A Minnesota PBS Initiative

After Vietnam

I was an Operating Room Tech, SP5 when I went to Vietnam in 1968. 

Our entire unit, the 29th EVAC Hospital went by troop ship and our first casualty was a Staff Sgt., whose diabetes went out of control. Needed insulin, but none was found in ships infirmary, so it was flown in by chopper from the Philipines. Then, the only doctor on board, a dermatolgist, gave him too much and he perished.

Once in Vietnam, we found out our hospital was not yet completed, so our unit was split up and groups were sent all over the country to other operational units. I went to Cu Chi, to a hospital supporting the 25th Infantry. After a few weeks there, I was sent to Binh Thuy, where the 29th EVAC Hospital was not completed and almost ready for business.

Surgical volume was feast or famine. Days without much, then a few days of non-stop surgery.

First surgical case was one of our own, with an appendicitis. But business quickly boomed and I spent the next 11 months caring for surgical patients from the deep south of Vietnam. 

Surgical volume was feast or famine. Days without much, then a few days of non-stop surgery. All based on the size of the battles going on and how busy all the other hospitals were. Over the months, senior technicians were allowed to perform minor procedures in our own operating rooms under local anesthesia. This was a nice break from the action.

I was air-evacuated from RVN near the end of my tour when I broke my leg playing volleyball. I was sent to Okinawa (which was my next assignment) Camp Kue Hospital. Due to paperwork mixup, I was AWOL from the hospital unit, during my hospitalization. Nice way to start. 

Eyeball, Flag, Vietnam Wall and Statue photoshopped into single pic.

My story never really ends, but due to unresolved mental issues, I began focusing on photography and other artwork re:war and participate frequently in the VA Creative Art Festival. 

Attached are a couple of my many entries.

This is page from VA Creative Arts Festival. Verse at bottom accompanied the photo. The two won first place in the Military Combat Experience category.

I am a tree line veteran
I have twice attempted to visit the Vietnam Memorial
I have twice failed
Dozens of us stand in the shadows
100 yards from the dark black stone
We stand apart from each other
Some frightened, some guilty, all silent
Frightened to confront our demons
Guilty that we survived
Silent in our grief
In the tree line

Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Binh Thuy, Vietnam Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Military Service

Military Branch: U.S. Army

Dates of Service: 1963 - 1972

Veteran Organization: DVA Life Member

Unit: 29th Evacuation Hospital

Specialty: 91D20 OR Tech

This story is part of the Mental Health Awareness story collection.
Learn more.

Story Themes: 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 29th Evac Hospital, 29th Evacuation Hospital, Army, Art, Binh Thuy, David Gjerdingen, Look, Medical Personnel, Photography, PTSD, Saint Paul, St Paul, The VA

Previous Story
The Story Wall
Next Story
Return To Top