Tribute to Corpsmen
by Dennis Soldner
Last night I watched a show called suicide missions about Corpsmen & Medics and felt the need to share my experience, feelings, and thoughts. I am sending it to you, as I am not sure that our net is meant for this, if it is then by all means please forward it.
I served with "C" Co., 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion from July 1968 till medevaced in June of 1969, team designation 1C2 under various call signs; Cpl. Pete, Hungarian, Amanda, others that I cannot remember, and lastly Fire Raider.
I believe that HM3 Blume joined our team in early 1969 as our corpsman. He ran a number of patrols with us, some were quiet and some were hot and he held his own, he even insisted on always carrying a LAW and said something about wanting to take out a tank, that worried me a little but there's another story on that. Doc had yet to have to treat any of us, and then in February the team was given a mission to make contact and then hold contact to determine strength of enemy, the intent being to bait the enemy and then insert 12 choppers full of marines on top of them. (The story of the patrol appeared in Sea Tiger Vol. V, No. 8, Feb 21, 1969.) Well, needless to say, we made contact. It was on this patrol that Doc showed his temperament. I rose to my knees to observe the damage of a jets bombing run on an enemy machine gun position and was hit by flying debris in the chest and throat area which sent me wheeling back clutching my throat. I had no sooner hit the ground and there was Doc was hovering over me. He came unhesitently under fire from the other side of our perimeter. He grabbed my arms pulled them away from my neck, looked at me, said there was no blood, that I would survive when I could catch my breath, and that I should keep my !!!!!!!! head down, as he did not want to have to return to my side again. He then calmly returned to his position within our perimeter commenced doing battle with enemy. I knew then that we had someone special amongst us.
In February and March of 1969 while in the Ashau Valley "Doc" would again came to my aid.
It was the night of June 1st 1969, on top of Mutters Ridge where Doc would be put to what I consider the ultimate test. Fire Raider was our call sign and we had been given the mission of establishing an Observation Post. It was going to be hairy; we even brought a case of grenades with us. There were 8 members of the team, HM3 "Doc" Leslie B. Blume, Cpl. Jackie Lee Blankenship (Buck), Cpl. Thomas E. Shainline, Sgt. Thomas L. Henning, Pfc. Roy L. Regan, Pfc. Owen, Pfc. Miller and myself.
At 0250 the enemy struck and caused total casualties among the team, we were in for a hell of a fight and night. Buck was hit in the abdomen by shrapnel while reporting contact. I was hit in the face, then the hands, then the hip, then the chest when Pfc. Regan got hit. I was then hit in my legs which sent me flying from a crawling prone position, to sprawled out on my back with my right leg looking like a dish of chopped meat that got dropped, and my left leg peppered through, needless to say I was a bloody mess.
Well, wouldn't you know it here comes Doc racing from the other side of the perimeter, he had witnessed my attempt at flight. When Doc got to me he had 3 bullet holes from a machine gun in his leg; he was no longer racing but hopping on one leg. He looked at me, blood coming from my mouth, face, ear, hands, chest and legs and I could see in his face a hurt look from seeing so many of us bleeding, wondering, how can I treat them all? Doc was instantly deciding which wound to start on and decided it was my legs. I seem to remember asking, "the right legs a goner but what about the left any chance of saving it?" and Doc looking at me saying he didn't know but he would do his best. He treated me and then hopped off to treat the others and I seem to recall him appearing at my side a number of times throughout the fight.
I've been told we were their for 1 ½ Hrs. before the Pilot of a CH-46 hovered while taking fire; landed his rear wheel, dropped his ramp and started taking the team out. I was the last member carried on to the bird. The ramp was extremely slippery with blood when the pilot started lifting off, and several of us almost slipped out.
Well, there I was losing conscience, eyes beginning to roll and what do you know there's Doc. He was slapping me, keeping me from passing out, stating "you are not going to die on me now!"
We made it back to 3rd Med., and I've been told that they brought us in to be treated and wouldn't you know it, Doc is standing in the corner in a pool of blood refusing treatment till he is sure that we are being treated first.
We all made it off that ridge that night; unfortunately, Buck would later die of his wounds on June 23rd, 1969. Fortunately, I was able to say farewell on the USS Repose where I was being treated prior to be shipped out of country.
Low and behold next stop Guam. They offload us from the plane and line the stretchers up in something like a hall, a corpsman is reading the tags on us and he gets to me and says there's a couple of guys looking for me. Now, mind you I am not totally conscience of my surroundings due to the influence of drugs, but I am like blown away here trying to figure what kind of trouble I'm in. Time passes and I am placed on a ward, and then I am taken from the ward for I believe a dressing change, when I return I am told that I had a phone call, no name but they would call back. Then I get a call from you guessed it - Doc Blume. He says that him and Pfc. Regan are there at the hospital being treated and are going to come by. Another shot of morphine, later I awake and there at foot of the bed is Doc Blume & Pfc. Regan. He was still checking up on one of his Marines.
That was the last time I saw Doc Blume and I don't remember saying Thanks, so Doc if you are out there, Thank you & Semper Fi!
You were truly someone special amongst us.
To all Corpsmen/Marines, while this is a story of my teams' corpsman, there are many untold stories of Corpsmen. This story is meant as a tribute and expression of gratitude to all of you. God bless you all.
On a separate note, I need to say that there were many heroes that night of June 1, 1969, and by no means was it my intention to diminish their acts, but rather highlight the effort of one, and in doing so pay tribute to him and to those who served as corpsmen.
A grateful Recon Marine,
Dennis M. Soldner, Deceased
Team 1 C 2 (Fire Raider)
3rd Reconnaissance Battalion
RVN 1968 / 1969