STORY BY JOE DANIELSON
I was a walking survivor from D Company, 2/7th Cavalry on December third, 1968. I put most of the wounded and killed aboard the helicopters before taking the last bird out. I was in a miserable mental condition and I was apt to kill someone if they looked at me cross-eyed. I nearly did that afternoon because one of the medics made an unfortunate remark. It was the wrong thing to say to the wrong trooper holding a weapon. The orderly asked, "Who is the highest ranking person here?" I rose and said, "I am." He then said, "Because of your Company I've missed my TV programs..." Before he could continue further, I pointed my M-16 (it was really the late Lt. Dan Burdick's CAR-15 with the grease-gun handle) at the man and pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. The shocked medic just turned around and walked out, thankful for his life, and I knew immediately that I had done something very wrong. The room of soldiers cheered. I further regretted doing that the moment the men cheered. I felt sick. The enemy was in the field, not here.
I had just abused someone trying to help us. Sure, he had made a callous statement, and I knew my weapon was empty because the Command Sergeant Major for the 2/7th made sure of that. He told me to think of those boys in Bastogne! He did work some sense into me, and he saw the look in my eye. After severe combat for extended periods (4.5 hours for us that day) men are darn near the breaking point, and we are dangerous. I'm eternally grateful to that CSM for keeping me from killing a perfectly innocent person who made a slight courtesy mistake.
I wish I could fully apologize to the black medic who was terrified by a tall, white, crazy sergeant.
We never really knew what happened to everyone after that day. Occasionally someone would come back to the Company after spending months recovering in Japan. One fellow, who was shot through the neck on Dec. third, came back to the Company just to die later in June or July.
My name is Joey Allen Danielson. Joe is fine. I was a buck sergeant on Dec. third and I refused any higher rank during my tour, just because the military was not going to be my career. I had been in-country for about two weeks when my Company dissolved before my eyes. I am trying to rewrite my first hand account for the benefit of those who lost loved ones and want to know what it was like. I don't want to torture them with vagaries or hearsay or BS.
I would love to know that the medic I so insulted with my weapon recovered from the trauma. I wish he knew how sorry I am for scaring him that way. And I apologize, too, for my troops who cheered. I think they were just happy to slap back at someone because they had been slapped all day by the enemy. The reason a good deal of the wounded survived was that we were so severely dehydrated. As soon as some of the others got water, they started bleeding to death.
We were grateful for the skills of the medics and the doctors. We never got to thank them. Most of the time we couldn't even see who was doing what to whom in the operating rooms. It was sheer madness. They were overwhelmed and under tremendous stress, and their stress probably punishes them to this day.
The combat troops get most of the attention when it comes to stress, and one of the most stressful things in combat is the wounded man. Everyone tries to mitigate the pain and trauma for them, except for the enemy. He is concentrating on wounding more people as the original wounded soldier is being evacuated.
I barely spoke to those sewing me up. I would have liked to thank them, but they were busy and there were too many wounded to talk. I'd like to know who the medic was that I assaulted with an empty weapon. To this day, I'm sorry I did that !
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ŠJoe A. Danielson, 2004-2009, All Rights Reserved.