Saber Article Index
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I got an email from 1967-â€™68 MEDEVAC 21 Art Jacobs. He
wanted to confirm some things I had written and give his perspective on
â€œMike: Read the latest Saber. There was never a Roy or
Ray Land, only the famous Henry Land. And, it may have been true that the
Platoon Leader (MAJ Goodman) and the XO (MAJ Norris) kept themselves in a
reserve flying status (a good command decision, by the way), but I can give
you at least two instances when that was not the case:
â€œ1. When I was wounded the second time on 24 July 1968
on a hoist mission in the mountains, our engine failed because of the enemy
fire, and down we went (not fun). As we were trying to look like infantry
guys setting up a perimeter with the off-loaded M-60s, another 15th Med
aircraft finally found us. Not only was MAJ Goodman, the aircraft commander,
and WO Jim Magin (my flight school classmate), the co-pilot, but when my
crew lifted me onto the ship, two strong hands reached down to pull me in.
It was none other than LTC Guthrie Turner, the 15th Med CO! I will never
forget it. He held me in his arms on the flight back to Evans, keeping
pressure on my bullet wound to stop the bleeding and saying over and over,
â€˜Iâ€™ve got you.â€™ Years after Vietnam, we began a friendship , and I spent
time with his marvelous family. And, in one of the greatest honors in my
life, the family asked me to deliver one of the eulogies at GEN Turnerâ€™s
funeral at Arlington. â€œ
2. On 19 May 1968, the day that WO Tom Pursel was
killed, it was MAJ Larry Norris, who was flying the left seat on that
fateful mission east of Evans. I got to the aircraft as they were unloading
Tom, and I will never forget the look of sadness and resignation on the face
of MAJ Norris that day at the Charlie Med pad. â€œ
Bottom line, while I was there, MAJ Goodman and MAJ
Norris flew missions - maybe not as many as regular pilots, but they were
both definitely out there whenever needed.â€
â€œMike: That is totally wrong. MAJ Norris flew the
aircraft back to Charlie Med at Evans and landed safely. There was one
bullet hole in the left side of the aircraft, just behind the pilot seat. I
would estimate that the bullet came from the 7 or 8 oâ€™clock direction as
they sat on the ground at the pick-up site. Artâ€
When I asked Art about WO Tom Pursel, Art replied:
â€œMike: Tom Pursel was only 19 years old when he was
killed by an enemy bullet on a Medevac mission east of camp Evans on 19 May
Born: 17 September 1948, KIA: 19 May 1968
â€œTom had gotten into flight school at just about the
earliest age allowed by the Army. He was in flight school class 67-21 at
Fort Rucker, Alabama, graduating just before Christmas 1967. He arrived in
country on 18 January 1968. Everybody liked Tom. He was a happy blond kid
with a big smile. â€œ
In 1996, I visited his parents in Yakima, Washington,
when I drove across the country from Chicago to Seattle. His parents had
scant details on Tomâ€™s death. I stayed there for two days hearing all the
stories - they took me to his high school and then to the cemetery to see
his grave. â€œ
I wrote the following tribute to Tom and sent it to his
brother, who I saw in Charlotte, NC, in 2021 at the Vietnam Helicopter
Pilots Association. He was there as a Gold Star family member.
â€œGrowing up strong, Tom built treehouses
Did well in
school, good with horses,
Knew how to hunt, was a good son,
of Yakima, his future bright.
A natural in the cockpit, good under
Situational awareness we call it,
He was not just respected,
he was genuinely liked,
Oh, that Tom â€“ his boyish charm and ever-quick
Went to that awful dark valley â€“ the A Shau,
Day after day he
dodged most of the bullets,
His aircraft battered but he flew on still,
The flight hours built quickly â€“ more than his share.
From up the chain
the decision was made,
Tommy - time for you to take a little break,
Rotate back to base camp and get some rest,
You will still fly, but just
the safer stuff.
A lone Soldier wounded in a rice paddy,
Good old Tom
will go â€“ be back in a jiffy,
The LZ is green â€“ all is secure â€“ smoke
Everything quiet on landing, patient on board.
Then one lone
rifle shot from 300 meters,
Could have hit anything â€“ could have been a
Caught poor Tom near the back of his head,
He simply relaxed his
grip on the cyclic and looked down.
Momentary chaos, hurried radio calls,
Medic on board doing all he can â€“ doctors standing by,
Hot landing, we carry Tom inside in our arms,
His eyes roll back, shallow
breathing, a low moan.
Frantic desperate measures â€“ every attempt made,
To no avail, our young Tom was gone,
We stood silent, staring at our own
Nothing now except the painful ordeal of a body bag.
pride of Yakima â€“ good with horses, knew how to hunt,
Going home now,
soon just a flag for his family,
The pride of Yakima â€“ always the good
son, his future bright,
Our poor Tom, but his memory lives on â€“ and
resides in us all.
â€œIt was on that same road trip in 1996 that I stopped
in Riverton, Wyoming to visit Jerry Dick; for the first time of a number of
visits over the years I was lucky enough to have with Jerry and his family.
The last time was just last year to see his brother Wayne and Uncle Mike. We
visited Jerryâ€™s grave again.
last item: I got to spend an evening with Rick Medlock earlier this year in
Dayton, Ohio. We were both at the 1st Cavalry Division reunion in Dayton,
â€œHope that all helps. Art Jacobs Medevac 21â€ I
mentioned to Art, â€œThanks. The info on the 15th Med site Memorial Wall says,
â€˜Crashed on land.â€™
The photo with his medals on the site looks like an
older man. It does say he was 19. One would not get that impression from
that photo. I did not.
â€œOn a second, closer look, he does look like he could
be very young. Being an Army aviator may have put some age on him for the
photo from a distance.â€ Always remembering our 1st Cav Troops on duty around
the world; over and out.
FIRST TEAM! Garryowen
Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE