I Remember | Program | #2005 — Gary G. Wetzel


GROUP, A RECIPIENT OF THE MEDAL OF HONOR. VIETNAM ARMY VETERAN GARY G. WETZEL IS MY SPECIAL GUSS] NEXT ON “I REMEMBER.”>>HI, I’M JIM PECK. WELCOME TO “I REMEMBER.” JOINING ME TONIGHT IS GARY G. WETZEL. FOR HIS VALOR IN ACTION DURING THE VIETNAM WAR, HE WAS AWARDED THE HIGHEST DECORATION OF THE U.S. MILITARY, THE MEDAL OF HONOR. LET’S TAKE A LOOK.>>THE MEDAL OF HONOR HAS BEEN AWARDED FOR ACTIONS OF VALOR SINCE THE CIVIL WAR.■ç THE U.S. ARMY VETERAN GARY G. WETZEL IS A RECIPIENT FOR HIS ACTIONS ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY DURING THE VIETNAM WAR. BORN IN SOUTH MILWAUKEE AND RAISED IN OAK CREEK, WISCONSIN, WETZEL ENLISTED IN THE SERVICE AND SERVED TWO HOURS IN VIETNAM. HE HAD JUST TURN 19 YEARS OLD WHEN HE WAS FIRST SENT “IN COUNTRY.” IN 1967, HE WAS WITH THE 173rd ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY AS A DOOR GUNNER. HE ALREADY HAD BEEN SHOT DOWN FOUR TIMES BEFORE HIS LAST BATTLE. ON JANUARY 8, 1968, WITH ONLY 10 DAYS LEFT IN HIS TOUR, HE WAS SHOT DOWN THE FIFTH TIME. THE HELICOPTER WAS HIT BY A ROCKET-PROPELLED GV”ADE AND TRAPPED IN A LANDING ZONE. WETZEL WAS CRITICALLY INJURED BY ENEMY ROCKETS AS HE TRIED TO COME TO THE AID OF HIS COMMANDER. DESPITE THE LOSS OF HIS LEFT ARM AND SEVERE WOUNDS TO HIS RIGHT ARM, CHEST AND LEFT LEG, HE RETURNED TO HIS GUNWELL, FIRING HIS MACHINE GUN AT THE ENEMY. HIS EFFORTS TO HELP HIS FELLOW CREWMEN WERE HEROIC. ON NOVEMBER 19, 1968, GARY JOINED FOUR OTHER SERVICEMEN AT THE WHITE HOUSE TO RECEIVE THE MEDAL OF HONOR. THIS HIGHEST OF U.S. MILITARY HONORS WAS PRESENTED TO GARY G. WETZEL BY PRESIDENT LYNDON B. JOHNSON. IN 1982, WETZEL WAS IN WASHINGTON, D.C. FOR THE DEDICATION OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL.■ç MORE THAN 58,000 NAMES ENGRAVED ON THE WALL REPRESENT THOSE WHO NEVER MADE IT HOME. AND WHEN A HALF-SIZED REPLICA, THE MOVING WALL, WAS ON DISPLAY THIS YEAR IN PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WISCONSIN, GARY WAS ALSO THERE. HE WAS THE MASTER OF CEREMONIES FOR THE OPENING DAY. TODAY, GARY G. WETZEL CONTINUES TO SUPPORT OUR COUNTRY’S SOLDIERS, NO MATTER THE CONFLICT.>>LET ME TAKE I BACK TO THAT DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE. YOU ARE THERE TO RECEIVE THE MEDAL OF HONOR FROM PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON. WHAT’S GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND AS HE’S PUTTING THAT MEDAL AROUND YOU?>>SCARED,■ç SHAKY, AND QUESTIONING WHY AM I HERE. I KNEW THAT I DID SOME COMBAT IN VIETNAM, BUT I REALLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT FOR, SO AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE IS READING OFF THE CITATION, ALL THIS IS GOING BACK IN MY MIND, I’M LIKE, WOW, AND I MEAN, HERE YOU ARE, RIGHT IF FRONT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, HE’S GOT THE MEDAL OF HONOR, AND I WAS JUST IN AWE.>>IT MUST BE — IT’S A MOMENT THAT I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE, THE EMOTIONS THAT ARE GOING ON, YOU ARE FORCED TO REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED. DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO SPEND ANY TIME AT ALL■ç WITH THE PRESIDENT?