By Jennifer Martin
A young Henry King envisioned a life of helping people.
"Medical care and taking care of people is what I enjoyed."
He enlisted in the army, hoping to work in a hospital stateside, but he was sent to Vietnam. He served as a back-up medic on the 54th Helicopter Ambulance, then as a medic in the infantry. While serving with them, he sustained the injuries that earned his Purple Heart.
"They started walking mortars in. I didn't have my aide bag and I started running across the perimeter and about halfway there I just felt this hot poker stick in my back and I went down."
He had been hit with shrapnel from a mortar.
"It was kind of humorous because I hollered "medic" and after realizing I was the medic, the command tank backed up, lowered their gates down and I crawled in and they had evacuated 14 of us. 3 dead. 14 wounded that day."
His unit's mission was search and destroy.
"I was sent to Vietnam to save lives, but unfortunately, I had to take some lives. That's nothing I'm proud of. But to get back you had to cover your behind and that's what we did to make it back home. I lost a lot of good friends to war. It's hard to hold somebody in your arms, you know, being with 24/7 and you been with several months. He's severely wounded; he's crying for his mama and he's looking at you to save him. It's something I'll never get out of my mind. I look back now and I can still hear the screams."
When King left the army, he went to work for an ambulance service. But he stayed only a year and a half.
"I had to give it up. The trauma started bothering me. I was having flashbacks. I loved the work I did in the medical field but after I came back from 'Nam, I couldn't handle it anymore. I was ashamed for many years and still somewhat ashamed of what we did. The mentality part of the people made me ashamed of it. So I basically just put a lock and key on it and put that part of my life away."
He hopes his story will help others.
"My mission today is, the Iraqi Freedom vets and Afghanistan vets, you don't have to suffer 35 or 40 years. You've got the Jackson Vets Center. The VA, if it hadn't been for them, with the medications and the counseling, I probably would have took my life 4 years ago. And that's there available for them. And if I could just get one vet help, it would make my mission today 100%."
King went on to become an electrician.
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