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Interview with Alfred V. Rascon [n.d.]

Alfred V. Rascon:

It's Alfred Rascon, R-a-s-c-o-n.

Unidentified interviewer:

You prefer Alfred or Al?

Alfred V. Rascon:

Alfred. Not that I ever get it, but --

Unidentified interviewer:

You didn't get it from us, that's for sure. Alfred, tell me a little about where you're brought up, a little bit about your family, how many brothers and sisters, if any, high school, and leading up to the service.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Alright, well, my -- my story's fairly early. I was born in 1945, born in Mexico, in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, probably brought into the States when I was in the age of --maybe two or three years of age, raised in Southern California in a small town called Oxnard, just north of Los Angeles, and a coastal town, literally raised with -- my next-door neighbors were Japanese, spoke Japanese probably before I spoke English, and literally thought I lived in a very prestigous house, because mine was the largest door that I had in that area. Little did I realize until probably 30 years later that I lived in a garage. And from there, things didn't exactly move up. I don't have any brothers or sisters. My parents are still very much alive. They're in their mid-80s and literally are raised in poverty, I guess, to be quite honest about it, raised in an area of Oxnard called La Colonia, which is probably 98, 99 percent Hispanic, literally across the tracks, with not a very good future. I remember as a young child going out and -- literally going out with my dad when he picked lemons at three o'clock, four o'clock in the morning. I didn't like that. But probably the good thing about where I lived was that the first house, the one that had the extended garage, the area was called Fifth Street. That was a predominant bar area. And you used to have soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard individuals that would come to that area to party. And I was probably -- oh, in fact, I was, I was five, seven, six years of age during the Korean War. And these individuals would show up. And we should see them out in the street and a lot of them would go out there and give you stuff. And also there was a secondhand store probably about 50 yards away from where I lived. And I would go into that secondhand store and literally rummage through the military stuff. And at times my mom would go in there and find me in there and I would be playing with the World War II helmets, the aviator leather jackets, which at that time would probably be about 15 dollars or something like that, and just enjoy myself. But the most dominant thing was probably the airborne. There were a lot of individuals who would come in and they had this funny-looking hat with the -- a parachute and a glider on it. And a lot of them would give me trinkets and I would keep them. And I think probably when I was seven years of age, I made my own parachute, jumped from the roof of my house and landed on my head and broke my wrist. But yeah, that's how I got involved with the military. I used to read Sergeant Rock, which was a pretty predominant book at that time, or a magazine, you know, comic books for the kids. And the other kids had their -- their things, and I had my plastic soldiers. That's literally what happened. I grew up, like I said, in La Colonia, and all the way through junior high school, across the tracks. And the high schools that I went to or the junior high school where I was at was looked at as an equal. But being Hispanic, I was very conscientious of the fact that I was being raised with others who were born in Los Angeles, Malibu, Ventura. And every time I would come back and write my name would be Alfred. But when they wanted it officially, it would be Alfredo. And where were you born? I wanted to put down Ventura or some other luxurious place. But I had to put down Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. And I had no idea what I was writing or -- just embarrassing. But then I realized the fact that being brought up or brought into this world, you don't have that choice, because I tell people I'm an immigrant by birth and American by choice. And I'm very proud of that. But I grew up in the Southern California to the age of 17 and graduated from high school. And at that time your chances of being a young individual who was going to go to college were not a very good factors for somebody who was Hispanic. And they would want you or they would seek you out to be a mechanic, somebody to work in a body shop. And that was not to be me. I had my -- I had made up my mind that I was going to go to college, but I didn't have the money. Then later on, I was told that you didn't have to have the money. But I had made up my mind, once I graduated from high school, I wanted to join the military. As I had mentioned, I have no brothers or sisters. But I did want to come back and join the service. So, my father and mother had to come back and sign a waiver that they were not too happy about. So, at the ripe age of 17, in 1963, in August, I joined the Army.

Unidentified interviewer:

Why did you pick the Army?

Alfred V. Rascon:

To me the Army was something that I always wanted. I wanted to be a pilot. But obviously I didn't realize that you have to be somewhat intellectually in tuned or a little bit smart. And obviously I think I was fairly smart, but I didn't have a college degree and I didn't realize that impacted on you later. But the Army was something I wanted to do. I would go back and read magazines about the Rangers, about individuals going to the Jungle Warfare Training Center. At that time also there was an individual or a phase that was going on with Special Forces of the Green Berets. And they were not known at that time, but I wanted to be a Ranger. I wanted to be a paratrooper and I wanted to be everything that they were. But I didn't realize that the option that I had when I joined the service at 17, they told me I could be a paratrooper, but the situation of being a Green Beret or being somebody that was going to go to the Jungle Warfare Training Center was not there, because you had to be a sergeant. So, I became a medic, which I had no inclination to be, after basic training. Others were really happy about the fact that I was about to be a medic, because others were going to be mechanics, infantry, grunts. And I did not want to be a medic. I simply wanted to be in the infantry. And in -- in, see, probably October I graduated from basic in Fort Ord, California. First time I'd ever been on a train, I literally took off and went from a train from Fort Ord, California, to Texas, on a sleeper truck -- I mean, a sleeper train, excuse me, and landed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, with a group of individuals who were drafted. And I had not idea what the draft was about until then. And it was a very interesting I think 12 weeks or eight weeks of basic medical training as a basic medical corpsman, then an additional four weeks of being a medical specialist at Fort Ord. And that was probably some time in the latter part of 1963, completed that, took off and headed towards jump school.