>>WE HAD — IN A PART OF THE WHITE HOUSE THEY HAD A ROOM WHERE WE HAD COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS AND WE WERE ENJOYING OURSELVES, THERE WAS AN AIDE BRIEFING ON US, HOW TO SPEAK TO THE PRESIDENT, SAYING, YOU KNOW, YES, MR. PRESIDENT, NO, MR. PRESIDENT, AND AS HE’S DOING THIS, IN THROUGH THE DOOR COMES THE PRESIDENT.>>WOW.>>LBJ. BIG MAN.>>AND YOU’RE LIKE, OH, GEEZ, AND SO WE ALWAYS STOOD UP AND I GOT THIS COFFEE CUP AND THE SAUCER AND IT’S KIND OF SHAKING AND HE SAT DOWN RIGHT NEXT TO ME.>>REALLY?>>AND OF COURSE, I SAT DOWN AND HE TOOK HIS HAND AND HE KIND OF HIT MY LEG A CóU$1TIWARE YOU DOING, SON AND YOU’RE LIKE, FINE, MR. PRESIDENT, FINE. I MEAN, HERE IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. I WAS JUST AWED, JUST — AND QUESTIONING WHY AM I HERE. AND I JUST, YOU KNOW, SOLDIER, TRYING TO DO A JOB, GET A JOB DONE. I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO, AND FOR SOME UNGODLY REASON, I’M ALIVE.>>I’M WONDERING IF THERE WERE TWO QUESTIONS, WHY AM I HERE. ONE, TO GET THE AWARD. AND WHY DID I GET TO LIVE.>>MEDICALLY, THE WAY I GOT WOUNDED, I GOT HIT A COUPLE DIFFERENT TIMES, MEDICALLY, I SHOULD HAVE BEEN DEAD AND I QUESTION■ç THAT, AND OF COURSE, BACK IN THEM DAYS, I HAD A LOT MORE HAIR, IT WAS A LOT REDDER, BUT I THINK THE BIG GUY UPSTAIRS WAS SAYING KEEP THE RED HEAD ALIVE, SO HERE I AM. AND TO THIS DAY, JUST, YOU KNOW, GOING BACK, THINKING ABOUT IT, I’M ONE LUCKY GUY.>>YOU WERE TERRIBLY WOUNDED. YOU SAID YOU WERE HIT SEVERAL TIMES, ONE ARM WAS GONE AND YOU’RE BLEEDING PROFUSELY, AND YET, YOU WERE IN A HELICOPTER.>>CORRECT.>>YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE ON HEAVY DUTY THAT DAY.>>NO, IN FACT, WE WERE FLYING THE SPARE SHIP AND THE SHIP NEVER GETS CALLED, NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER AND THAT DA2!ñ YOU KNOW, ONE IN A MILLION SHOT HAPPENED AND THEY NEEDED OUR HELP. AFTER, YOU KNOW, THE — BEING BLOWN UP AND SHOT DOWN AND WHATEVER, AND HELPED TRYING TO SAVE MY BUDDY, AND I, YOU KNOW, I GOT HIM IN MY ARM HERE, AND HE LOOKS AT ME, HE TELLS JANE I LOVE HER, WHICH IS HIS WIFE AND I’M LIKE, YOU’LL GET OUT OF THIS AND THEN HE TURNED HIS HEAD AND I THOUGHT HE DIED, SO HE’S GOT ALL THIS EMOTION AND ANGER, AND I MEAN, I’M JUST A PIECE OF GARBAGE, AND THIS WAS ALL GONE, AND I JUST FOR SOME REASON, JUST TOOK THIS, KIND OF TUCKED IT IN MY BELT, AND I MADE MY WAY BACK TO MY SHIP BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE THE 60 WAS, AND■ç YOU KNOW, I COULD SEE –>>THAT’S THE MACHINE GUN.>>I COULD SEE THE BAD GUYS TRYING TO GROOVE UP AND WIPE US OUT AND I’M IN THE GUN WELL AND I FIGURE, IT’S MY TIME, COME GET ME, BUT THERE’S A FEW MORE OF YOU THAT WILL GO WITH ME, BUT HERE I AM.>>YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU WERE GOING TO GET OUT OF IT.>>NO, I DID NOT. NO.>>HOW DOES — HOW DOES SOMEBODY FIND OUT THAT THEY JUST HAVE BEEN AWARDED THE MEDAL OF HONOR?