WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Vietnam veteran says he was involved in a brutal battle, one that the public didn’t know about for decades.
Doctor Ken Pitetti said it wasn’t until a book was published in 2000, that more came out about the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord.
He said it was an insane time to be a soldier.
Dr. Pitetti said as they were fighting for their lives in Vietnam, students were shot and killed while protesting the war at Kent State, and Cambodia was being invaded.
He said casualties on the battlefields of Vietnam weren’t dominating the headlines.
“Life isn’t fair, or unfair, life just is bloody what it is and you’ve got to go forward, you’ve got to find ways to go forward,” Vietnam Veteran Ken Pitetti said.
He lives by that mantra and stressed that so do many other Vietnam veterans.
“We came home, we got jobs, we had families, we raised kids, we did good,” Dr. Pitetti said.
The former Lieutenant says the U.S. military was fighting in the mountainous terrain, under a triple canopy jungle.
“So you had four divisions in this area,” Pitteti said.
He said the troops were inserted, near the Laotian border.
“If you want to know if you are a leader, lead men in combat,” Pitetti said.
Pitetti was a leader with the 101st and said troops were sent to fill the ranks of those who had fallen on the battlefield.
He described his first meeting with his sergeant.
“He says, you know there is a beer over there, you want a beer? You better take a beer, because that is probably the last cold beer you are going to have for maybe months,” Pitetti said.
He said he couldn’t help but notice the chatter on the radio.
“What’s that radio, I said who is that attached to? He says, that is your company and that’s where you are going tomorrow, you sure you don’t want that beer?” Pitetti said.
He remembers when the company was thrown into the defense of a fire base.
“These guys were digging a night defend, foxholes, to take a position, a fighting position to get ready for the night,” Pitetti said.
The battle raged for the next four months.
“You all relied on one another, everybody had one another’s back,” Pitetti said.
That was certainly the case the day he earned a Purple Heart.
He said after he stepped on a land mine, his Sergeant Chuck Riley put him on his back and got him into the jungle for protection.
Years later, thanks to technology, the two found one another and they still enjoy getting together.
He said he’s still searching for the pilot and co-pilot, who braved enemy fire.
Dr. Pitetti said a painting in his office is of the same squadron, that flew in for him.
Once he was inside the chopper he said he quickly realized the man above him was missing an arm, and the solider lying next to him was dead.
“There was so much blood on the bottom of that helicopter that I was going back and forth, sliding back and forth because they had picked up so many casualties that day,” Pitetti said.
He said from the second he woke up following the amputation of his leg he knew he could never truly repay those who saved his life.
“So that is how I tried to live the rest of my life, is to make it worth that effort, that they gave me, and to go on and do good things,” Pitetti said.
The good things include inspiring the future, as a professor in the Physical Therapy Department at WSU.
He’s now training those who will work with people who are moving through tough times in life, providing the encouragement he once received, that the only option is to keep moving forward.
Doctor Pitteti belongs to a veteran’s organization, Charlie Company.
He said when they get together they don’t sit around and drink beer and tell old war stories, they instead make sure all of their comrades are getting the appropriate care they need.
They also attend funerals to ensure veteran’s families know about their time at war, and the sacrifices that were made.
His service extends beyond veterans and their families, he has been a volunteer with the Arc of Sedgwick County for more than twenty years.