“When I Have Your Wounded”

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13 NLT

In 1964 Major Charles Kelly served as the commanding officer of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) in Vietnam. With only five aging UH-1’s, known as “Hueys,” the 57th’s primary mission was to recover wounded US soldiers.

Under Kelly’s leadership, the medical evacuation program grew and acquired the name “Dustoff,” taken from Vietnam’s red dust that swirled and dusted everything within range when the rotors churned.

Kelly was a soldier’s soldier, a man who stuck his neck out for what he believed. Wounded in World War II, Kelly almost died from his gunshot wounds. But this did little to deter him from doing what he felt he was called to do.

“He was morally and physically fearless,” wrote Major General (ret.) Patrick Brady in his article, “The Decline of Dustoff,” for The American Legion online magazine (June 20, 2013). Brady served in Kelly’s unit and, when Kelly was killed, took over leadership of the 57th.

Kelly was court-martialed three times, Brady reports, but he “cared more about doing what was right than about his career.”

He was called “Crazy Man” and “Mad Man” for his willingness to take on dangerous missions to rescue the wounded and fly at night, which up until Kelly took over, just wasn’t done. But Kelly knew it was vital to get medical help to the wounded as soon as possible.

“Why must a patient wait until sunup when helicopters fly just as well – actually better – at night, and the crew is safer from enemy fire?” Brady noted.

On July 1, 1964, Kelly flew his final mission, to what was supposed to be a secure area. Instead he flew into a “hot” spot, an area under heavy enemy fire. He was warned to back off, but Kelly refused.

“When I have your wounded,” he replied.

A few moments later an enemy bullet pierced his heart.

The next day that very bullet was dropped on Brady’s desk.

“Now are you going to stop flying so aggressively?” he was asked.

Brady grasped the bullet. “We are going to keep flying exactly the way Kelly taught us to fly, without hesitation, anytime, anywhere.”

“Inspired by Kelly,” Brady wrote, “Dustoff became the most revered and effective battlefield operating system in Vietnam, with close to one million souls rescued and unprecedented survival rates.”

Former Army Chief of Staff General Creighton Abrams praised Dustoff: “Courage above and beyond the call of duty was sort of routine for them. It was a daily thing, part of the way they lived.”

Kelly was posthumously awarded the US Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award that can be given to a member of the US Army for “extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.”

“Greater love has no man than this,” Jesus said, “that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 RSV).

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, a day set aside to honor America’s veterans for “their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

Let us remember the veterans among us, as well as those who have passed away and especially those who gave their lives in service to their country.

Thank you, honored men and women, for your service!

Thank you, Lord, for the men and women willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. They remind us of Your Son, who gave His life so others might live with You forever. Amen.

Read and meditate on John 15:9–17.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Image from The American Legion online magazine, June 20, 2013, “The Decline of Dustoff”

 

Don’t Forget To Remember

 

20160527_122657

Flags in memory of and in honor of veterans wave in a grassy field outside of Punxsutawney , thanks to Dick and Ava Bishop of Punxsutawney, who set up the display and provide the flags and cards to anyone who wants to place a flag.

 

“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones, mean?’ tell them . . .” Joshua 4:21–22 (NIV)

With three grandchildren on different ball teams (plus one of them umpires), hubby and I are at the Punxsutawney Little League Fields just about every evening. After the sixth game in four days, I told Dean we should park our camper at the ball field.

The Punxsutawney Little League complex is almost a second home to us, as we spent many a summer afternoon and evening there when our youngest played baseball. Five well-maintained and lighted ball fields for Minor League, Little League, Senior Little League, what we call the “Teener League” (VFW), and girls’ softball, are located beside Mahoning Creek.

Each ball field is named for someone local. Some honor those who have devoted much of their time to maintain and improve the fields and the league. Two fields are named as memorials.

The Little League field is called the “Billy Titus Memorial Field,” named after a Punxsutawney Little Leaguer who was killed in a farming accident.

The VFW League field, the Rich Kuntz Memorial Field, is named for SP4 Richard Lorraine Kuntz, who was killed in action in Vietnam on February 5, 1968, six weeks before his twenty-first birthday.

My grandson once asked me, “Who was Rich Kuntz? Why is the field named after him?” Since I’ve spent half a lifetime at the fields and know the stories behind the names, I was able to tell him. But it got me wondering: How many people drive right by those signs or even say the name of the ball field and don’t realize the significance?

Memorials are built and named so we won’t forget, so those who come after will learn of the sacrifice of the Vietnam soldier, the love a little leaguer who never got to play Senior League had for the game.

This weekend we observe Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor and remember our military men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

Some died in action, some went missing in action and never were found, some died a slow death after they came home and tried to resume a normal life. Some are still alive, but they will never be the same.

Sadly, these holidays that are set aside to remember and honor those who have stepped to the plate for our country are too often perceived as simply a day off work, to relax, catch up on things, feast and frolic.

While there’s nothing wrong with any of those activities, let us not forget to remember why we observe Memorial Day.

On the way to the baseball complex, there’s a grassy field beside the road that’s covered with U.S. flags. Each time I passed it last week, more flags waved in the breeze. Thursday, I slowed down to read the sign. Passersby are invited to place a free flag there in honor of a veteran.

20160527_122629

I didn’t have time to stop. But you know what? As soon as I finished writing my column on Friday, I drove to that field and placed three flags: in honor of my husband (U.S. Marine Corps, 1968–1972), my father (U.S. Army, World War II), and my father-in-law (U.S. Navy, World War II). It was the least I could do.

What about you? What are you doing to remember this Memorial Day?

Thank you, Lord, for those who gave themselves to serve, protect, and defend our country. Let us never forget the sacrifices they made. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Joshua 4