>>I WAS WORKING AT LADISH AND I HAD — FOR MY 21st BIRTHDAY, I BOUGHT ME A BRAND NEW CORVETTE.>>WHOA.>>SO HERE I AM, THIS 21-YEAR-OLD■ç PUNK [BEEP] KID, DRIVING AROUND TOWN IN A NICE CORVETTE, BUT THE SECRETARY SAID THERE’S SOME MILITARY PEOPLE THAT WANT TO SEE YOU. SO I GO DOWN TO THE OFFICE AND THERE’S A BIRD COLONEL, A MARRIAGE OR AND A FIRST — MAJOR, A FIRST SERGEANT ALL IN DRESS BLUES, SHAKING MY HAND, HOW ARE YOU DOING, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON. NO IDEA.>>SERIOUSLY.>>AND AT THAT TIME, THEY TOLD ME TO BE PREPARED I’M GOING TO GO ON A TRIP TO WASHINGTON, BUT THEY WERE NOT AT LIBERTY TO SAY WHY, SO I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING ON, AND YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY ELSE IS GOING TO CONTACT YOU, BUT THEY WANTED TO CONGRATULATE ME AND I’M LIKE, OK, FOR WHAT, YOU KNOW. OH, YOU’LL FIND OUT, AND I■ç ME, WHO THINKS, YOU KNOW, YOU’RE GOING TO GET THE CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR AND WHEN I FINALLY FOUND OUT, IT WAS A RUDE AWAKENING.>>AGAIN, I CAN’T IMAGINE WHAT THAT MUST BE LIKE. THERE IS NO — YOU HAD ALREADY GOTTEN THE SECRET SERVICE CROSS IF I’M CORRECT.>>CORRECT.>>WHICH IS THE SECOND HIGHEST. I DO REMEMBER MUCH. BUT HERE IT IS, THE HIGHEST AWARD THAT CAN BE GIVEN AND HERE’S GARY WETZEL FROM MILWAUKEE.>>WELL, HERE IT IS, OVER 40 YEARS LATER AND YOU KNOW, I SIT IN FRONT OF YOU, I HAD THIS BLUE RIBBON AROUND MY NECK, AND I BEFORE I CAME TO SHOW, IN ORDER TO PUT IT ON, I AM STILL IN AWE THAT I HAVE THE PRIVILEGE■ç TO WEAR IT BLUE RIBBON, BUT I GOT TO LET EVERYBODY KNOW, I NOT ONLY WORE IT FOR ME, I WORE IT FOR EVERYBODY, SO IT’S A PART OF ALL OF US. I’M JUST A CARETAKER.>>YOU TALKED TO A LOT OF KIDS.>>I TRY TO.>>WHAT DO THEY WANT TO KNOW, WHAT DO THEY ASK YOU?>>THEIR FIRST QUESTION TO BE HONEST WITH YOU, YOUNG KIDS, HOW MANY PEOPLE DID YOU KILL.>>OH.>>AND I’M LIKE, I’M NOT HERE FOR THAT. I TRY AND EXPLAIN TO THEM I LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE MILITARY, THAT YOU KNOW, THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE IN COMBAT AND THINGS DO HAPPEN, AND PEOPLE GET HURT AND PEOPLE DIE. BUT I LET THEM KNOW AND I POINT TO THAT FLAG THAT IT’S FOR THEIR FREEDOM, MAN AND WOMAN AND■ç I Y TO TELL THE YOUNG PEOPLE, WHEN YOU’RE LOOKING AT THE FLAG, LOOK INTO THE FLAG. LOOK INTO THE FLAG AND LOOK AT THE COST FOR YOU AND I TO BE HERE. YOU KNOW, OK, MR. WETZEL. I SAID NO, YOU KNOW, AND DON’T TEAR AMERICA APART. IF THERE IS A PROBLEM, TRY AND FIX IT AND PUT IT TOGETHER AND MAKE BETTER TOMORROWS, BECAUSE THE FUTURE IS YOU GUYS.>>YOU’VE MADE THE POINT THAT SOME COUNTRIES DO IT WITH BULLETS, SOME DO IT WITH BALLOTS.>>IN TALKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE ABOUT THIS, YOU KNOW, DEMOCRACY UNDER THIS UMBRELLA AND WE’RE FREE AND THE COST OF FREEDOM, BUT I ALSO LET THE YOUNG PEOPLE KNOW THAT AT TIMES IN OUR COUNTRY, WE HAVE A VOTING SYSTEM, AND WE VOTE WITH BALLOTS AND BALLOTS ARE■ç GOOD. BUT THE MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE GET IN ON THAT SYSTEM. AND I ALSO LET THEM KNOW THAT I’VE BEEN IF OTHER COUNTRIES WHERE THEY VOTE WITH BULLETS AND I LET THEM KNOW THAT THE BALLOT SYSTEM IS BETTER.>>IT WORKS NICER. HOW DID YOU GET TO VIETNAM?>>IN FACT, I VOLUNTEERED TO GO TO VIETNAM.>>AND YOU ENLISTED.>>I ENLISTED.>>WEREN’T DRAFTED.>>THAT WAS WHEN?>>THIS WAS BACK IN — I THINK LINCOLN WAS PRESIDENT. BACK IN FEBRUARY OF 1966, I WAS STATIONED AT FORT LEONARD WOOD, MISSOURI, I WAS AN INSTRUCTOR IN HEAVY EQUIPMENT AND WE HAD A LOT OF GUYS COMING BACK AFTER THEIR FIRST TOUR■eett THESE GUYS ARE N THE EARLY TO MID 20’S, AND OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, I’M A KID, 19 YEARS OLD AND HEY KID, YOU BETTER GET IT OVER WITH AND I’M LIKE WHAT, GET WHAT OVER WITH? VIETNAM. THE SOONER YOU DO IT, THE SOONER YOU’RE BETTER AND I HAD TIME LEFT IN THE MILITARY, SO I PUT IN A REQUEST, CALLED 1049 TO GO OVER TO VIETNAM AND I WAS DENIED THREE DIFFERENT TIMES BECAUSE THEY NEEDED ME IN THE CATEGORY THAT I WAS, AND ONCE THEY GOT MORE PEOPLE, THEY COULD FILLMORE SLOTS, THEN IT’S LIKE, OK, YOU’RE OUT OF HERE. SO OCTOBER 18, BINGO, I ARRIVE IN VIETNAM.>>WHAT DID YOU KNOW ABOUT VIETNAM?>>I NOW — WHERE IS A 19-YEAR-OLD KID,■ç WHO GETS REAY POLITICALLY INVOLVED, BUT YOU KNOW THEY WERE TRYING TO HELP ANOTHER NATION TO GET A BOOT IN THE BUTT AND GET THEM STARTED AND I THOUGHT, LET ME BE ONE OF THE PEAS IN THE POD AND I’LL DO MY PART. THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT I WAS DOING.>>I HADN’T AT THAT POINT RUN INTO THE TREMENDOUS NEGATIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH VIETNAM?>>AT THAT TIME, NO. ON THAT FIRST TOUR. THE NEGATIVITY I WANT TO SAY IS BACK IN 1967, MID SUMMER, WHEN THEY HAD THE RIOTS BACK HERE AND THE WAR PROTESTS, AND YOU KNOW, WE’RE BABY KILLERS AND POT HEADS AND I’M LIKE, WHOA, WHAT’S GOING ON HERE, SO IT WAS AN AWAKENING. WE GOT THE NEWS OVER THERE, BUT NOT LIKE YOU GET THE NEWS NOW. IT’S LIKE■ç INSTANT. BUT ALET OF US WERE GLAD — A LOT OF US WERE GLAD THAT WE WERE THERE AND NOT INVOLVED IN THE THINGS BACK HERE. THE.>>I’VE TALKED TO SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM WHO SAID THEY CAME BACK AND BOY, MAYBE I SHOULDN’T WEAR MY ARMY JACKET, MAYBE I SHOULDN’T IDENTIFY MYSELF BECAUSE OF THE FEELINGS THAT THEY RAN INTO.>>MY FIRST — I DID TWO TOURS IN VIETNAM. AFTER MY — MY FIRST TOUR, I WAS THERE ABOUT 10 1/2 MONTHS, I EXTENDED MY TOUR, SO THEY GIVE YOU A LEAVE TO COME ON HOME AND MY PARENTS DIDN’T KNOW I WAS COMING HOME AND AT THAT TIME, I WAS ALREADY SHOT DOWN THREE DIFFERENT TIMES.■ç BUT WE’RE PASSING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, I WANT TO SAY 2:00 A.M., 3:00 A.M. IN THE MORNING, AND THEY SAID, THERE’S THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. WHOA, AMERICA. AND BACK IN THEM DAYS, THEY HAD, YOU KNOW, THEY HAD THE STAIRS GOING DOWN, YOU DON’T HAVE THE RAMPS LIKE WE’VE GOT NOW. BUT I SAT ON THE PLANE, AND I WAITED FOR EVERYBODY TO GET OFF, AND THE STEWARDESS SAID ARE YOU GOING TO GET OFF, I SAID YEAH. SO I GOT OFF THE PLANE, I WENT DOWN AND HERE IT IS, YOU KNOW, THE END OF AUGUST, AND I GOT DOWN ON ALL FOURS AND I KISSED THE ASPHALT JUST FOR BEING ON U.S. SOIL.