GARDEN PLAIN, Kan. (KSNW) — As part of the Second Battalion, Fourth Marines, David Rau lived through the Tet Offensive and spent the majority of his time in the service near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
“A lot of my friends got killed all around me, and we got bombed every day, and shot at, and mortar rounds, and you name it,” Rau said.
Rau would be deployed three times to Quang Tri, a province bordering the DMZ.
“People wonder why you go back, and you go back because your friends got killed. It’s payback time,” Rau said. “So you go back, and then you go back again until you can’t go back anymore.”
He was wounded three times: in one battle, he was in the knee. In another, he was shot in the back But perhaps his third and final injury was the most death-defying of them all.
“They needed volunteers to take supplies to the troops at the front lines,” Rau said.
As an acting lieutenant in charge of his whole platoon, the then-Corporal Rau did not hesitate to put his life on the line to save his men.
“Those were a lot of my buddies, and a lot of people I knew, so I volunteered. I didn’t want anybody else to go,” Rau said.
As part of motor transport, Rau operated a .50 caliber machine gun on the back of a truck. He says on his way to the front lines. Mortar rounds started to go off all around him.
“I was shooting at people, at the VC going over the hill, and had tracer rounds where you could see where you were shooting, and a mortar round went off and blew me off the back of the truck,” Rau said.
That’s when a two-and-a-half-inch piece of shrapnel lodged itself into Rau’s brain.
“They couldn’t anything, or they didn’t want to do anything at the time because they said that it could cause more damage,” Rau said.
Rau was discharged due to his injury in 1971. Six years later, he says, part of the shrapnel that had been lodged in his head for so long would finally come out.
“My ear was kinda hurting, and I took a Q-tip, and, I thought, ‘Well, maybe it needs [to be] cleaned out,’ took a Q-Tip, the cotton pulled off,” Rau said. “I took a needle-nose pliers, and I reached up there, and it hurt like hell, but there was a piece of metal,” Rau said.
Incredibly, five years later, the other half of the shrapnel came out of the same place.
“They took X-rays, and they said, ‘don’t ever get an MRI, it’ll pull it right through’…so they took another X-ray, and they said, ‘Well, it’s not there anymore,'” Rau said.
Even while living with shrapnel in his head for 11 years, Rau says he wouldn’t change a thing about his time in the service.
“The only thinking you do is how to stay alive, and, evidently, I did a good job on that ‘cuz I’m still here,” Rau said.
If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at email@example.com.