply religious, 20-year-old boy back in '69 when I met him. A jewel. A warm, wonderful human being who'd cut his teeth on "thou shall not kill." When he was drafted for that bad war, he registered as a conscientious objector -- he was willing to do his duty and serve his country, but not as a trigger-puller.

In Vietnam, Billy carried a medical bag rather than a rifle, and although he seemed no taller than a fire hydrant and not much heavier than a down pillow, he was all stout heart, braver than the bravest. He was a combat medic in my Hardcore Recondo Battalion (4/39th Infantry) down in the Mekong Delta, and he loved and was dedicated to the soldiers he was charged to care for. After his first week with the Hardcore Battalion, Billy became a quiet legend.
On the battlefield, he was everywhere. When one of his boys went down, he always somehow got to him. Neither land mines, bullets nor a bunker full of enemy machine guns spitting out green death could stop him.

When that dreaded cry of "Medic" sounded, you could count on Billy -- he always got there. Stopping the bleeding, preventing shock, comforting the wounded with that soft, gentle South Carolina drawl: "Yuh'll be all right, ol' buddy. Jus' lay back heah in muh arms and let Billy look after you." All the while bullets would be cutting the grass around "Little Billy," as we called him. He never flinched, just did his sacred duty.

On March 13, 1969, the night Capt. Eugene R. Spiegle died along with two other Delta Company soldiers -- the same hellacious night 19 other soldiers were cut up by bullets and shrapnel -- Billy was the only "Doc" with his besieged and surrounded unit, and once again he did his thing. Pumping life into broken teen-age bodies. Keeping his boys alive. Ignoring the incoming stuff. Crawling, running, doing whatever had to be done, always exposed to enemy fire.

When Capt. Spiegle took a chestful of bullets, Billy kept him alive by performing a tracheotomy with his pocketknife in the dark while under attack. Spiegle almost bit off one of Billy's fingers while he was clearing the fallen captain's blocked airways. As Billy patched up his skipper, a Viet Cong soldier fired a full magazine of AK-47 slugs at him -- but somehow missed.

Someone, something besides Lady Luck, had to have been watching over Billy as he looked after his particular flock of the young men who do the dying in the horror shows our so-called civilized world calls conflicts.

Combat medics are the most valiant Band of Brothers ever to grace a battlefield. They're usually the most visible targets -- out in the open on the same ground where their patients just got hit. Medics don't wait for a miracle to pull the wounded to a safe shelter -- they are the miracle that pulls, slides, drags and packs shattered bodies out of danger. And they risk their lives performing other miracles as well -- relieving pain, administering morphine and getting IVs going to pump life back into broken fighters.

Selfless and serving beyond good sense, countless medics have died in the line of duty in all our wars, trying to save not just their buddies but every boy fallen during battle.

"Little Billy" was one of the best of the best of the most courageous men I've known on the killing field, and I know I speak for all the Hardcore soldiers whom Billy touched. We loved his gentle ways, his lion heart, his total, selfless dedication to his soldier brothers.

I'm sure there's a special place in heaven for combat medics.

Bet a buck, Billy has a front-and-center seat.

He damn-well earned it.