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“I felt like I had to take what I had been through and do something positive with it.” (Video interview, 45:18)

   Michael Patrick Felker
Collection image
Michael Felker in Vietnam [1970]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Navy
Unit: 1st Marine Division
Service Location: Great Lakes, Illinois; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Vietnam; San Francisco, California
Rank: Hospital Corpsman Third Class
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Like many during the era, Michael Patrick Felker enlisted in the Navy to avoid being drafted into the infantry. Hoping for an assignment as a journalist, he instead became a hospital corpsman, going out in the field on patrols and night ambushes with Marine infantry platoons. A pacifist as well as a noncombatant, he was deeply affected by the patients he treated and the casualties he witnessed. Settling in San Francisco after the war, he confronted what he terms another “baptism by fire”: integrating into a largely antiwar community after having served in the military. Little by little, he came to terms with his experience, and made his voice heard, through work on campaigns to end gun violence and ban land mines.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (52 min.)
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
More like this
»Vietnam War: Looking Back, Part 2
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Boot camp felt like a prison; mistreatment by commanding officer; didn’t fit into the military mold; hospital corpsmen assignment; relief of realizing that the next part of his service wouldn’t be like boot camp. (06:08) Experiences from going on patrol in field; witness his first major casualty; felt worse than being shot at; still remembers that anniversary of it. (07:24) After the war, continuing his pacifist philosophies; working on campaigns to end gun violence and ban land mines. (01:57)
His role as a noncombatant; coping mechanisms; working on land mine ban issues is cathartic; local veteran organizations have been very accepting of him as a gay veteran. (03:31) Reception by his fellow servicemen during boot camp and then in Vietnam; Marines in Vietnam did not give him a hard time. (01:26) 

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  October 26, 2011
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