Unidentified interviewer:

How was it going to school and really not wanting to be a medic and learning to be a medic? How was that working for you>

Alfred V. Rascon:

Well, probably the irony of me being traied to be a medic was that I was there with people who were 22 years of age, 23, 21. A lot of these individuals somehow had managed to have degrees or about to finish their degrees and got caught in the draft. So, they had some pretty bad attitudes about the military. But the comradeship that was formed there amongst us was something that I was to come back and cherish for a long time, because regardless of who I was, the color of my skin, I was an equal to them. And I was able to learn from them. But to me, medical school was not what I thought it was going to be. Yeah, it was interesting. It was -- sometimes it was boring. Sometimes it was fun. But years later, when I obviously was in combat in Vietnam, I learned the fact that a lot of things we had been taught in medical school were not what we were actually going to do in combat.

Unidentified interviewer:

So, then you're in jump school.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Completed jump school in 1963, late 1963, ended up with orders to go to the 101st Airborne, to the medical battalion there. And probably within days after the orders had been cut, we were waiting to go -- we ended up with different orders, stating that a lot of us were going to a unit called the 173rd Airborne Brigade Separate. It was literally a new brigade that was being set up in Southeast Asia that had been formed in late 1963. And it was to be the --literally the fire brigade for Southeast Asia. I was assigned to the first battalion to the 503rd, to the medical platoon, and from there literally went from there to a ship in San Francisco, the USS Breckenridge -- USS Breckenridge, which was a scow, I was told later. It was a troop ship that had been around since World War I. And probably 14 or 15 days later, I ended up in Okinawa. But I was on board a ship with literally hundreds of servicemen and also Marines. And it was literally an adventure for me, because it was something I had never done before, ended up in Hawaii for a day or two days. They wouldn't let us get off the ship, and then from there to Yokahama, Japan, and from there to Okinawa. And literally when I got to Okinawa in 19--probably in January of 1964, I was put in these long trucks called cattle trucks and brought to the first battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry. And that was to be my home for the next two years.

Unidentified interviewer:

So, when did you get into country?

Alfred V. Rascon:

I ended up in Vietnam in 1965 in May. We were the first Army -- the first Army combat unit to be in strength in Vietnam. Obviously by the fact that we had been in Okinawa already, we were an airborne brigade. We had been in Thailand. We had been in Taiwan. We had been in the Philippines. We had jumped in those areas. We wer literally going out every week, going out to the jungle warfare training centers in the northern area of Okinawa. We were the first combat unit from the Army to have the M16s, and we had jungle fatigues, which nobody else did. And we also had rucksacks. So, we ended up in country on the fifth of May, 1965. And the first battalion ended up in Bienhoa and then three days later, we ended up an area called Vungtau, which was the south portion or the [..?..] area of Vietnam for about two and a half weeks, then came back up to Bienhoa. And that's where the brigade stayed probably for about two and a half years. But I got there in May up until March 16th when I was injured. That's when I left.

Unidentified interviewer:

Prior to -- so, now you're in country. When was the first action that you participated in? When did that take place and how did it -- how did it go about? How do you feel about that, you know, that all of this training was then -- now it had to be put into -- to put into place.

Alfred V. Rascon:

