I didn’t find his name at the Wall last Sunday. Although I was with him his last seconds on earth, I never knew his name.
We ran him in on a litter into the receiving ward at 18th Surgical Hospital at Quang Tri that summer of 1968. He was pale from heavy loss of blood. He looked to be about twenty, thin with sandy hair. They all seemed to be thin and about twenty.
We got him on a table. The nurses started cutting his clothes off of him. And there it was–a blue little mouth of a bullet entry hole in his abdomen.
“How did it happen?” someone shouted.
“They said he was packing to go home tomorrow. He was putting the pistol in the bag when it went off.”
The surgeon appeared at the table. He examined him for an instant, then he cursed and yelled, “Gimme some adrenalin in a big syringe.” The nurse handed it to him and, he cursed again and stabbed the young man in the middle of his chest pushing the clear fluid into his heart.
He worked like a whirling, sweating madman for another minute or two. He pushed on his chest and issued a dry crying curse under his breath with every movement. I should have been drawing some blood in order to cross match some for him, but I just stood there staring into the doctor’s eyes the whole time. All of us just stared at him and not the patient, for we all knew that we could do nothing until hope sprang forth from the face of the doctor. And it didn’t.
The doctor said nothing. He turned around and went to the next table where a young thin man was writhing in pain. I looked down at the young man with sandy hair. His face was a powdery greyish white color, his skin cold. I turned around and went to the next table to draw some blood. And that was the last time I ever saw him.
I thought upon this tragedy as I slowly and reverently walked by the Wall. I read many names who died hoping to somehow get back to “the World.” Maybe I read his name today.
Kenneth Wayne Hancock, Spec. 4/ Medical Lab Tech/ 18th Surgical Hospital / Pleiku, An Khe, Quang Tri, Vietnam, Sept. 1967-Sept. 1968