■ç AND — BUT NOBODY KNEW I WAS COMING HOME, SO WE GO THROUGH CUSTOMS, YOU KNOW, AND PLAY THE SYSTEM, AND NOW, THE RESTAURANT IS OPEN, SO THE WAITRESS COMES UP, SHE SAYS, WHAT DO YOU WANT? I SAID, I WANT A BIG MALT GLASS OF REAL MILK. SHE SAID THAT’S ALL WE’VE GOT. I SAID JUST BRING ME A BIG GLASS OF MALT MILK. I DRANK IT DOWN, I SAID GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE OF THESE AND CHEWS BURGER AND FRENCH FRIES AND I WANTED TO LOOK SMART WHEN I CAME HOME, SO THEY HAD■ç A VALET SERVICE OFF TO THE SIDE SO THERE’S A GUY, HE GIVES YOU A BAG FOR YOUR VALUABLES AND YOU WALK IN THE SHOWER AND IT HAS LIKE FOURBÑ SHOWERHEADS AND I’M LIKE, OH, WOW, I GO IN THERE AND THIS GUY WAS COOLER THAN HECK AN HE KNEW I GIST CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM, BECAUSE THE RIBBONS I HAD AT THAT TIME AND SO I’M IN, I’M OUT, AND HE JUST IS DOING A — HE’S COOLER THAN HECK, DIDN’T MISS A STROKE, AND HE SAID, SON, I JUST SEE, YOU JUST CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM, RIGHT? YES, SIR, WE HAVE HOT WATER IN THERE, I FORGOT TO TURN THE HOT WATER OPPOSING, BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE HOT WATER. SO I WENT BACK IN THERE AND I STAYED IN, I CAME OUT LOOKING LIKE A PRUNE. SO I GOT DRESSED, I’M LOOKING SHARP, NOW WE’RE IN■ç LINE GETTG TICKETS, I GOT MY TICKET, I’M LIKE WOW, AND LOOKING FORWARD TO COMING HOME AND NOBODY KNOWS I’M COMING HOME AND THEN, DOWN TO THE AIRPORT, THERE’S BELLS AND JINGLE AND GOT LOVES YOU AND PEACE AND ALL THAT AND I’M LIKE, WOW, AND HOW YOU DOING, GOD LOVES YOU, I’M LIKE, BOY, THIS IS OK. I THINK THERE’S SEVEN OF THEM, SEVEN OR NINE OF THEM, YOU KNOW, HIPPIES, YOUNG PEOPLE, AND THEY’RE LOOKING AT ME AND THIS DUDE, HE’S LIKE, YEAH, MAN, HOW MANY BABIES YOU KILL? I SAID WHAT.>>YEAH, HOW MANY BABIES, I SAID A FEW WORDS, PUNCH HIM, I’M IN A BIG FIGHT AND THERE’S A COUPLE OTHER MARINES, MARINE AND A NAVY GUY HELPING ME OUT. NOW WE HAVE THESE GUYS SPLATTERED OVER THE■ç FLOOR, I HAVE BLOOD ON ME AND I GO BACK TO THE VALET, CAN YOU GET THIS OFF OF ME PLEASE, AND THAT WAS MY WELCOME HOME.>>OH, WOW. HOW DID YOU GET INTO — FROM HEAVY EQUIPMENT INTO COPTERS?>>I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO FLY, AND WHEN I WAS OVER IN VIETNAM, I WAS THERE A COUPLE MONTHS, AND I HAD A FRIEND OF MINE SAYS THAT IF YOU’RE IN THE SERVICE FOR A YEAR AN ONE DAY, YOU CAN DO WHAT THEY CALL A SHORT AND YOU GET YOUR CHOICE OF DUTY STATION, SO IF I WANT TO GO FLY HELICOPTERS, I COULD.>>THAT’S VOLUNTEER FOR ANOTHER TOUR OF DUTY.>>RIGHT. SO I WAS IN THE ARMY FOR A YEAR AN ONE DAY, RE-ENLISTED, AND THEN■ç I WENT FLYING WITH THE ROBIN HOODS DOWN IN LIKE A –>>YOU SAY THE ROBIN HOODS, EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY THAT.>>A LOT OF DIFFERENT CHOPPER OUTFITS HAD DIFFERENT NICKNAMES. AND OF COURSE, WE WERE THE FAMOUS ROBIN HOODS AND ROBIN HOOD 6 WAS THE OLD MAN, OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, FRIAR TUCK TOOK CARE OF THEM, FRIAR TUCK WAS OUR MAINTENANCE SHIP AND THE CROSS BOWS WERE THE GUNSHIPS AND THE REST US WERE ROBIN HOODS, VERY LITTLE MEN, AND WE HAD A CAMP INSIDE A ROBBER PLANTATION — RUBBER PLANTATION, SO THAT WAS SHERWOOD FOREST.