After reading the article on how the military brass treated enlisted men who had to clean up after atomic blasts, I decided to write this letter.
This is how the military system works. I was aboard the USS Hopewell DD681, in heavy seas somewhere off Vietnam in 1963 or 1964. An officer and I were on the 01 level when a wave knocked a young cook’s helper down and washed him down the port-side main deck. I climbed down to help him. As I grabbed him another wave knocked us down and mashed my leg against a steel pipe. When the wave subsided I hobbled with him over to a rear berthing area hatch and pounded on it until someone opened it and let us in, possibly saving the young man’s life. Did I get a medal, a commendation, an attaboy? Did the brave officer come down to help? Negative to all. If an officer had done what I did he would have gotten a handful of medals. My foot swelled up with blood from my leg so I couldn’t get my boot on. They had me stand my watches with my foot in a bucket of hot water. Aboard the same ship I got to stand in formation and watch a Captain give a commendation to a guy who fixed the Captain’s toilet. Go figure.
Walter Minard, Nampa