As you may recall, in typing these posts I wanted to bring to the forefront some stories that were lost in the shuffle of war. The first posts were from Iraq and Afghanistan because I can relate to those wars (being an Iraq War veteran). However I wanted to also find stories and events from other wars in our country's past. I decided to pick Vietnam this time. I started poking around and I found so many recollections and stories I wasn't sure if I'd be able to choose just one or two. Personally, I wish I could post them all.
One of the events I chose to post was about man named Alfred Rascon. He was a Specialist in the US Army; a medic assigned to a Recon platoon. What he did didn't impact the outcome of the war and I think it is a safe wager to say that this story was rarely told beyond his family and friends who knew him. It would have never been put on the 6 o'clock news in March of 1966...after all, he wasn't even an American citizen. He was from Mexico.
The Republic of Vietnam, 16 March 1966...Specialist Fourth Class Alfred Rascon was assigned as a medic to the Reconnaissance Platoon, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate).
While moving to reinforce its sister battalion under intense enemy attack, the Reconnaissance Platoon came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. The intense enemy fire from machine guns and grenades severely wounded several point squad soldiers.
Specialist Rascon, ignoring directions to stay behind shelter until covering fire could be provided, made his way forward. He repeatedly tried to reach the severely wounded machine-gunner laying on an open enemy trail, but was driven back each time by the withering fire. Disregarding his personal safety, he jumped to his feet, ignoring flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach his comrade. To protect him from further wounds, he intentionally placed his body between the soldier and enemy machine guns, sustaining numerous shrapnel injuries and a serious wound to the hip.
Thinking nothing of his wounds he dragged the larger soldier from the fire-raked trail. Hearing the second machine-gunner yell that he was running out of ammunition, Specialist Rascon, under heavy enemy fire crawled back to the wounded machine-gunner stripped him of his bandoleers of ammunition, and gave them to the other machine-gunner who continued his suppressive fire.
Specialist Rascon fearing the abandoned machine gun, its ammunition and spare barrel could fall into enemy hands made his way to retrieve them. On the way, he was wounded in the face and torso by grenade fragments, but disregarded these wounds to recover the abandoned machine gun, ammunition and spare barrel items, enabling another soldier to provide added suppressive fire to the pinned-down squad. In searching for the wounded, he saw another comrade being wounded by small arms fire and grenades being thrown at him. Again disregarding his own life and his numerous wounds, Specialist Rascon reached the soldier and covered him with his own body, absorbing the blasts from the exploding grenades. He saved the soldier's life, but sustained additional wounds to his body.
While making his way to the wounded squad leader, he saw that grenades were being hurled at the sergeant. Again, in complete disregard for his own life, he reached and covered the sergeant with his body, absorbing the full force of the grenade explosions. Once more Specialist Rascon was critically wounded by shrapnel, but disregarded his own wounds to continue to search and aid the wounded.
Severely wounded, he remained on the battlefield, inspiring his fellow soldiers to continue the battle. After the enemy broke contact, he disregarded aid for himself, instead treating the wounded and directing their evacuation...only after being placed on the evacuation helicopter did he allow aid to be given to him.
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Now fast-forward 34 years. Tuesday February 8, 2000...President Clinton awarded the nation's highest military award to Alfred Rascon for acts you just read above. He was alive to receive it.
"Thank you for looking out for people when no one else could be there for them. You have taught us once again that being American has nothing to do with place of birth, racial, ethnic origin, or religious faith. It comes straight from the heart. And your heart, sir, is an extraordinary gift to your country," said Clinton.
Rascon was humble during the Medal of Honor ceremony, noting that the honor belonged to the people who were with him that day. He asked the survivors to stand and be acknowledged at the White House ceremony.
"What you see before you is common valor that was done every day. And those of you who served in the military -- and continue to serve in the military -- are very much aware of that. What you do every day, it is duty, honor and country. And I'm deeply honored to be here," Rascon said.