I think probably to be quite frank about the whole thing is that you're -- you're a 19-year-old individual. Then within days after we got in country we were out to the first --in the first combat mission. It was in an area called Berea[?]. But probably the thing that I didn't realize was the fact that my life was about to change or the fact that I'd been out there before walking, tired, taking care of others. All of a sudden, it was going to be a brotherhood of taking care of each other. And the issues of flag, a country, all of a sudden ends up being literally not a situation that you're looking at. You're looking at taking care of either yourself or that person next to you, because if you don't take care of each other, somebody drastically is going to happen to your good health, and that's perish. But the first mission was literally days after we got in country and we ended up in an area of Berea or ran into a small unit of Vietcong. We had our first shots in anger and we had some individuals that were injured, but nothing, you know, that had -- that literally to me -- there wasn't anything emotional to it, other than somebody being injured, nobody being killed. But we did end up killing two individuals. And that was the first time that I'd ever seen anybody dead, laying before me. And it was literally a Vietnamese who ended up getting the short end of the stick. Then I got on with my life, came back. What I didn't realize was that that was to be the first of 20-something other combat missions that I was to come back and participate on. Some of them were five days. Some of them were seven days. Some of them were shorter in duration. The expectations of what I thought I could carry with me as a medic were not what I saw in combat. The issue in May was somebody that was okay. Days after, we went out again. And eventually what happens, you do start seeing people that are killed and then realizing that you're a 20-year-old or a 19-year-old kid. And you've got a medical bag that's not appropriate to what you're doing. Then all of a sudden, you've got to live by the wits and the skills of your -- of your self-teaching and the teachings of others that you've got, who are senior medics, and realize that, as a 19-year-old, you're not God. And you're about to see people that were going to get dismembered, disemboweled, and people that were about to die in your arms. And you did not have the choice to come back and say I don't want to take care of him. You had to. Probably the thing that struck me the most was probably some time in mid-July and we ended up in a big fire fight and I came to an individual who was wounded. And I thought he was dead. I had no idea who he was. And me taking care of this person, the person ended up literally barfing in my mouth. And as gross as that may sound, it's -- it's callous, but it's just something that happened. You just got on with your life, take care of the individual. And there he lay, but I had to take care of others. September 20th, 1965, was another probably traumatic day. But even before that, probably in June, we had an individual who was killed by his own -- by setting off his own booby trap. And I stayed with the body for six and a half hours. It was in a plastic bad in a Jeep. And I kept on thinking that there person was moving. And in reality, he wasn't. I was a little spooked. But also that day, we were -- it was a special forces camp that had been hit. And we ended up going up north, the 173rd did, with the first battalion. And I saw scores of -- I could never -- I never did realize whether they were North Vietnamese or whether they were South Vietnamese. But they were literally carted to the end of the runway and put in a pit and just thrown there and buried.

Unidentified interviewer:

Okay. Hold on a second, in case I want to get you [..?..]. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's talk about the battle that you were honored for.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Can I make -- can I go --

Unidentified interviewer:

A little [..?..] -- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]

Alfred V. Rascon:

-- [..?..] I just want to make something here real quick. It's probably unique with me, is that on September 20th, I was wounded for the first time in crossing a rice paddy. And the person was wounded in front of me. But the issue here is the fact that I stayed there. I couldn't get med-evac'ed. And probably 20 minutes thereafter we went into the woodline where the bad guys had shot at us. And I woke up and somebody was saying, Doc, get up to the front. I was already in the front. And my ears were bleeding and my nose was bleeding. And what had happened was that we had an individual by the name of Pierce, Larry Pierce. Larry Pierce was one of our sergeants from the recon platoon. And I was assigned to the first 503rd, but a reconnaissance platoon. And I was the only medic from the get-go from the first until the day that I was med-evac'ed on March 16th. Pierce became the first non-commissioned Army officer to get the Medal of Honor in Vietnam. He had threw himself on a -- literally a land mine that had been there and the North Vietnamese had set it up to command-detonate. And as we were coming up to that trail, he saw that and he threw himself on it and saved the platoon. But you know, and probably again, you know, I ended up being the first medic to take care of Joel -- I mean, to take care of Pierce, take care of him. But as I came up forward, there were other individuals, one whose arm -- one individual's arm was missing and another person, I think his leg was gone. And I think he kept on telling me, don't worry about me, worry about Pierce. And I kept on saying, crap, you know, Pierce is no place to be found. Literally the trees behind me were gone. Stumps were there and the person had been thrown like 25 feet. We had no idea until later what this person did. And again, this is 1965. We had no idea what type of recommendations to make for individuals. Eventually he was put in for the Medal of Honor and he got the Medal of Honor I think three and a half months later. Probably three weeks later, I'm hit by my own artillery, which is rather traumatic, survived that. Then on November the 5th or the 6th of 1965, we're in a battle and it's called the Battle of Hill 65. And that day the first battalion of the 503rd is overrun by North Vietnam regiment twice, literally swept us. That day, I ended up being with another individual, the medic to get the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, Lawrence Joel. Joel was an older gentleman who had been with me in Okinawa with the medical platoon and literally shot numerous times and, instead of taking care of himself, he took care of the others, and survived a firefight for about 16 and a half hours, taking care of others and, again, became the first medic to get the Medal of Honor in Vietnam.

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's move to you.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Okay.

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's talk about Alfred and that day.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Alright. Actually, that day starts about three days before that. It's an area -- it's an operation called Operation Silver City.

Unidentified interviewer:

