Delta, Vietnam
25th January 1967


The wait was an eternity for Jeff. Ambushed and mortally wounded lying in a rice paddy on the other side of the world. Jeff and another  wounded soldier nearby kept each other going by talking about their wounds. Determining that …. “this was it – the end”. Jeff thought about his mom and prayed for a radio reply from Chi Lang.

I was in a Marine Huey rushing to his aid.

A crackle came from the radio. Help was on the way. Would they get there in time?  “At least my body will be extracted and sent back home,” Jeff thought.

The gunship landed 150 meters away. I leaped out and sprinted forth. I was carrying a 40-pound medical pack, a CAR-15, and a fully loaded BAR belt and harness system. My adrenaline was pumping madly.

I dropped to my knees at a soldier’s side quickly assessing his medical situation. The prognosis was not good. Shot multiple times in the abdomen. So many it was hard to establish entry and exit wounds. There were a lot of them.

The soldier was significantly heavier than me. The only way I could carry him was with a fireman’s carry. I hoisted him up. Halfway to the chopper, my burden became agonizing. But I knew the soldier with a belly fully of bullets was suffering much more. Sporadic gunfire sent rounds our way. Bullets snapped past my head. I tasted gunpowder.

Through my pain, I prayed the skittish marine pilots wouldn’t take off without me. I moved faster.

Twenty meters from the helicopter my body gave way. My legs failed. I fell to my knees along with the soldier and my big medical pack.  As I lay there gasping, two Cambodian boys appeared – soldiers age 11 and 12.  They helped me put the soldier in the waiting Huey.

Above the fray, I turned on a flashlight to examine the soldier. He had lost a lot of blood. I told the pilot to go immediately to B-43.

The soldier’s vitals were slipping in flight. I shouted over the engine’s roar, “Kick this thing in the ass! We’re losin’ him!”

The roar grew louder as the pilot shot off. I knelt close to the soldier and repeatedly promised, “You’ll be okay. I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re going to make it…”

Leon Collier
Army Special Forces

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