Part I: Navy Corpsmen; A Tribute

Navy Corpsmen: Tribute

to a Westbury Hero

In the fall of 1965, I was first introduced to Navy Corpsmen who were acting in a combat role. My duty involved participation in a unit entitled the Combined Action Program or CAP. The fire team (four men) to which I was attached was ordered to protect  villages in I Corps, Vietnam's Central Highlands. Sometimes we used two teams for the job. The Corpsmen from MAG-36, the Marine helicopter group from which I was TAD (Temporary Additional Duty), came out to us to help as volunteers.

The children of the villages had huge knots on their heads and other parts of their bodies created apparently and as we eventually were told by infected insect bites. I'm not exaggerating when saying that a three year old would have these rounded bumps on his or her head the size of the marbles that Dick Aubrey, who lived down the block on Waycross, and I used to play when we were ten years of age. And many of them were of the larger quarter sized diameters and circumferences. A child, also with barely any hair might have five to as many as twenty such prominences popping out of their skulls. Getting to the point, their conditions were hideous.

We had a fellow in our team who loved to play with the children. He returned to the base at Chu Lai and contacted the people in the medical tent, who then allowed the Corpsmen to come out to the villages. I don't remember the treatments, but they cured the knots. Then the children would lineup presenting other ailments. The Corpsmen would return, fixing and bandaging children while we stood guard over on the side or at the perimeter of the village. Eventually, the adults followed. Pretty soon these fellows were running mobile medical facilities out of jeeps. The adults showed these medical personnel appreciation and respect. The children loved them. I and my other team members admired them.

I left that duty sometime in late November to early December, 1965, as I recall, going on to other missions. But before doing so, we began to notice that new Corpsmen were coming out, and that the original ones were missing. As we were informed, they were participating in emergency med evacuations in the various helicopter operations. Sparing you the details, we were told that those men were being wounded, some killed, serving in that other capacity.

My duties would change starting in January, 1966. I became among other things part of a forward operations liaison to the infantry. We maintained med evac helicopters, usually two at a time, out close to the infantry operations so that the wounded could be removed more quickly. In a particularly difficult operation that might last from three days to two weeks, our group would launch as many as twenty-plus emergency med evacs a day. When "Emergency" was attached to the med evac term, it meant that life was immediately at stake. So there was urgency built into the task. Where there were approximately forty different planes (we called helicopters "Planes" in that organization) from our group of seven UH34D and one UH1E squadron, there were only eight Corpsmen available to make the runs.

Those men would fly with the helicopter crews all day going into zones, sometimes against as I witnessed the direct orders of the MAG CO because the areas were unsecured, repeatedly risking their lives to save wounded Marines. The Corpsmen would leave the helicopters and run rapidly to the downed men, or give medical care as the wounded were being loaded by the grunts, and provide instruction and help in carrying them, the wounded, to the planes. When loaded, these medical men, and often aided by crewchiefs and port gunners,  worked methodically and sometimes feverishly stopping bleeding and administering aid to the downed men. It was all quite difficult and completely - totally over my head and training when I was present and from hindsight privileged to watch them work.

I would talk to these men as they would wait for the next call for an emergency med evac to come from the grunts. Each one was a volunteer. None of them ever received a single order to attend these missions. And none of them were accorded flight skins or such orders, which had they been so acknowledged would have resulted in their receiving multiple air medals for heroism. They risked, not just periodically but routinely, their lives and saved Marines without any such fanfare or meeting of self interests.

In my time in that operations group, I only knew of one Corpsman who was not either wounded or killed.

Aside from the helicopter pilots that I watched go into unsecured zones, or talked with on the radio as they performed the emergency med evacuations, and of course noting the incredible grunts on the ground who met our crews there protecting and trying to save their own men, I never saw a braver more completely courageous and selfless class of military service personnel than represented by the Navy Corpsman.

One of our Westbury alumni was a Corpsman, serving during the Vietnam War out of Da Nang and Hue Phu Bai. He was and is as he lives with us today G. Roger Bythewood, class of 1965.

Thanks for your service Mr. Bythewood, Navy Corpsman — Westbury hero. And, welcome home.

Jesse Skip Collins
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Series Contents

  1. “Part I: Women of Eden, Texas; 1838-1963-2014”
  2. “Part I: Navy Corpsmen: Tribute to a Westbury Hero”
  3. "Part II: (beginning) The Westbury Rebel's Meaning to Me," or "The First Play from Scrimmage in the Westbury vs Bellaire Fifty Year Rivalry"
  4. "Part II: (conclusion) What Happened at the End of the 1962 Westbury vs. Austin Football Game?"
  5. “Part II: Entertainment in the 1960s”
  6. "Part III: The Good Rebel in Most of Us (beginning); For What Do Good Rebels Fight and Die?"
  7. "Part III: The Good Rebel in Most of Us (continued); Competitions, Challenges, and Making Things Right"
  8. "Part III: The Good Rebel in Most of Us (conclusion); Distinguishing Good from Bad Rebels"
  9. "Part IV: Westbury Rebel Management of Really Serious Troublemakers in (and from) the Global"
  10. "Part IV: Master of the Lake; The Great Peking Duck and Yorkshire Terrier Battle; or, A Scientifically acceptable Anecdotal Example for the Study of Visceralness in Fighting"
  11. “Part V: Turn the World Right Side Up: Theory and Application for Depowering Psychopaths, BS Managers gone Berzerk (Bad Rebels), and the National to International Institutions they Manage"