Put a date in it.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Operation Silver City probably starts on the 10th of March, 1966, in an area called Long-xuyen Province in the third court[?] area of South Vietnam. And it was a large operation of the 173rd, both first and second battalion, our artillery to include our counterparts, which were the Arvin[?] and the Vietnam Army, and also our sister battalion, which was our third battalion, which were the First Royal Sterling Regiment that was with us, First Royal Army Australian Regiment that was assigned to us, and also a New Zealand artillery battery that was with us. Immediately when we got into that area, probably within seconds after we got there, not only us, but the other battalion that was with us, there were small scrimmages with --with the bad guys, which were literally North Vietnam. We didn't realize it. Well, I didn't realize, like I said again. I'm in the pecking order at a very low stage, because I'm an E-4. But we're in an area which -- which they had good intelligence that there was a Vietnamese -- a North Vietnamese regiment, or two of them. And sure in the hell, we did run into them. But what happened was that the first two or three days, we kept on running into ammunition caches, weapons caches. And I had been around, like I said again, for a very long time. And I'd been in fire fights and I had been where death was death was around you and I had found caches of weapons, but not the way we were finding these things. We'd go into an area and immediately we'd go back the next day and we'd find our trash being looked at. And once in a while, we'd find a North Vietnam and go back and run him or try to go after him. And they were just literally chasing us. And on the 15th of March at about six o'clock that evening -- actually about two o'clock in the afternoon, 1400 hours, my reconnaissance platoon ran into another large cache of weapons on the side of this little mountain. And everybody had a really, really bad feeling about that area, because we were there by ourselves and we found thousands of nine-millimeter cartridges. And I didn't realize that nine-millimeters weren't even around. What we had found were probably 20 or 25 MAT-49 submachine guns, which were from the French during the time that they were up in probably in Dien Bien Phu during the 50s, that the north Vietnamese had brought nor--I mean, south. And that's where they were cached. We found mortar rounds and other things. And we had one of our individuals who was wounded that day messing around with a booby trap. But it was a very ominous day. And that evening at about 12 o'clock or one o'clock in the morning, which ends up being the 16th, we were mortared. And very quickly and it was over with, and probably at about six o'clock that morning on the 16th of March, and we heard this horrendous fire fight going on about two or three kilometers away from use. And we were to find out that the second battalion, our sister battalion, was surrounded in a area which was called Landing Zone Zulu Zulu. And the best way to describe this is to put yourself in a mini football field or a mini soccer field, and around the soccer field where the stands are, that's where the North Vietnam were. And it was a reinforced regiment of North Vietnamese that had the second battalion literally surrounded. And at six o'clock in the morning, as the helicopter is about to land, the North Vietnam shot the helicopter down. If not for them shooting that helicopter down, the second battalion would have sent out its probing patrols and I think they would have gotten the holy hell kicked out of them. But in reality, they were there. They hunkered down where they're at and the fire fight starts. When in two hours they come and ask -- the first battalion, us, to go in and bring in reinforcements, two of them, which ends up being the first two companies that were sent to them. Probably at about one o'clock in the afternoon, they literally end up putting the other two companies and the reconnaissance platoon, which is us, into the foray, and literally said get the recon platoon up in the front and have the other companies follow you and get up to where the fire fight's going on. Traumatic things that were going on at that time was the fact I knew something was going on in front of us that was quite bad. They had us running at times and that's how bad or serious things were, I guess, to the people up there. I remember going into area where they'd been -- that had been napalmed. I remember the soot and the insanity of what your mind is thinking. I kept on thinking I was getting dirty. And probably about 300 meters out from where the second battalion was at, the point squad, Sergeant Ray Compton stopped us and said, I've got North Vietnam to the front. They're setting up an L-shaped ambush. They've got machine guns and AK-47s, automatic weapons and they're setting up the ambush. We had no idea whether the ambush was being set up for us or whether it was being set up for the second battalion. And probably within seconds a decision was made to take them on. And all I remember was that it was the earth about to break up. I mean, it was total chaos. I had been in fire fights before and, you know, some serious ones. But this was so intense, there were literally trees, branches falling. You could hear them -- North Vietnamese yelling. You could hear us yelling. And you could hear the whistles and you could hear bushes. You could hear everything so distinct and so clear. Also you could smell the cordite from the --from the explosions of the hand grenades going off, and also the smell of the gunpowder from our weapons. And the thing was really hitting the fan. And I had no idea what was going on in front of me, other than the fact that somebody said, hey, Doc, somebody's wounded. You know, the old adage, take an aspirin and I'll call you in the morning? That's not the way things are. You're there to take care of your friends. But I go back. I remember certain things about that day. Others I don't. What happens is I'm being told what I did. I remember getting up to the front and I remember the platoon leader -- or excuse me -- the platoon sergeant, Jacob R. Cook, telling me, Doc, stay where you are. Don't move. You're going to get your ass shot. I said, okay. I took off and went forward anyway. Again, as to visual descriptions to what we're involved with, you're looking at a one-lane bowling alley, and where the bowling pins are, that's where the North Vietnamese had set up their machine gun. And the bowling lane ends up being a trail that's to my left. What I didn't realize, that somehow during those chaotic first moments when we encountered the North Vietnamese, they had asked for two --they had asked for a machine gun to go forward. And somehow we ended up with two machine guns up in the front. The recon platoon's a very large unit, to start off with. Somehow one of the machine guns ended up next to the trail. And probably when the fire fight started, that individual was cut down. He was laying on the trail and we had two or three individuals trying to get to him. Nobody could get to him, because where you lay, that's where you stay. That's how intense the fire fight was. We were literally surrounded in a horseshoe area. And I remember seeing when I got up to the front this individual laying there. I had no idea who it was. Twice or three times I tried getting up. I tried getting to him and every time I was taken down from the gunfire. I just couldn't do it. I don't know what possessed me to do it again, but I literally got up, got in between the individual. And I'm leaning between Thompson's legs, who ends up being the machine gunner. He's a black, probably about six-foot-four, good friend of ours. And I didn't realize it was -- it was him, 'til after the fire fight. And Thompson is laying there and I'm laying between his legs and, as I'm laying there, he's getting hit and I'm not being touched. I have no idea what's going on around him. I'm trying to get my hands to him, where I could come back and see what's wrong with him. And what I ended up doing literally, I ended up putting my body and I turned it around and I'm facing him then. And I've got my face to a machine gun and I got hit. And I got hit --apparently hit me in the hip, went up my spine and came out of my collar bone. I didn't realize. All I -- I knew that I had been hit and I knew it stung like hell. And I dragged Thompson off the trail. And I don't know how I did it, because like I said, Thompson's about six-foot-four. I'm not five-foot-seven. And he's laying there. And immediately I heard somebody else yelling, I'm out of ammo, I'm out of ammo. And when I got there, you know, there's another individual to my right, and it was another machine gun by the name of Larry Gibson. Gibson's mis--Gibson's assistant machine gunner was no place to be found. Again, it was just because of the intensity of the fire fight. Where you lay, again, that's where you're staying. So, he couldn't get any ammunition to him. I came up to him, found out he was shot in the leg. I'm trying to take care of his leg. He's telling me, God damn it, Doc, stay the hell away from me. I kept on saying, you're shot in the leg. Doc, stay the hell away from me. And he ended up using a very nice four-letter word to tell me more distinct as to what to say. I kept on telling him, you're shot. Well, what I ended up doing, I ended up ripping his pant leg open and I think I patched up his leg. In the meantime, he's telling me, I need ammo. I'm running out of ammo. And apparently this intense conversation goes on and I'm telling him, oh, yeah, I just took Thompson off the trail. He's got ammo. And I'm thinking Gibson's going to go get the ammo. He says, Doc, go get the ammo. Well, being as dumb as I am, I went after the ammo. I went after Thompson, never got touched. And I took two bandoliers that he had on his person and went back and back them to Gibson. And everything's still going on. I remember again -- I'm disjointed as to what's going on. I just remember the fact that someplace along the line I turned around and they were throwing a lot of hand grenades that day. And I had just given him the ammo. And as I turned around, a hand grenade went off at some distance. Then another hand grenade went off and it took off my face, or I thought it was my face. What happened, I got hit from here to here. It ripped my --literally my face. I think it took a couple of inches off the back of my neck and the forehead and the nose. And immediately my -- my face got swollen. I could see the blood literally -- [SOUND CUT] [TAPE WIND]

