One of the unluckiest Marines I ever knew, who lived, that served in the Vietnam War, served two tours of duty, lasting a total of about three weeks.
On his first tour he was assigned to 1st Bn. 1st Marines which was operating in an area southwest of DaNang at the time. At about his 24th hour in country he was severely wounded by a mortar round while walking to his platoon area carrying his just issued 782 gear ( he still hadn’t assembled it yet). He was thought to be a KIA and was loaded onto a helicopter with several dead Marines and ARVN’s piled on top of him. He regained consciousness but was suffocating under the weight of the bodies. He told me that the crew chief was almost scared out of his skin when he saw one of the “dead” rising from under the other bodies. He was medically evacuated back to the States where he recovered from his wounds at the old Balboa Naval Hospital.
A year later he was sent back to Vietnam and assigned to 1st Bn 9th Marines, The Walking Dead, and I got him in my platoon. He was an 0351, Anti-Tank Assaultman, but since we weren’t taking the 106’s anywhere in that terrain, I assigned him to be the assistant gunner for an M-60 machinegun (new guy gets to carry all that extra ammo, barrel bag and tripod. Just call it a rite of passage). Well two days after his arrival we jump off on an operation. Not just any operation mind you, but Operation Dewey Canyon in the A Shau Valley. His very first night in the bush we got hit with an NVA ground assault and the machine gunner he is feeding ammo to got hit in the opening fire. In the morning I made him the new gunner, so he is now the center of NVA attention in coming fire fights. Nope, no improvement in his luck so far.
A little less than three weeks later we were sitting on top of a newly captured hill when we heard the sound of 82 mm mortar tubes popping in the distance. Everyone scrambled for cover and dove ass-over-elbows into their fighting holes. They put six rounds right on target but only hit two Marines. One Lance Corporal was slightly injured by shrapnel to his hand and side, but my newly appointed machine gunner got trashed with shrapnel in the back and legs. He was medivac’d back to the US and medically discharged from the Marine Corps. Today he lives in North Carolina receiving 100% disability compensation from the VA.
Two tours, two mortar rounds, two Purple Hearts, three weeks. Amazing.
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