Dear Tom I have missed you every day since May 25, 1967 when I held you in my arms, and I could not breath life back into you. When you hit that bobby trap and I got up, the air was full of cordite and dirt. Billy Farell came out of the woods to me and as I put him behind a tree, he said he was OK. He had been hit in the thigh and it came out his back. I went in to find you and get you to safety, but as I tried to carry you out, your mortal body was falling apart. I tried, but I didn't have the power to help. It was as you told me, that was in God's power. But Tommy, nobody deserves to die like that. Please forgive me for not clearing that trail. I will always remember that smile as you turned to walk into the woods. I see it on others from time to time when they leave me. It scares me Tommy. I have joined the Episcopal-Anglican Church like you, in hopes of getting the calm that your presence brought. If I ever have to be a warrior again, I pray I spend it with you. Bill Bowker - Prepared and Loyal
from Wayne Witwicki
The guy we called SGT York who was to the Quarter Cav Aid Station what Radar O'Reilly was to the 4077th MASH. If you processed in or out in 1969 you must have dealt with him. He handled all those mundane tasks that keep any organization running smoothly and efficiently. If sick call ran on time and in order, he was responsible. If we had the proper supplies it was his hand at work. More than that, he was the one constant during my entire "vacation." He arrived before I got there and was still there when I went home. He was the source of news on what the other guys were doing. When I'd get in to Lai Khe, I'd straighten up and inventory my supplies, determine if I needed to restock anything, head for the Aid Station and find out the latest scoop from SGT York. Through him I kept informed about the other medics who may be out in "Injun Country" and out of touch for awhile. The men of A-Troop were my cohorts; my team and I entrusted my life to them. The guys at the Aid Station were my family, my brothers. Many times I would unload on SGT York about what I'd experienced in the field. I could admit to him what I couldn't to my platoon. About how terrified I was of the mines and about how disappointed I felt to learn that once the life force is gone we are nothing more than bags of meat and bone and memories for others. He was always there to lead an ear. Maybe he didn't like to hear about the realities of combat. Maybe he was too polite to say no. Maybe he even wondered what it might be like for him if he ever got out of the rear and into the "action."
After my field days were over, I was back at the Aid Station working in the treatment room and as head jeep honcho. SGT York somehow failed to live up to one of our Lt.'s expectations and, as penance for that transgression, was sent out with one of the line Troops. He'd been in country for about a year but he still looked like a new guy. I tried to dress him up as best I could so the troops wouldn't treat him like an FNG. I gave him my 45 holster. It hung low had a leg strap and loops for bullets just like the wild-west gunfighters. Over the course my tour, I had scrounged two full magazines with 45 cal tracers, so that if I couldn't hit anything with it, I could maybe identify the target for the real soldiers. No new guy could have a cool outfit like that or be that well equipped! He looked like a cross between Clint Eastwood and Barney Fife. During the Autumn of '69, the bad guys were planting some awesome ordinance-80lb. Chi-Com shaped charges. Those could lift an ACAV and flip it. One of the tracks in SGT York's platoon hit a mine. While towing, one of the troopers was sitting on the hatch, leaning over the back so he could watch the tow cables. The bad guys blew a command-detonated mine on him. Sgt. York had to pick up the pieces. If you're reading this, I want to thank you for being there for me. I would have preferred that you lived your life wondering about all the horrible things you heard from some of us, rather than to see that and have to live with the nightmares. Thank you, SP5 Young.
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This page last updated on 5 Oct 2000