Jayaruh Goes To Vietnam

8 Mar 68 to 5 Mar 69
I joined the army right out of high school. I had taken all the tests and pre-qualified, and I chose to do my training as an surgical technician. So, on 7 Jun 67, I took my oath to defend the United States of America in Houston, Texas. I was then put on a bus and transported to Fort Polk near Leesville, LA. There I spent eight weeks of basic training and qualified on the M-14 as a sharpshooter. I made Private E-2 out of basic.

Ft. Polk

Private Roe

From Fort Polk, I took two weeks leave in transit to Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, TX. There I underwent ten weeks of basic medic training (91A10). I made PFC out of that school and then transferred up on the hill to begin my twelve weeks advanced training in operating room procedures. I took two weeks of Christmas leave and went to El Paso, TX, and William Beaumont General Hospital, where I did my on the job training. After six weeks of training on the job, I was promoted to SP-4, and I got my orders for Vietnam. My reporting date was 5 March 68 to Oakland, CA.

Jayaruh says good-bye to his mother at the airport.

On my way to Vietnam, I stopped off in San Diego, CA, to visit with my brother, Dick. He had joined the navy and was in training at the navy's boot camp there. He later was assigned to the USS Mispillion, a floating service station, and serviced ships in the South China Seas.

I spent a couple of days in Oakland, and I was put on a plane to Vietnam. We had a brief touch down in Hawaii, but I don't remember getting off the plane. So, I have been to Hawaii. On 8 Mar 68, I touched down at Ben Hoa air base, and went by bus to the 90th Replacement Battalion. Having been promoted to SP-4, I avoided the detail to burn human waste. I was sent instead on a detail to the officers quarters where I watched my first in-country movie, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." After another day, I got my orders to go to the 93rd Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh.

Long Binh was at the time the largest US military installation outside of the United States. It was located south east of Bien Hoa in the III Corps Area, east of Saigon. Below is a map of the north most corner of Long Binh. In the lower left corner you can see what looks like x's. This is 93rd Evac Hosp.

I arrived during the dry season, right after the Tet offensive. I had no idea what was going on in Vietnam as I stayed away from the news and newspapers during my leave time. The hospital was a fixed installation. I started working in CMS (central material section) adjacent to the OR, and then worked into the OR. We worked shifts, so the OR was open for business 24 hours. We did very little elective surgery, but took casualties straight from the field via helicopter mostly. Just north and adjacent to the hospital was a Dust-Off unit of med-evac helicopters.

It wasn't until the first rain that I found out that on top of each building there was a big red cross on a white field designating us as a hospital.

Click on the photo to see enlargement.

The aerial photo clearly shows the wards in an x formation with the red crosses on a white background. Each night patients, doctors, nurses, and corpsmen assembled in the outdoor theater area to watch a movie. It was a relief from the toils of the day.

Jayaruh outside the Operating Room Suite.

OR table #8

All personnel were issued Geneva Convention Identification Cards. As a medic, I had mine stamped with a red cross.

While in country, we were paid with funny money called MPC's or Military Payment Certificates. I had most of my money deposited into my checking account, but I received MPC's for spending money for PX and other services. There were no coins, only paper. I kept back a few for souvenirs.

The coin denominations were about the size of Monopoly money. Bills were regular sized. Before I went to Australia for R and R I had to convert back to greenbacks and then in Australia, I changed to Australian dollars.

While I was doing my tour of duty, my dad, back home in Baytown, Texas, got to work on the set of Hellfighters, a movie with John Wayne who played Chance Buckman, a character inspired by Red Adair, the famous Houston oil fire fighter. Dad was a telephone man. He had his picture taken with "the Duke" and "the Duke" signed a card for me. I still have it.

In the picture you see John Wayne in the red overalls and my dad to his right.  This is on location in Baytown during the filming of "Hellfighters."  On the porch to Wayne's left is a woman that looks remarkably like the woman I would be married to four years later, the love of my life, Marcia.  However, I have no idea who she really is/was.
My tour at the 93rd was difficult at times because of all the trauma that I saw day in and day out, but it was rewarding in that we were saving lives every day. We treated our soldiers mostly, some navy, and occasionally locals. We would go on med cap missions delivering medical aid to people in surrounding villages.
In September of '68 I made Soldier of the Month for 93rd Evac. As a reward, I received a $25 savings bond and a three day pass to Vung Tau on the coast. That was a great relief from the duties of the OR. I took a helicopter ride down to Vung Tau and checked in at the R and R center. While down there I found the Christian Servicemen's Center and met some really nice folks, Mom and Pop Warren.

I took a tour of the city and visited a Buddhist shrine. I even got to swim in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, I had to pull guard duty from time to time until I made SP-5. We had a guard bunker on our perimeter that our hospital was responsible for. Night guard duty was the scariest. Only a few times did we have to set off flares. Fortunately while I was there no one attempted to breach our perimeter.

My last month in Vietnam they started building flush toilets. I never got to use them. Our latrines were mega-outhouses with seating capacity for six or more. Under each hole was a receptacle, half of 55 gallon drum. Each day the waste detail would replace the receptacle with a clean one and take the waste off and burn it.

They also built bunkers in front of our huts. While I was there, we had one occasion to use them. A rocket landed about a hundred yards behind our position in the middle of the night. It scared us really good.

We had plenty of help so we were able to work shifts mostly. One occasion we had all tables going, and I worked for twenty hours straight before they told me to go get some sleep. I was happy for that.

Many lives were saved through the efforts of the doctors, nurses, and medics at the 93rd.

In my tenth month I was able to take an R&R to Sydney, Australia (much needed and much deserved). I made SP-5 while in Vietnam and returned to the states to finish my service at Fort Benning, GA. I was attached to the 2nd Evacuation Hospital and later the 35th Surgical Hospital, both warehoused units.  I worked in the OR at Martin Army Hospital during that time.  I am proud to have served my country during those difficult Vietnam conflict years.
Unit Crest for 35th Surgical Hospital