Alfred V. Rascon:

-- just take an aspirin and I'll call you in the morning. That's not the way things are. You're there to take care of your friends. But I go back -- [SOUND CUT] END OF TAPE SIDE A BEGIN SIDE B

Unidentified interviewer:

-- is just someone else's -- why you did it, who knows? It could be your mother.

Alfred V. Rascon:

Oh, I know that. That's the -- I think the thing that -- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

I'm sorry. Back and got the bandoliers of ammo and you hand --

Alfred V. Rascon:

Right. What had happened again, you know, through the good courtesy of Gibson telling me to go do it and me being stupid enough to go back and listen to him, I went back. I mean, it's funny now, but at the time, you know, it was -- it was really, really a bad situation. Again, when I came back and I brought back the bandoliers and stripped them off of Thompson, Thompson was dead. There was nothing I could do for him. I mean, you know, you get on with the living, because the dead are there. And it sounds callous, but I know that that's the way they feel. That's the way that I would feel. And if I'm laying there and if I'm dead or something like that, you got to get on and help the rest that are living. And I thought of that for a long time, but then I figured out that, hey, listen, I'm not responsible. I'm not God. And that's what I talked about before. I'm a 19-year-old medic and by that time had seen I don't know how many people get killed, how many people I had held in my arms, how many IVs I had given to somebody. And we were doing it for each other, as I mentioned to you. It's the comradeship of each other. But going back and grabbing those bandoliers off of -- off of -- I mean, I didn't even remember if I did it or not. All I know is I brought them back to Thompson --I mean, to Gibson. And Gibson was able to put the machine gun back in place. But as I mentioned, nothing happens to me. Then eventually these hand grenades go off. And the one that ripped me through my face and the back of the head and, you know, they're shrapnel wounds, but they were serious enough where my life had stopped at that moment. I'm already shot in the hip. I can't move around that much. But when I was hit in the face, everything went literally to a slow motion. And I'm grabbing my face, but I can't feel anything. And I'm saying to myself, Jesus, my face is gone. And I did say this to myself, other people think I was rather callous[?], but God, you know, my good looks are gone. And I didn't really remember saying that, but I remember later on I did say that very clearly and distinctly, hyperventilating and laying there. And I'm saying, you know, here I am in the same position that I was, you know, three or four other times when I'd been shot at. And everything stopped. But very, very distinct, I mean, you could hear -- I could hear -- I think I could anyway at that time --my imagination was such that everything stopped turning. I didn't want to play anymore. I didn't want to take care of anybody. But then I had to come back and put myself together again, gather my composure. Then again, I literally, from the blood that was coming down, I was saturated with blood. I was losing a blood -- I didn't realize that -- from my hip. As I'm laying there, I happen to look up the trail. Then either I lose time and I lose sequence of events. Going back, all of a sudden I realize that the M60 machine gun, the spare barrel, and I don't know, two or four hundred rounds of ammunition are still laying on the trail. And the trail is probably no further than ten yards away from the North Vietnamese. And you could hear them jabbering and you could hear the whistles going off. And I, I don't know why, I just went back and I decided I was going to go back and grab the M60 machine gun and the ammunition, got back on the trail, grabbed them, took them off the trail and never got touched, gave them to somebody there. I don't remember who in the heck was there. I just gave them the M60. And during the time that I did get up there, at one time I actually thought of grabbing the M60 and shooting it. And I said, no, you know, that's not what exactly what a medic can do anyway. And again, I didn't realize I had been shot already twice, I think, or three times. But that happens. Then immediately there's another hand grenade that goes off and go over my head. I had no idea at the that time that the hand grenade had gone over my head and had hit another individual behind me. His name was Jerry Lewis, carrot top. The hand grenade went off behind me and I saw to the front -- I saw this individual trying to get up. And he was the furthest up to the North Vietnamese. And it was Neil Haffey and Neil Haffey was our M79 grenadier. And literally the -- he was a babyface young individual. But again, I'm 19 years old and here I'm making judgment on somebody else. As he got up, he was shot in the back. And I saw --didn't exactly see the person who shot him, but I saw the weapon and I saw Haffey go down. And as I made my way to him, they threw -- I think they threw two hand grenades at him, two or three hand grenades at him, off the side of the trail. And as I got to him, I threw myself on him, because I thought the hand grenades were going to harm him. I didn't realize the fact that, hey, listen, that's a pretty stupid thing to do, because you're the one that's going to get nailed. Well, I did get nailed. The hand grenades went off and, as Neil says, I saved his life. And I don't think I was saving his life. He just happened to be the person that was there and I jumped on top of him. I made sure that he was okay. I didn't realize this 'til some 30 years later, when I first ran into him again, he kept on saying, hey, Doc, you know, you kept on yelling at me. And I was yelling, they're going to get us, they're going to kill us, they're going to kill us all. And apparently, I grabbed him and I was shaking him. And I kept on telling me to shut up, everything's going to be alright. And I guess I didn't have very good bedside manner at that time. And he said, Doc, you know, I saw you there bleeding. Your face waas literally bleeding. You're all red. And you're there trying to calm me down, tell me that everything was alright. And I think you're lying out of your butt. I said, stay here, you're okay. And he stayed there and he kept on shooting what you could with a -- with his handgun. What I didn't realize was that he wanted to go back to Lewis, who was shot behind him. Later when I read -- when I read his Medal of Honor statement, on the statement it states, I saw the hand grenade go over Doc's head. I saw the hand grenade land in front of Lewis. Lewis was my best friend. Lewis and I had plans. And that's the end of his statement. What happened was he got up to try to go after his friend who he knew was shot. And if I hadn't taken care of him, I'm sure he would have gotten killed. It was just a fluke situation. I told him, if you lay there, I'll go back. And I managed to get back to Lewis. I never got touched again. Lewis was gone. There was nothing I could do for him. Sequence of events, again, things are going on again. Other people are being injured. I thought I might have gone back to take care of two or three people. But what happens at that time also, there was another individual who had been shot right after the fire fight had started, Compton, Ray Compton, the point squad leader. And I had no idea who this individual was for some 34 years later, right after I got the Medal of Honor in 2000. I knew that I had thrown myself on another person. And all I knew was the fact that all I saw were three stripes, and it was Compton. I saw this person being injured and I saw this person getting up and I saw this person about to be nailed with three hand grenades or two hand grenades, I mean, not being valiant, being a medic, and that's what my job is. And I went up and I threw myself on him. And again, the claim that I saved his life, I just happend to be on top of him by mistake. That's how I see it. Well, we got nailed again. And Gibson stated that, oh, yeah, I saw Doc fly up in the air. I saw him -- his rucksack got ripped off and his helmet got ripped off. We thought he was dead. And Compton and I laid there I don't know for how long and came to and the fire fight was still going on. And all of a sudden, everything stopped. And I could hear our guys going up to the flanks. But everything -- the fire fight terminated and it was like a dead still. And I stayed there and took care of the -- those that were injured. I think there were about eight of us who were wounded. I took of everybody. I didn't want to have any medication, anything given to me or done to me, not by the fact that I was being macho. It's the fact that I knew that I was hit in the back. I knew that I couldn't walk and I didn't want somebody else to start sneaking a -- sticking a morphine into me and get worse. All I remember is that I was dragged and in one place carried to that Landing Zone Zulu Zulu where the second battalion, and I remember going from one end to the other. And as I got there, there were -- and another helicopter had just landed with chaplains on board. And I was later to learn that I was given my last rites by a rabbi, a Baptist minister, a Catholic priest and another minister from another denomination. And I wasn't hit that bad, or I didn't think I was. But I think they covered all bases. Then I was later to realize that the helicopter that I was -- that they were in, they ended up loading the people who were dead on that helicopter and the helicopter didn't come for them. So, they had to stay there for another six or seven hours. I remember a very bad situation in that there was a person taking photographs of us. His name was Tim Page, a very famous photographer. I thought I was put on a medical -- I thought I was put on a supply ship. The photographs I look at now, I'm being loaded on a med-evac, a dust-off. I remember the fact that I'm laying there and just in bad shape. I knew that -- I knew that I was going to make it, though, or I thought I did. And I was okay. Helicopter takes off for about a minute and a half and lands in this battalion area. Literally it's a clearing area and they stick on the sawhorses and they start going at it. Literally the doctor is trying to stabilize me and I remember that I'm laying there in my fatigues, sweaty. And this person is sticking his hand in the back, trying to find out what's wrong with my back. And all I care is about my face. Nobody wanted to look at my face. Everybody wanted to look at the injuries that I had in the back of my head and my hip. But nobody gave a darn about my face. My face is still swollen, ripped open. Ah, you're fine, stabilize me, get me aboard another helicopter. The helicopter takes off and lands at the 93rd Field Evac Hospital in Long Bien, just outside of Saigon. What I remember there is the fact that I'm taken off the helicopter, put on a stretcher, a sheet is thrown over me. And a nurse and I think two medics come up to me and they start literally stripping my clothes off. I'm not vain, but I do have my dignity. And I'm about to end up in my birthday suit. And I don't give a damn how bad I'm injured, you're not going to leave me there in my birthday suit. And I guess I started to articulate that point to the nurse. And the nurse ended up telling me something to the effect of, young man, I think you've got other things to worry about. I was stripped naked as a jaybird. But the only -- I don't know how this happened -- I ended up with my M16. We were medics, but all of us had M16s. And I put the M16 between my legs and I remember I was put and taken to the triage area, someplace in the front, not too far to the back. So, I knew I was okay. I woke up the next morning and clean sheets with tubes in my back, IVs in me. And they were playing I think either California Dreaming or Monday, Monday, the Mamas and the Papas. And I said, alright, I'm back in the States, until I turned around and the guy next to me was a North Vietnamese with I think thought 150 IV tubes in him. I'm still in country, stayed there, stayed in Bienhoa for about four or five days, stabilized. The recon platoon comes back from its mission. And again we talk about the integrity and the dignity of others for each other and how we take care of each other. The recon platoon didn't get off. They got off where they were at at the helicopter area in Bienhoa, literally I guess commandeered a helicopter -- I mean, commandeered a Jeep or two or three Jeeps. And they came in force to visit me in the hospital, to make sure that I was okay.

