John McElligott at orphanage

1. The Pig Pen
The nuns that ran the orphanage were fun to work with and I helped sick call there every Wednesday as a Medcap Corpsman from Mag 12. The orphans were all malnourished so another Corpsman and I built them a Pig Pen. We built it in about two weeks.  This is funny because it was hot as hell ..105 degrees, and I was already down to 138 lbs. from 200lbs. Once your canteen was empty you had your pick of beer or a coca cola. One of the nuns came down speaking broken English and said, “Do you want a coke or a beer?” We said “Sure”. They returned with a glass of what looked like a coke but it was frothy. We took a big gulp and almost croaked. After getting off our knees, choking, we asked “What in the S—- was that?”  She said Beer and Coca Cola with ice. Wow!  We thought the VC had poisoned us. We all laughed and finished the pen.  Over the next few months, I never saw a pig get in the pin. They stayed with the kids at the church. Now.. go figure!! 

2. The evacuation of Mag 12 ERDP 

At the orphanage I had an 8-year-old child who looked to be 5 years old due to malnutrition.  A more accurate description ” like death eating a cracker”. He kept a constant cough and pneumonia. I treated him with antibiotics for months and trucked in food for all but he never gained an ounce.. much less a pound. One day I noticed he was coughing up Poop (aka Sh–) so I borrowed a motor bike and took this child to the hospital at Mag 12.  They had a very large ERDP. I walked in with the young boy in my arms and his poop all over my fatigues and his shirt. The doctors took one look at me and the kid and evacuated the department yelling orders at me to not move and stay put!!. We sat on the floor for 15 minutes by ourselves and the young boy was asleep in my arms. When the doctors and nurses came back, they took the boy away from me and got a history from me. They advised me that he may have a very serious contagious disease and asked if I had all my vaccinations before coming to Nam. I said, “Yes.”  They were medivacing the boy out to the hospital ship coming down from Da Nang, and they would let me know about his condition. Presently, their first determination was the boy had no chance of survival. Needless to say, I was very sad and the nuns had the priest say a mass for him at noon that same day. A few weeks later I was notified that there was a large piece of shrapnel from a bomb or shell that penetrated his left upper abdomen and cut his large bowel and esophagus. The large bowel and the esophagus grew together over time and the stool (aka shi-) went up the esophagus and down to the young boy’s lungs. The surgeons fixed the defect and the young boy lived. To this day I cry every time I see his face in my dreams. This boy was my last wounded Vietnamese treated in Nam. I left country a few days later. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *