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By Ron Sorter

The following is an excerpt from the blog site of Ron Sorter and Bob Tierno at:

OU Vietnam Plaque

Vietnam Memorial Plaque at OU. (Click to enlarge.)

In our book, Letters in a Helmet, Bob and I describe Randy Morrison, a beloved fraternity brother of ours. Our chapter recently had a reunion at Oklahoma University and Randy was often remembered, as “a gentle soul.” He was the only member of our house to die in Vietnam.

Randy’s name appears in gold on OU’s memorial to those graduates who’ve given their lives in service [in Vietnam]. Of course, his name is also engraved on The Wall in D.C.

I served in the Infantry in Vietnam. I was an Army company commander and each of my platoons had a medic. Their mere presence was enough to set men’s minds at ease. Their absence or, God forbid, their death in combat cast a pall over everyone. Randy’s death was tragic but our memories of him are gold.

Only a few of the members who lived in the fraternity house with him knew that he was an incredible, classical percussionist. Drummers are cool, for sure, but percussionists have classical class. Yeah, that’s the word. Class. He never advertised how cool he was. In the late sixties, when Vietnam was white hot and a hundred caskets a week were being flown back to broken families in America, few college grads were volunteering for combat branches. Randy joined the Navy and opted for the Pharmacist Mate track.

He served at the Balboa Navy Hospital in San Diego but eventually he was sent to Vietnam. The Marines don’t have their own medics. They use the Navy’s hospital corpsmen.

Let me capitalize that: Hospital Corpsmen. In the middle of a firefight, when the dreaded word, “Medic!” or “Corpsman!” is yelled, he immediately runs or crawls or slides over to a wounded man and begins saving his life. What he sees that day will be burned into his memory forever. His coolness under fire, his dedication, his stone-cold bravery is apparent to everyone. Of course, the NVA and VC targeted him, in violation of the Geneva Convention, because they knew the impact his death would have on morale. Randy would have know that the very first day.

I’ve watched Medics save my bleeding life. How they came to be there, whether they volunteered or were drafted or just flew in on wings, doesn’t matter at all. They save lives, under fire. For that reason they are referred to as “Doc” until they draw their last breath.

I took a rubbing of Randy’s name from The Wall on a loose page of steno pad when I was in D.C. in the 80s. So many names. I found the place where my name came this close to being included. But it isn’t, thanks to a Medic.

Thank you, Randy, Corpsman, for making all your buddies feel just a little bit safer. Your brotherhood remembers you, Doc. And we always will.

Memorial Wreath