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's hold it there for a second. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

Let's change focus just a little bit, because -- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Unidentified interviewer:

What I'd like to know is how you feel about wearing that medal.

Alfred V. Rascon:

You know, wearing the medal is a personal thing. I think it changes withe very one of us. My -- my feelings are it's a gift to me, but it's a gift that I carry for all of us. And I think you've heard that before. But it really is, because you're a victim of circumstances in a way, because you did not have the right or the privilege to pick as to who you're going to come back, as to whether I was going to be a Medal of Honor recipient or not. You're a 19-, 20-year-old individual who's basically trying to keep his own ass alive that day. And you're honored by your peers and [..?..] peers and you wear this thing around your neck and you wear it every day of your life, because once I was told -- and I didn't realize it -- and it does -- and it is the truth -- you put this around your neck and for the rest of your life, this is what you have to carry. But you have to carry it for yourself and others. And you represent what America is about. And it's a humbling experience and it's something that I don't take lightly. But again, you know, why me, when there were thousands of other people that were doing the same thing? And I think there were thousands of heroes every day of our lives. I'm not a hero. I'm just a person who was doing his job. And you know, like I said, it's a humbling experience. I carry it not for me, but again, for the others.

Unidentified interviewer:

When were you told that you were being put up for the Medal of Honor?

Alfred V. Rascon:

To be quite honest about it, I probably --about the fifth day when I was in the hospital and the recon platoon came back, you know, there was some mention of the fact that I was put in for the Medal of Honor. I really didn't care. I mean, I knew I was pretty banged up and I was on my way to Japan. And that was it, got on with my life, went back, spent I think three months in the hospital in Japan, went back to school, worked full-time and had a real bad limp, and didn't realize it 'til 1984, when I was in an airborne reunion, the fact that I was there with members of the recon platoon from my first battalion. And I was told, hey, Doc, how does it feel to be a Medal of Honor recipient? And I said I don't know. Why? You're talking to the wrong person. He said, Doc, you know, we put you in for the Medal of Honor in 1966 and wrote you up for the Medal of Honor in 1966. I said, oh, okay. Thereafter was a six- or seven-year journey for them to come back and make what they thought was a wrong a right, not by the fact that anything had happened, but by the fact that something was lost. Once the Army went back and acknowledged the fact that the paperwork was lost and it took them a few years to find it.

