Arizona Purple Heart recipient recalls how he earned his medal
PHOENIX — Wednesday is National Purple Heart Day, and Arizona politicians took the opportunity to honor those recipients.
The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to military members wounded or killed in battle.
U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona posted a video to Twitter in which he spoke with a Purple Heart recipient, Chuck Byers.
Byers was a field medic in the Vietnam War.
“When I got to Vietnam I had orders that said ‘Third Field Hospital, Saigon,'” he recalled. “But then I hear my name called and they said ‘you’re going to the ninth infantry division.'”
He was assigned as a senior combat medic at just 20 years old.
Biggs asked Byers to recount the event that led him to earning the revered military decoration — just 23 days before his service was suppose to be complete.
“A call came in and said a unit was under heavy attack. They went into an ambush and would like other medics to volunteer,” Byers said. “I volunteered. They picked me up and dropped me on top of a different area. It wasn’t even my own men. It was at a different A.O. but these guys were really shot up bad and I started patching up.”
That’s when Byers realized one of the soldiers needed an emergency tracheotomy in the field.
“Just as I opened up the airway and put the airway in I heard a (noise) like that and took a gun shot wound in my left arm and in my gut,” Byers said.
He said he was shot around 2 p.m. and got the wounded soldiers out safely. Byers said by 6 p.m. he also got out.
“I remember waiting in the hallway, a priest was going by giving out last rites,” Byers said. “He comes over to me and he looks at me and he said ‘nah.’ That was like the best news I ever had,” he said with a laugh.
Sen. Martha McSally also took to Twitter to honor Purple Heart recipients. She mentioned how she recently helped to reunite a found Purple Heart Medal with its rightful owner.