Friday, February 12, 2010

Doc knew what to do when Wedemeyer shot the new guy

One of the LTs wanted to put Doc in for a medal for what Doc did when Wedemeyer shot the new guy.
Wedemeyer shooting the new guy was the third accident in three days. The first accident cost me a split upper lip and some blood, but was far less serious than the other two. My accident happened when Wedemeyer and I were throwing a baseball. Somebody scrounged two gloves and a ball from supply. The gloves and the ball were bought with money from the company Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund. Regulations stipulate money from the fund must be used for the benefit of all unit members, but may not be used to buy food, beer or whiskey. Most of us would have preferred the money be used for beer, but the MWR board followed regulations and decided to buy baseball gloves and baseballs. The day Wedemeyer split my lip with the baseball, a couple of guys were tossing the ball around, and Wedemeyer said he would like a turn. Both guys said they were tired of throwing, so I took the other glove.
Wedemeyer threw hard. After a few warmup throws, I dropped into a catcher’s crouch. Wedemeyer wound up and threw the ball and the ball popped loud in my glove. Wedemeyer made a couple more pitches, each just as hard as the first. The fourth pitch, I lost in the background of tents and dust. I saw the ball leave Wedemeyer’s hand, and then I didn’t see the ball until it was about six inches from me. The ball went over the top of the glove and hit me just below my nose.
I was out for about two seconds. I dropped to one knee and held myself up with my right hand. There was a roaring in my head, and sparkles of white light. When I came to, I touched my upper lip. I felt the split skin. Blood covered my fingers.
McMillan, the troop flight ops clerk, got the CO’s jeep and put me in the jeep and drove to the aid station. A medic cleaned the wound. “I’ll have to sew it up,” he said. He got a hypodermic needle and filled the vial with Novocain. He shot the Novocain in several places around the gash. He got a needle and catgut and threaded the needle. I didn’t feel the first six stitches, but when the medic started with the seventh stitch, I said, “I can feel it.” The medic shot me with more Novocain. He waited a few seconds, then started with the seventh stitch again. I said, “I can feel it.” The medic said, “I’m not gonna give you any more Novocain,” and he finished the stitch and tied it off.
Next day, one of the LRRPs was burning empty hand grenade containers at the burn pit, and a grenade inside a container went off after lying in the fire. An M-26 hand grenade weighs 2.6 pounds, so the guy should have known the container was not empty. He was supposed to check each container, but what he probably did was just dump a bunch of containers in the fire. The grenade made a “ka-whump” when it went off. The guy burning the containers wasn’t hurt, but a man from Headquarters Platoon took a small piece of steel in his stomach. The steel didn’t go in very far.
Wedemeyer used Connors’ M-16 to shoot the new guy. Wedemeyer didn’t mean to shoot the new guy. What happened was, Connors came back from perimeter guard and lay his M-16 on his cot. Connors did not remove the magazine from his M-16 or pull back the bolt to check the chamber. Wedemeyer picked up Connors’ M-16 and put it to his shoulder and pulled the trigger. The M-16 fired, and the bullet went through the rolled up side of the hooch and into another hooch, where the new guy sat on his cot. The new guy must have been talking or he had his mouth open, because when the bullet entered his mouth and then passed through the back of his neck, it didn’t hit any teeth.
Guys began yelling when the bullet passed through the new guy and he fell onto the hooch floor. Doc came running over, and into the hooch. He pushed everybody aside and turned the new guy onto his back. The new guy couldn’t breathe. Doc cut a hole in the new guy’s trachea and put a piece of surgical hose in the hole. A few minutes later, an M-37 ambulance arrived. Medics put the new guy on a stretcher and put the stretcher in the ambulance and drove away.
While Doc worked on the new guy, one of the Headquarters Platoon guys came up to McMillan and me. “Somebody better take a look at Wedemeyer,” he said.
McMillan and I went into the hooch. Wedemeyer lay in the floor, curled up, his knees near his hands and his hands in fists. He was crying: “I didn't mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
McMillan knelt beside Wedemeyer. “It’s okay,” McMillan said.
Wedemeyer said, “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
“It’s okay,” McMillan said. “It’s okay.”
I wanted to drag Wedemeyer from the hooch and maybe kick him for a while. I went outside. I heard Wedemeyer say, “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”
McMillan came from the hooch. “We need to get him to the aid station,” he said.
“Well, shit,” I said. “Okay. I’ll get the jeep.” I went to the orderly room tent and told the company clerk I needed the jeep and why. When I got back to the hooches, McMillan led Wedemeyer into the sunlight. “I didn't mean to do it,” Wedemeyer said. McMillan helped Wedemeyer into the back seat.
I drove to the aid station. McMillan led Wedemeyer inside. I spoke to the medic who sewed up my lip two days before.
“He shot one of the guys,” I said. “You got anything you can give him?”
The medic said, “He’s not hurt.”
“Give him something,” I said.
The medic said, “I’m telling you I can’t give him anything. He’s not hurt.”
“Put him somewhere,” I said.
The medic said, “I can’t keep him here.”
“Well then, give him something,” I said. Wedemeyer was still crying.
The medic said, “Listen to me. I can’t give him anything. He’s not hurt.”
“We can’t take him back to the troop,” I said. “Put him somewhere.”
The medic said, “Well, I guess I can let him stay overnight.”
“Thanks,” I said. McMillan and I left.
The new guy died.
Wedemeyer and Connors were court-martialed within a couple of weeks. Both pleaded guilty to whatever the charges were. Both were reduced in grade to Private E-2.
When it came time for the stitches to come out of my lip, I asked Doc to do it. Doc said, “It’ll hurt. I don't have any Novocain.”
I said, “I’d rather have you do it than the medics at the aid station.”
Doc got his medic bag. I sat on my cot. Doc cut the stitches one at a time and pulled the stitches from my lip.
When Doc started working on me, I said, “Somebody said you were in the Army Reserves in California.”
“Be quiet,” Doc said. “I can’t do this right if you’re talking.”
“Were you?”
“Four years,” Doc said.
“You only had two more years,” I said. “Why’d you go active?’
Doc said, “I’m a medic. I thought I might be of some use over here.”
When one of the LTs suggested Doc be put in for a medal for keeping the new guy alive for a few hours, the troop commander said: “The Army doesn’t award medals for **** ups.”


At the 2003 11th Cav reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, Gene Johnson, Loren Marcusen and I got together after dinner on Saturday and talked about people we remembered. One of us brought up Wedemeyer.
Gene said, “I saw Wedemeyer at Fort Sill after I got back. He got out of the army. I think he saved a lot of lives by getting out.”
Marcusen told what happened to Wedemeyer. Marcusen is from Wisconsin, as was Wedemeyer.
“One day a few years after I got out, I was driving to work, and I was stopped at a highway construction site,” Marcusen said. “I was talking to the flag man. I asked where he was from. He told me, and I said I was in Vietnam with a guy from there -- Wedemeyer. He knew Wedemeyer. He said Wedemeyer was dead. He said about a year before, Wedemeyer and his girl friend went parking. It was winter, so Wedemeyer kept the motor running and the heater on.”
The flag man said somebody found the bodies of Wedemeyer and his girl friend the next day, asphyxiated. I kind of laughed. It was just like Wedemeyer to live through a war and then die for being stupid.

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