November 10, 2004.
On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC., our people accompanied Doc Danny Moyer, United States Navy Corpsman to Marines, Hotel Company 2/1 down the sloping walkway toward the epicenter of our memorial on the Tenth of November, 2004. - “ Happy Birthday, Marines!”
Once there, we were met by an aspiring journalist from Doc’s home state of Washington. Karen was a lovely young woman who had invited us to join her in front of the black granite panel on which her Dad’s name had been engraved.
In truth, it was an emotionally draining moment for all of us. Later, as we stood together, before the names of our own fallen comrades, so uniformly etched into the shiny black granite panels, I found myself being overwhelmed by flashbacks of Nam.
Silent and eerie, those sacred panels tell the story of our fallen comrades and brothers. Fallen comrades, who shall remain forever young, by virtue of the supreme sacrifice they made in our nation’s cause. Yet, casualties of war who had also lived to grow old before their time. Just standing in front of those sacred panels, sent chills up and down our spines.
Hank Decker and I had been with Doc on that fateful day in the month of October 1967 when Hotel Company 2/1 was caught in a deadly ambush during the Hai Lang Forest Campaign. Without regard for his own personal safety or well being, we witnessed Doc Danny Moyer, giving every thing he had for his wounded and dying Marines. And, in truth, brothers, Doc’s selfless devotion to duty had cost him big time.
Doc had managed to cheat the Angel of death on that God awful day. Yet, in truth, life would never again be the same for our gallant corpsman, bro’s. On October 18, 1967, while conducting a search and destroy mission, code named: “Operation Medina,” the war came to an abrupt end for Doc Danny Moyer, United States Navy Corpsman to Marines, Hotel Company, 2/1. But, the struggle to overcome the debilitating wounds Doc received in that horrific battle was just beginning. God bless you, Doc.
Our people spent an hour or so at the Wall, with the young aspiring journalist, from Kennewick and we were mightily impressed with the level of Karen’s knowledge and understanding of the Vietnam War, in general, and its God awful aftermath, in particular. At the end of the day, Karen departed from our group after offering up heartfelt hugs and placing gentle kisses of sincere affection upon our cheeks.
In truth, I liked Karen a lot; the Wall had created an instant bond between us. And, this, brothers, is what Karen had to say about Doc., at the Wall that day. - Karen’s essay was titled: “ Hushed Sorrow.” And, any further adieu, - here it is.
Washington DC - There’s an eerie silence at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the kind of heavy hush one might expect from a platoon during night patrol in a dense jungle or dusty desert. Everyone speaks in whispers here. And, when they cry, it’s always a restrained sort of weeping. It’s as if many are afraid that if they yield to such a powerful sorrow they may never stop crying.
Those who are most afraid don’t broach the Wall. They sit on the edges of nearby benches and watch as more courageous souls walk the Wall. Their eyes are cloudy. Their faces creased. Their shoulders slumped from the heaviness of death. The benches are full this year. An anticipated 20,000 people have come to pay their respects to the nation’s heroes of the Vietnam War.
Dan Moyer of Kennewick made the pilgrimage for the Wall’s 20th anniversary. He came to join with friends, both living and dead. “The guys who were with me that morning I got shot are right here on the Wall. All the guys that were around me.” Moyer said. He spread his left hand wide and cupped four lines of names on an east panel. Doc Moyer was a Navy Combat Medical Corpsman with the 2nd Battalion,1st Marine Regiment.
He earned the purple heart “in a bad deal” October 18,1967, in the Hai Lang National Forest of the Central Highlands. “ It was a massacre. We lost twenty guys in the rifle platoon,” Moyer said. He recounted the story in a slow purposeful way, with a tone reminiscent of John Wayne. His voice was steeped with the sorrow of young men lost.
“I would have given everything for these guys,” Moyer said. Then, he paused and added, “I almost did.” Moyer’s fingers are curled up into his right palm. His wrist is half the size it once was. And, he cannot do what the U. S. Park Service attendants bid those passing the Wall to do – make a tracing of a fallen comrades name.
He took an awful hit that day when he ran into the dense jungle overgrowth to help Marines calling out. Moyer was treating a man he’d met only the night before when shrapnel tore through the flesh of his right shoulder. Thirty-five years later, Moyer reached up to run his fingertips over the name etched on the black marble surface: Robert Decker.
The two had shared their ponchos and hopes the night before. “ We had that age old talk of all soldiers, “ Do you think you’ll make it out alive?” We both thought that we’d come out,” Moyer said. In a blast of fire power that lasted about forty – five minutes Decker was slain and Moyer was severely wounded.
Men whose names he does not know still call out to Moyer as they pass him by at the Wall. “Good job, pal; I love to see a live medic.” a veteran said as he reached out to shake Moyer’s left hand. Moving through a crowd four people deep, another veteran greeted Moyer. “Air Force Betty, Thank you, Doc,” he said. Moyer took the card and shook the fellow’s hand.
“Our Corpsman had a special place in our hearts,” said Tom Holloran, one of Moyer’s many Marine buddies. It was Holloran and another Marine named Hank Decker who assisted Moyer on the day fate spared him. “ I was lucky to get out. We lost so many that day.” He said.
Muffle sobs could be heard from a nearby panel where a man grieved his brother’s death, Moyer reached out to comfort him. Here where the souls of dead heroes linger, there are no strangers - all men are brothers, all women are sisters.
“The Wall has brought us all closer together,” Moyer said.
“Oooh – rah and Well said, Doc. - God Bless, thank you Danny and Semper Fi.”
And, thank you, Karen! We wish you only pound cake and peaches all the rest of your days. - There it is.
Submitted by: L/Cpl. Tom (Hollly) Holloran, Hotel 2/1.