>>I LOVE IT. YOU WEREjSHOT■ FIVE DIFFERENT TIMES, FOUR BEFORE THE BIG ONE.>>RIGHT.>>DIDN’T YOU GET AN INKLING YOU WEREN’T CUT OUT FOR THIS.>>MY ASPIRATIONS, MY, AT THAT TIME, I WANTED TO BECOME A PILOT, AND THEN AT THAT TIME, A LOT OF THE GUNNERS AND CREW CHIEFS WERE GETTING A LOT OF STICK TIME, SO I FIGURED THE MORE STICK TIME I GOT WOULD HELP ME WHEN I GO THROUGH FLIGHT SCHOOL AND THAT’S WHY I STAYED. SCARED THE HECK OUT OF YOU? HECK, YEAH. BUT THAT WAS MY JOB. THAT WAS MY JOB. THAT’S WHAT I DID.>>DID YOU GET TO FLY?>>YEAH, I DID.>>I SEE YOUR FACE LIGHT UP WHEN YOU SAY THAT.>>OH, IT WAS A TRIP. IT’S — YOU KNOW, TAKE THAT MACHINE AND FLY IT AND TO HAVE■ç THAT CONTROL. OF COURSE, YOU’RE A SITTING DUCK, BUT IT’S WHAT I WANTED TO DO.>>I DIDN’T WANT TO BRING THAT PART UP, BUT YOU WERE ALSO A SITTING DUCK AFTER YOU WERE WOUNDED THIS FIFTH TIME, AND YOU WENT BACK TO THE SHIP.>>RIGHT.>>THEY KNOW WHERE YOU ARE, YOU’RE FIRING A MACHINE GUN.>>I GOT NAILED WITH A MACHINE GUN IN THE LEG AND THEN LATER ON I GOT STUCK HERE WITH A BAYONET, SO THEY WERE ON TOP OF US. AND YOU JUST TRY TO DO THE BEST YOU CAN.>>WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE WHEN YOU’RE SHOT DOWN? WHAT HAPPENS?>>WELL, NORMALLY, YOU GET ON A PHONE RIGHT AWAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MY DAY, BUT WE WERE — MAYDAY, BUT WE WERE GOING IN WITH 14■ç OTHER SHIPS. ONE SHIP GOT SHOT DAWN AND THE CROSSFIRE WAS SO BAD AND THEY GOT HIT SO MANY TIMES AND THEY JUST WENT SMOKING DOWN THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER AND I FIGURED THOSE GUYS ARE GONE. LATER ON, I FOUND OUT THEY MADE IT. THE OLD MAN GOT SHOT IN THE NECK, BUT HE SURVIVED, BUT IT’S JUST SUICIDE, JUST SUICIDE, SO WHAT THEY EVENTUALLY END UP DOING IS ABOUT MAYBE A HALF MILE AWAY FROM US, THEY DROP TROOPS OFF, AND THEY WORK THEIR WAY TOWARDS US, TRY TO ESTABLISH, YOU KNOW, A HEAD RIGHT HERE, AN TOOK THEM FROM SUN DOWN TILL SUN UP THE NEXT MORNING TO FINALLY GET TO US.>>WOW. AND YOU’RE BEING ATTACKED ALL THAT TIME.>>AND WE’RE TRYING TO■ç SURVIV.>>BLACKING OUT, COMING TO.>>WE’RE TRYING TO SURVIVE. YEAH.>>I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH OF THIS YOU WANT TO GET INTO.>>I DON’T — I DON’T RELIVE THE VIETNAM WAR. I MEAN IT HAPPENED, IT’S LIFE, AND I TELL PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, EVERY NIGHT I GO TO BED, I TAKE THE WAR OFF. AND EVERY MORNING WHEN I GET READY FOR THE DAY, I PUT THE WAR ON, BUT I DON’T LET IT CONSUME MY LIFE, AND THERE ARE BROTHERS OUT THERE THAT THAT’S THEIR LIFE, AND THEY RELIVE IT ALL THE TIME, AND THOSE ARE THE GUYS WE’VE GOT TO HELP.>>YOU WEREN’T ABLE TO SAVE YOUR BEST BUDDY.>>NO. HE –■ç TIM — TIMMY DIED, BUT I DID GET TO TELL HIS WIFE JANE THAT HE LOVED HER LATER ON, I WANT TO SAY A MONTH AND A HALF LATER, I’M IN THE HOSPITAL AND SOMEBODY COMES UP, THERE’S SOMEBODY ON THE PHONE, I JUST STARTED WALKING, BUT NOT GOOD YET, BUT I’M STILL IN A WE’LL CHAIR, I KIND OF YOU YOU KNOW, FIGURED IT WAS SOME CHICK THAT’S CALLING ME.