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Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of the day when Sp5c Lawrence Joel, a United States Army Combat Medic serving in Vietnam, earned the Medal of Honor.
His citation pretty much sums up why this man is one of my all time heroes:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. Sp6c. Joel demonstrated indomitable courage, determination, and professional skill when a numerically superior and well-concealed Viet Cong element launched a vicious attack which wounded or killed nearly every man in the lead squad of the company. After treating the men wounded by the initial burst of gunfire, he bravely moved forward to assist others who were wounded while proceeding to their objective.
While moving from man to man, he was struck in the right leg by machinegun fire. Although painfully wounded his desire to aid his fellow soldiers transcended all personal feeling. He bandaged his own wound and self-administered morphine to deaden the pain enabling him to continue his dangerous undertaking. Through this period of time, he constantly shouted words of encouragement to all around him. Then, completely ignoring the warnings of others, and his pain, he continued his search for wounded, exposing himself to hostile fire; and, as bullets dug up the dirt around him, he held plasma bottles high while kneeling completely engrossed in his life saving mission. Then, after being struck a second time and with a bullet lodged in his thigh, he dragged himself over the battlefield and succeeded in treating 13 more men before his medical supplies ran out.
Displaying resourcefulness, he saved the life of 1 man by placing a plastic bag over a severe chest wound to congeal the blood. As 1 of the platoons pursued the Viet Cong, an insurgent force in concealed positions opened fire on the platoon and wounded many more soldiers. With a new stock of medical supplies, Sp6c. Joel again shouted words of encouragement as he crawled through an intense hail of gunfire to the wounded men. After the 24 hour battle subsided and the Viet Cong dead numbered 410, snipers continued to harass the company.
Throughout the long battle, Sp6c. Joel never lost sight of his mission as a medical aidman and continued to comfort and treat the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered. His meticulous attention to duty saved a large number of lives and his unselfish, daring example under most adverse conditions was an inspiration to all. Sp6c. Joel’s profound concern for his fellow soldiers, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
Out here in the civilian world, all you need to be called “Doc” is to stay in school long enough to get your MD. But in the Army, the title of “Doc” is earned, and most combat medics and corpsman see and do things that would leave most civilian doctors and nurses “sucking their fingers and crying for mommy.”
As a former Combat Medic myself, I have a very special affinity for the men and women whose job it is to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. The guys over at Ranger Up have used the anniversary of Sp5c Joel’s heroism to unveil their latest t-shirt — a tribute to the Combat Medic:
To the troops from all branches that keep us alive until we can get on the operating table — we love you. Thank you for coming for us. Every. Single. Time.
The shirt says it all, and makes me exceptionally proud to have served as a Combat Medic in the US Army: