"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Michael Lansford: Part 3: The KIA

Michael Lansford
To me, combat Medics were and are the absolute bravest people on the planet. One saved my life, too, after the Hill. No matter what, they are coming to get you.

CJ, I am very humbled to know your husband was a combat medic. They are my real heroes from over there. Medevacs were cut from the same cloth.

I remember one time, one called us for a sit-rep on our LZ. I told him it was "hot-hot-hot".

His reply, "Unheat it for 30 seconds, but I'm coming in for extraction anyway." It was some of the best flying I ever saw.

Later, little did I know, they would be coming for me, too -- and that's when we got shot down. Eight of us were in the chopper and three survived:  me, the pilot and one door gunner. The pilot calmly called for another chopper and he still got me out and I never even knew his name, nor he mine.  They were our lifelines, our everything.

Chopper Michael got shot down in
We all have so many stories to tell about everything and some do talk, some can't, and some like myself are still learning how to.

We can get lots of help, but ultimately, we have to heal ourselves in our own ways. Oddly enough, we all have most of the same experiences, yet we are all very different inside. Guess that's what makes us who we are.

I have a couple of stories on my mind today. One shows and tells the bad side of how we were treated by our own officers, at least some of them, and that's what I will write about first.

My original Captain was the best. He got out in the jungle with us, no matter what. We still keep in touch. Anyway, he Derosed back to another duty around August. I had just come back from DaNang from my repairs.

We learned our new captain hated his new duty, and us, so he took it out on us every chance he got. Naturally, I became his #1 target. So, with that mindset, here is story one:

We were out on this remote fire base one clear morning, when a chopper dropped in and set a KIA off on the pad. His body laid there all day long.  So that evening, I went up and sat with him, prayed for him, and even talked to him.

He was completely covered with a blood soaked poncho. He had no tags in his boots (we wore ours there), but that's another story also. The only thing sticking out from under that poncho was his boots.

The longer I sat there, I made up my mind that I wouldn't leave him. We chatted all night and not one person came to check on who he was, nothing.

The next morning, here comes the mail chopper, so I carried him up to it and they refused to allow a dead body on their pretty chopper. (These guys were rear echelon and they lived like they were stateside).

So, I locked and loaded my weapon and informed them that yes, they were taking him in and I would be with him to make sure he got home.

Naturally, when we hit the pad at base, I was met by the New Captain and the SGT Major who had it in for me also. For some reason, I had a knack of making the people in the rear dislike me immensely. I still have that problem today -- just the way I am, I guess.

Anyway, I told them I was taking this troop to graves registration and I needed a jeep. They denied my request and ordered me back to the chopper. I said, "Sure sir, be right there." and I took off with the body and the jeep.

Graves registration did a masterful job of caring for this man. They asked me if I was part of his unit, so I explained the situation. They were shocked that a total stranger would do what I did. It didn't seem strange to me. He needed to be home and I made sure he would get there. I never knew his name, unit, or nothing, ever.

Meanwhile, back at base, they were waiting for me. I got an Article 15, had my stripes taken away, my pay cut, and I did every rotten duty on base until I could get back in the field. As an added punishment, all of my mail was refused me, along with any supplies, clothes, and meds I needed until the day I walked out of there in December.

Even to this day, I think about that soldier that no one knew, or checked on, or nothing. I have wondered, would that have been my fate also, knowing the hatred for me by my superiors for no reason, just because I cared enough to get someone home to their family? This was one of the promises I made 45 yrs ago, to NEVER forget any of them.

My original commander is on here. He's a real stand up guy. Whenever we went anywhere, he was always with us. He backed us all the way. His name is Roger Dent retired LT CDR. I still call him "sir". He knows more about us than anyone.

One final thought on the troop I brought in. Like I said, he had no ID, unless his tags were in his teeth or shirt. We wore ours in each boot, an option that worked well for us.

When I got him to graves registration, they started asking questions that I had no answers for: name, rank, race, unit, etc. The guy at the morgue asked me if I wanted to wait and learn who he was. All I told him was, "We already know each other very well and names mean nothing to us".

He knew I was there, God knew I was there, and he is in my heart forever, along with all the rest that I lost.  As I stated before, I will always remember them all and I NEVER will forget them. Promise made, promise kept 45 yrs., so far.

I did write a little note for his family simply saying how sorry I was for their loss and that he didn't die alone. I signed it simply, "SURFER, Vietnam '69". I got a nickname like we all did, and mine was from always talking about living on a beach and surfing.

I'm sure they had a hard time making sense of how someone from Texas would have a beach and surf, instead of having horses, cows, oil fields, ranches, etc. Funny stuff, I guess.

My story about the unknown troop was so very hard to write about.  It's just one of those things I have kept with me all these years. It has no political meaning, no real value, nothing to gain from it.  I just want people to know we lost many, many people out there the same way.

I felt he deserved better treatment than what I was seeing. I never left his side all night and until I got him home. Nothing heroic, just compassion for the loss, but I catch myself now days when I see pictures of The Wall and I wonder which one he is, where he was from, and did his family know he was taken care of?  Things like that. 

They are questions that will never be answered in this lifetime.  I know I'll see him again some day, along with everyone else we lost.  I hope I am remembered in the same way.  

Thanks again for listening.  Just old stuff from an old guy.

Other Posts by Michael Lansford:

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale


  1. Michael, I salute you. You should be proud. You did a wonderful job writing about your experiences in country.

  2. Michael this was great. It's strange that were allowed those return visits with everything so clear. Somethings we forget but some are deep inside our soul. I'm proud of how you stood with your convictions,,,,,

    1. Sorry to reply so late about this part of my story. Still learning how to use computers. Thanks for your comments & support. Means much to me. It is still very hard to talk about, lots of hurt. I have many more stories to tell, just difficult to speak of but I am learning as I go thanks to Mrs. Heck. Some things that happened in our world people will never understand & most probably never will. Sometimes we don't understand it either. My main purpose in writing is to hopefully some families out there will know their loved ones on the Wall were not alone when they left & will never ever be forgotten. A promise I made 45 yrs ago to always remember all my comrads. A promise I have & will forever keep.


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