Donald C. Hansen was such a unique person.
"Doc" was my platoon medic in Delta company in the summer of 1967. We came under fire one day and as we crawled along the ground, feverishly searching for any indentation to give some cover from the withering AK fire, I glanced around to see a pair of boots -- with someone in them -- walking through the battlefield as if he were on the beach with not a care in the world. It was a John Wayne movie -- bullets were kicking up debris all around us. The VC were seriously trying to take out this "target" waking around the jungle. I reached up and jerked Doc to the ground. I remember being furious with him.
"What the hell are you trying to do?" "Commit suicide?"
"It's OK, sir. I'll be all right."
I'm screaming to be heard above the war. "Are you nuts?" "Those are real bullets, you know."
Doc just looked at me. He knew I didn't understand. He was right.
That evening inside the perimeter, I found him and we talked. I did most of the listening. The subject was Faith. Doc was the teacher and I was the student. Doc explained his feelings, his beliefs and did what he could to help me understand. The bottom line to Doc was that it did not make any difference what he was doing -- walking around a battlefield or lying in his bed at home -- when his time was up, he was going to die. All I could tell him that made sense to me was that "God helped those who helped themselves" and walking around the battlefield in the middle of a firefight made little sense to me, no matter what my beliefs were. Further, I remember telling Doc that if he got himself killed, who was going to take care of his soldiers when they get shot? I don't remember how he answered that question.
Doc survived several more months, largely because Scott Curtis (one of my RTOs) and I never let Doc out of our sight. Doc continued to be the excellent medic he trained to be, saving lives while putting his at risk day in and day out. The inevitable happened one day in a muddy rice paddy. In a firefight, Doc was kneeling over another soldier trying to save his life when he took an AK-47 round in his chest. It was a textbook sucking chest wound. All of a sudden, I was the medic. For all intent and purpose, for the next 30 or so minutes, the war was on hold while I tried to save Doc's life. He talked me through every procedure he knew. I sealed the wound and tried to stop the bleeding. The fighting was too severe for the circling medevac to land. Doc was not going to make it and he knew it. I was going nuts. Scott was running the company. My brave, faithful, life-saving medic was dying and I could not stop it. I screamed at God to not let this happen. I attracted more attention than I wanted. Doc's head was in my lap and I looked down at him. The bleeding appeared to be slowing, but Doc was weak and pale. He looked up and saw the tears on my face. He said, "It's OK, sir. You did your best. Anyway, it was my time to go". He closed his eyes and continued on his journey. Amid that chaos, Doc looked so peaceful.
I wrote his parents -- not the standard letter I hated so much -- but the details I knew of their wonderful son. Mr. and Mrs. Hansen wrote me back. They knew their son and knew that when he left home, they would never see him again. They were really proud of their Manchu son.
I still have that letter somewhere.
Keep Up The Fire