The Thinking 

A Soldier Then — And Now

June 26, 2012


PAUL writes:

My brother was a combat medic in Vietnam. I don’t ask him about his horrific experiences, but they come out from time to time. He recently told me about his platoon crossing a river and trying to avoid huge Chinese claymore mines (much bigger than American claymores). His platoon used makeshift flotation devices such as tree branches. There was a big black man in his platoon that could not swim. Well, everyone made it to the other bank except for the black man. He went under just before reaching the far bank. My brother immediately ripped off his helmet and pack and dove in. (We were both strong swimmers from an early age.) He found the soldier at the bottom, about ten feet down and unconscious. He dragged the soldier to the surface and resuscitated him. The soldier was medivaced out by helicopter. He told me today that freshwater drowning is much more dangerous than saltwater drowning. Microbes or osmosis maybe? He did not know.

I raise this because my brother did it again within the last week. He heard people in his apartment complex calling for him. He found a man in convulsions and everyone around screaming. He immediately jumped on the man and used his weight and knees to stop the man from thrashing around. He stuffed his fingers into the man’s throat to open his airway and exposed himself to the man’s clinching teeth. He bellowed his ex-Army Sergeant command voice: “Everyone back up and shut up.” They immediately complied. He called for a tablespoon and someone came up with one, which my brother used to open the guy’s airway. The man immediately began gasping in air. At some point, the EMT’s arrived, and the man survived.

What makes this noteworthy and gives me great pride is my brother has had serious mental illnesses for many years and is still struggling with them. But boy he is tough, which leaves me with hope that he will not do anything to himself.

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