Unidentified interviewer:

Who presented you the medal?

Alfred V. Rascon:

I was presented the medal on the eighth of February of the year 2000 by President Clinton. And they had seven members of my recon platoon that were still alive there with me that day. Two of them had passed away within a month of the ceremony. And thereafter at a reception at Fort Meyers, pretty close to 400 paratroopers ended up showing up all the way from Hawaii, all over the States, just to be there with me.

Unidentified interviewer:

Tell me about your feelings toward the recon platoon that wrote you up. Just tell me a little about that feeling.

Alfred V. Rascon:

It's, you know, I think somebody once mentioned that the recon platoon was color-blind. And this lady couldn't quite understand what we were trying to tell her. We ended up being a recon platoon which was airborne. But we were of every color, of every creed. And the thing that we found out very quickly was in combat -- and I've said this before --the color of the skin and how tall you are doesn't mean crap, because you're going to die equally. That bullet's not going to come back and ask. And literally we were -- we were a hodgepodge of individuals. We were there for each other. And we were there for each other every day. It was a situation where we had good days and bad days. Some of them died. Some of them were maimed. Some of them became alcoholics. Some of them committed suicide. Some of them divorced five, six times. Some of them came back with PSTS -- PTSD. Nobody knew about PTSD in 1965 and '66, turned into alcoholics, some of them drug -- drug addicts. And some of them were able to survive by the strength of their families and their wives. And it's the comradeship of individuals. That's obviously very close and very, very strong.

Unidentified interviewer:

Would you like to thank them for writing you up or do you think it was a burden that they wrote you up for the medal?

Alfred V. Rascon:

Yeah, I don't think thanks is a -- is the proper terminology. I think it's them doing what they thought was appropriate. For me, it was, no, I was just doing my job. And that's the way it was from the get-go, from -- from the first time we got in country, because I did not take an oath to receive accolades or be given awards. I took an oath to myself to help others, because that's what I was, a medic. And they took obviously an oath to come back and save me and take care of me, because we were there to take care of each other. It's a mutual agreement of each other. The sad thing about it is, as people may know, there are thousands of people who deserve awards. But there are just the circumstances of what's been -- what's there. Sometimes people aren't there to write them up. Sometimes people forget about them. And sometimes things just fall through the cracks. I think the greatest thing that was ever said about me was that somebody mentioned why do you -- why does somebody want to come back and give Rascon the Medal of Honor after so many years? And the response by one of the individuals from the recon platoon was that we don't want to change history. We just wanted to correct it. I think that speaks for itself.

Unidentified interviewer:

Is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to talk about?

Alfred V. Rascon:

I think you have to realize the fact that, you know, we're looked at as individuals, as heroes, but I go back and I -- [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Alfred V. Rascon:

You know, you wanted to find out about what else I wanted to talk about. I mean, I'm not here to take your time, but you have to realize that we end up being a country of literally immigrants. And we end up being a brotherhood of every armed service and, you know, men and women who fight proudly for this country. And you know, we bitch and moan like everybody else, but when it comes time to do the job, we just do it. And I think that's something that people have to understand, the fact that, you know, Vietnam is a very good example. You know, the crisis of what was thrown at us, not by us being in the war, but what happened to us with our own populace, was rather degrading. And I go back and I have very strong thoughts about that, because my complaints were not about anything other than the fact that there were -- we were mistreated. And for the most part people were coming back and bitching and moaning to the wrong people, because there's a 20-year-old or 30-year-old colonel, a 19-year-old private or a major or a colonel or sergeant. We're in Vietnam to do what we were asked to do by this county. We weren't politicians. And if anybody had any complaints about what we did, they should have gone back to a congressman or a senator and make themselves known in a more vocal way. But don't come back and, you know, spit or yell at us, because again you're -- it's just the wrong thing to do. And I think that was something that, to me, that really bothers me, because we were rather ignorant for somebody who's so educated, for them to be like that. [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC] [SOUND CUT] [OFF-MIKE/OFF-TOPIC]

Alfred V. Rascon:

Another thing that I was going to come back and make mention, you know, my year -- my presentation of the Medal of Honor was in the year 2000. And I had no idea of the fact that I had been nominated or written up for the Medal of Honor. I got on with my life. I went back into the military again, got a commission, went back to Vietnam. And the good thing about the military, whether people may think this or that of it, you're judged not by anything other than what you do. And that's -- and that's what, you know, happens. I went back and I've had a very successful life, as far as I'm concerned. But every day of my life I go back and I -- and I relive Vietnam. I go back and I look at my friends. And I don't make judgments on anybody. I try to sometimes and I realize that's wrong. But we're human beings, like everybody else, with faults. [End of Interview]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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