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I was a combat medic attached to Tall Comanche from March 1968 to the end of December 1968. I think this is the thing of which I am the proudest in my life. I have no trouble telling someone I was a medic or using the word medic in a sentence, but the word used the way it was in Vietnam still sends chills down my spine. We've all heard someone who's twisted his ankle on the softball field or received a paper cut in the office jokingly call "MEDIC". The word medic used in this way I think gives any infantry veteran bad memories.

The beginning of any firefight always began in surprise and confusion.  If the infantryman was towards the rear of the column he would hear a sudden burst of gunfire or an explosion.  What's going on?  Did some one step on a mine?  Did we surprise an NVA soldier?  Was the point man just nervous and thought he saw something? All questions going through his mind and hoping that it's just going to be a few more bullets fired at an innocent bush.

Then a cry comes from the front "MEDIC -MEDIC" (always twice for some reason).  That word is filled with connotations that the infantryman understood immediately.  This is for real.  We've hit something, maybe something big.  Someone's hurt.  Who is it?  Is it one of the FNGs? (f--g new guys), or one of my good buddies I've been with all of my tour?  What's going to happen?  Is the day going to get worse?  All this just from hearing the word MEDIC.  For the medic himself all these thoughts went through his mind and more. He was probably behind a tree or in a hole where he's supposed to be, out of harm's way, and now he has to leave there to go where all that shooting is coming from.  But even more frightening is the thought of what is he going to find when he gets there.  Like the infantryman, he's wondering if  its someone he knows well or an FNG?  (That would not have made a difference in care, but you can be more emotionally detached from someone you don't know.) What type of injury?  Is it something that I can handle?  --If you watch programs like "ER" or reality shows on cable, you see well trained, experienced doctors and nurses providing expert care to seriously injured people---moving toward the wounded soldier, the medic was thinking "I have a few months of rudimentary training and I'm 20 years old.   What if this man is real bad? The nearest doctor is probably 20 miles away."   Once reaching the wounded man all thoughts ceased and the medic did what he had to do. The infantryman also proceeded to do his job. After the incident was over there would be time to sort through the events and emotions of the day that all started with the cry of "MEDIC". 

I hope that no one ever has to hear that horrible word again.

(Webmaster note:  A picture of "Doc" Bovie in Quang Tri Province, 1968)

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Updated January 07, 2001