18 June 2020
The Purple One
When you see some high-ranking soldier on TV with a "barn door" full of ribbons on his left breast, what do you look for?
For me, I first look for the purple one.
Medals on a military man's chest, by regulation, have a priority. Medals of valor rank first. The Purple Heart comes after them. But it will appear in line BEFORE medals of merit and campaign medals.
Thank Goodness, my search of our warrior's chests for the purple one is almost always fruitless.
Today at Wally World I saw him again. I'd seen him a couple weeks ago, wearing his "Purple Heart" baseball cap, and wanted to approach and, these days of "stolen valor", challenge him about it.
At that time I was in a bit of a rush, so I let it go.
Today? I had the time and the inclination.
I walked up to him, pointed to his cap, and said "I got one of those too. Where'd you get yours?"
"Phu Loi", he replied.
And a half hour of conversation ensued.
He was an Army medic. His whole Viet Nam tour was spent in the South of the country, from the outskirts of Saigon clear over to the Cambodian border.
He was the genuine article. And I thanked him for the job he did.
Hearing I was a helicopter jock he made the same statement I have heard a thousand times:
"You guys saved our asses SO often. Thank you."
To which I related the fact that my job in Viet Nam was to use the helicopter to kill people, and when I came home I used the machine to save people's lives.
We both smiled.
He talked about watching us fire the mini-gun at night... about what an awesome sight that was...
How counting bodies after the gunships had done their thing was like walking through a Civil War battlefield.
I said, "I have no idea how many people I killed during my tour."
He said, "You have no idea how many of US you saved."
And as always, the tears came.