>>HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL.>>I GET BY THE PHONE AND HANGING BY THE WALL AND IT’S LIKE HELLO, IT’S LIKE HI GARY, HI GARY, I’M LIKE WHOA, HOLD ON A MINUTE, HIS MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER, HIS WIFE JANE AND HIS DAD AND I BLOCKED THE WHEEL HERE, NEXT TO THE WALL, I GRABBED THE PHONE AND JIMMY, I’M STANDING UP, NEXT■ç TO THE WALLI GRAB THE PHONE, AND I SAYS, JANE, YOU THERE. HI, GARY. I SAID, TIMMY TOLD ME TO SAY — AND I FOUR, FIVE TIMES, TEARS ARE FALLING, FINALLY I GOT IT OUT, TIMMY TOLD ME TO TELL YOU THAT HE LOVED YOU AND IT’S LIKE, OH. AND — BUT THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, HIS MOTHER, I FINALLY MET HER, YOU KNOW, 20 YEARS LATER, AND THAT WAS MOM, AND TIMMY WAS THE ONLY ONE IN THE FAMILY, AND SHE’S A SWEETHEART, JANE IS A SWEETHEART.>>YOU’VE BEEN OBVIOUSLY TO THE VIETNAM MEMORIAL.>>CORRECT.>>THE WALL.>>WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS WHEN YOU SAW IT?>>WHEN I FIRST■ç WENT DOWN FOR THE DEDICATION, BUNCH OF US FROM WISCONSIN WENT AND YOU WALK DOWN AND YOU’RE ON — EITHER END AND YOU SEE THAT V, YOU DON’T REALLY SEE NOTHING, AND YOU SEE SOME NAMES, A COUPLE INCHES OFF THE GROUND THERE, YOU KIND OF LOOKING AT THEM, AND IT DOESN’T HIT YOU, BUT YOU KNOW, YOU’RE DRAWN TO THE CENTER, SO YOU KEEP WALKING AND EACH PANEL IS NUMBERED, SO I HAD TO GO SAY HI TO TIMMY, BUT AS YOU’RE WALKING DOWN, THE NAMES ARE HERE AND YOU’RE LOOKING AND YOU KNOW, THEN THEIR NAMES ARE UP HERE, AND YOU’RE LOOKING INTO THAT BLACK GRANITE, AND IT’S LIKE, YOU’RE WALKING WITH YOUR BROTHERS. AND IT’S A TRIP, AND FINALLY WHEN I GOT TO HIS PANEL, YOU KNOW, I JUST TOUCHED HIS■ç NAME AND I DROPPED TO MY KNEES. AND THEN FINALLY, I STOOD UP, AND THEN I SALUTED HIM. AND THEN WENT OUT AND I HAD MORE THAN ONE DRINK.>>I WOULD THINK SO. YOU SAID SOMETHING JUST A MINUTE AGO, THAT AT NIGHT, YOU TAKE THE WAR OFF.>>CORRECT.>>HOW LONG WAS IT BEFORE YOU TAKE THE WAR OFF?>>PROBABLY THREE YEARS. PROBABLY THREE YEARS. AND ENVIRONMENTALLY, TO GET ADJUSTED TO THINGS IN ONE’S LIFE, TO MAKE A DIFFERENT WAY OF LIFE, AND TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT NOTHING IS GOING TO GO BACK, SO TRY TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT, SO I NEVER TRY AND LET IT GET ME DOWN. I■ç MEAN, I RIDE A HARLEY MOTORCYCLE, AND I HELP REDESIGN THE ARM SO I COULD PULL MY CLUTCH IN AND OUT AND MY CLUTCH ISN’T VERY DIFFERENT THAN ANYBODY ELSE’S, I GET A KICK ON THE WARM MONTHS WHEN YOU’RE AT A STOP AND GO LIGHT, PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU, HOW ARE YOU RIDING THAT BIKE. WHY? I’VE BEEN ACROSS THIS COUNTRY 17 TIMES ON A HARLEY.>>REALLY?>>YEAH.>>WHAT DID YOU DO WHEN YOU CAME BACK? YOU’RE OUT OF THE HOSPITAL, YOU’RE HEALTHY.>>DURING THE HOSPITAL, I’M SITTING THERE THINKING, WHAT CAN I DO WITH ONE ARM. WHAT CAN I DO.>>DID YOU THINK AT ANY TIME THAT THERE’S NOTHING I CAN DO?>>NO. I MEAN,■ç THERE’S — I COULD DO SOMETHING, BUT I DIDN’T KNOW WHERE I WOULD FIT IN. AND FINALLY, I GOT A JOB WORKING AT THE LADISH COMPANY, AND IT’S GOOD. IT MADE ME PART OF A BETTER PERSON INSIDE, LIKE I’M DOING SOMETHING FOR GARY. NOT TO PROVE NOTHING TO ANYBODY, BUT FOR ME. AND THAT WAS A START.>>YOU WERE IN A NUMBER OF HOSPITALS.>>YEAH. I WAS.>>YOU KIND OF DID THE TOUR OF HOSPITALS.>>YEAH. I SPENT — AFTER I GOT DUSTED, I SPENT I THINK SEVEN OR NINE DAYS WHAT THEY CALL ON THE SUPER CRITICAL LIST, AND — BUT I BLUFFED THEM AND I MADE IT, AN HERE I ATALKING ABOUT THE HOSP,BACK WHEN THEY DEDICATED THE NURSES MONUMENT IN WASHINGTON, MY BUDDY AND I, WE FLEW DOWN FOR THE DEDICATION, AND THEY HAD LITTLE TABLES SET UP WITH DIFFERENT EVACUATION HOSPITALS SO I WALK UP TO THEM AND I DIDN’T WANT TO SAY WHO I WAS, BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO BE PRETEND — PRETENTOUS, SO THERE’S A BUNCH OF THEM SITTING DOWN AND I SAID WHO WAS THERE FROM THIS TIME TO THIS TIME. BOOM, EIGHT OF THEM STOOD UP. I SAID ANYBODY EVER FIND ANYBODY? NO. OK, GIRLS. LATER ON, WE’LL GET A DANCE, SO I TURN AROUND, AND A LADY IN THE MIDDLE, SHE SAYING, I REMEMBER A GUY, AND■ç I SAYS, YOU DO. SHE SAID YEAH, GARY WETZEL. I GO, NO KIDDING, AND SHE SAYS I REMEMBER HIM BECAUSE HE WAS SO SEVERELY WOUNDED. I SAID, I SIGH. — I SEE. SHE SAYS, LATER ON, AFTER SHE GOT BACK HERE, SHE GOT A BOOK OUT ON THE MEDAL OF HONOR, AND FIND OUT, YOU KNOW, WHAT HE HAD DONE. SHE SAYS, TRUST ME, DIDN’T SAY HALF THE STUFF HE DID. I SAID NO KID, BUT SHE ALSO SAID THAT –>>SHE DIDN’T KNOW SHE WAS TALKING TO YOU.>>NO. SHE ALSO SAID THAT A COUPLE DIFFERENT DAYS, MY BUDDIES FROM THE CHOPPERS WOULD COME IF AND TELL HER, WHAT HAD HAPPENED, SO I SAYS, OK, SHE GOES, WHY. AND I LOOK AT HER AND SHE WAS THE NURSE THAT CHANGED MY BANDAGES THREE TIMES A DAY. INSTANT TEARS RUNNING DOWN, SITTING DOWN RIGHT HERE WAS A RETIRED BIRD COLONEL, SO SHE REACHES UP, SHAKES MY ARM LIKE THIS, SHE GOES, AND YOU KEPT ME BUSY. I LOOK AT HER, I SAYS, EXCUSE ME, MA’AM, HOW IN THE HELL COULD I KEEP YOU BUSY. SHE SAYS, YOU HAD A LOT OF HOLES IN YOU, SHE SAYS. BEFORE YOU WENT THROUGH THE SWINGING DOORS, I HAD TO RUN OUT BECAUSE YOU WENT THROUGH 18 UNITS OF BLOOD. SHE SAYS IT’S NICE TO SEE. I SAID, THANK YOU, MA’AM AND I GRABBED ANNIE, I SAID WHERE ARE WE GOING. SHE SAID I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU OFF. AT THAT TIME THERE WAS PROBABLY 4,000■ç PEOPLE, AND I BET YOU 6% KNEW THAT WETZEL FOUND HIS NURSE, SO THAT WAS NICE.>>TERRIBLE THING TO DO TO YOU WITH ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO REMEMBER GARY WETZEL?>>A CARING, LOVING GUY. A GUY THAT DOESN’T TAKE ANY B.S. AND I’M ALWAYS THERE TO TRY TO HELP SOMEBODY IF I CAN.>>GARY G. WETZEL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, VERY MUCH. I’M OVER MY HEAD HERE, SITTING IN FRONT OF A RECIPIENT OF A MEDAL OF HONOR. THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING IT TONIGHT.>>THANKS FOR WHAT YOU DO ON THE SHOW. THANKS FOR WHAT YOU DO HERE IN MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN.>>I HOPE YOU JOIN US NEXT TIME AS WE CONTINUE TO ?bQSQS!ER.

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