By Jennifer Martin - email
Thomas Rex Bass was 21-years-old when he was drafted to serve in Vietnam.
"I got a letter in the mail that said 'Greetings you have been selected by your friends and neighbors to join the armed forces," Bass recalled.
"I was a combat medic. I was in the field with the 11th Armored Cav. And if somebody got injured or hurt I was expected to take care of them the best I could, and get them evacuated as soon as possible back to the field hospital," Bass said. "We saw a few fire fights and I lost some good friends."
Bass and other medics would occasionally visit local villages and treat the Vietnamese, but most of his time was spent tending to American soldiers.
"I held sick-call every morning and whatever they needed I tried to do. If I couldn't sent them on to the aid station. I was the first line medical person," Bass said. "And if we were in the field and somebody got hurt, it didn't make any difference where they were. I was expected to go and I did."
"We rode on what they called armored personnel carriers, tanks or self propelled Howizers. If someone got shot or hurt and I couldn't get to them on the trac itself, I had to get on the ground and go to their trac," said Bass.
"If anybody tell you, you get in a firefight, somebody shooting at you and you're not scared, you lying because I was scared to death," recalled Bass.
In addition to the fear, Bass often had to deal with the crushing reality that there were many soldiers he couldn't help.
"That was one of the most difficult parts of battle, when you knew you couldn't save them. You knew they were going. You did the best you could with what you had. You tried your hardest to save them. You never quit until you knew you were gone. They were your buddies, you couldn't quit on 'em," Bass said.
"I've held them while they called for their mother, their wife," Bass said. "Why I didn't get shot, why I didn't get killed, I don't know. I guess it was God's plan."
After 14 months, he retured to the U.S. his flight arrived in California, in the middle of the night.
"There was a huge crowd. They were throwing rotten tomatoes, any kind of rotten stuff they could throw at us, eggs, rotten tomatoes, cabbages, whatever. And calling us baby killers and go back where you come from. People don't know what that done to alot of us," Bass recalled.
"When I got back home to Mississippi, everybody wanted, came to the house to visit you, sent you a card, shook your hand at church. It was just totally different, like you were somebody."
Bass says he is glad that troops serving today are treated like the heroes they are.
"I am proud of these boys now and I'm proud of the country is treating them. And the way they are honored when they come home. I hope another veteran of this country never has to come home the way we did," Bass added.
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