Veteran Salute: Vietnam Army combat medic says he owes his fallen comrades

Veteran Salute

One Colwich veteran comes from a long line of patriots.

As Vietnam was raging he dropped out of college, to sign up to serve.

Dave Hilger was a member of the college rifle team, so he thought he would become an Army sniper.

It was just a few days into basic training, when one of his fellow recruits was injured, and their leader threw him a medic bag.

From then on Hilger, better known as ‘Doc’, knew what he was destined to do.

“Sometimes it was so dense you couldn’t see a guy from here to you,” Vietnam Army combat medic David Hilger said.

Hilger said there were no front lines, the enemy was all around them, in the heart of the Vietnam jungle.

“I had shoe strings tied on the calves of my jungle fatigues, to keep the leeches from crawling up your pant legs,” Hilger said.

It was guerilla warfare, Hilger signed himself up for.

“There was a lot of good men over there, and I knew that they were dying, man I am not going to sit here, and just have the good life,” Hilger said.

Hilger said as a Combat Medic he took an oath to sustain and preserve life, at all costs.

“It was our job,” Hilger said. “I always was very thankful that these mothers and fathers didn’t see what we saw.”

Hilger said medics are trained to never betray a comrade with their eyes.

“They are pinned on your eyes and if you show shock, or don’t know what to do or hopelessness they sense it,” Hilger said.

He said they offered that hope to real heroes. 

“I’ve had a young soldier crying for his mother, when he was dying. I’ve seen little kids die,” Hilger said.

Hilger said many combat medics live with a lot of survivor’s guilt.

“We suffered when we lost those men, they took a part of us with them,” Hilger said.

He wears the names of his fallen comrades on his wrist every day. 

“He’s my good buddy Jerry Wornstoffer. That’s the only picture I’ve got of him, he was killed 50 years ago,” Hilger said.

He said their brotherhood will never be forgotten.

“I would do it again, even if I knew I was going to die over there, because I was with the some of the best men I have ever known,” Hilger said.

He says he owes them, because they sacrificed it all.

He’ll continue to share their stories, because they were silenced more than fifty years ago.

“I got 18 grandkids, four beautiful kids, there is a lot of blessings here that they didn’t get, so you see how we feel about that,” Hilger said.

When Hilger left for the war he told his parents to sell his car, because he didn’t think he was ever coming home.

When he did, he says there was no celebrating, he says he was numb, wondering how in the world did he make it out alive.

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