A Vietnam veteran wounded in combat has set out to locate four wounded comrades with one thing in common - the medic who saved their lives.
For 42 years, Daniel Seijo tried to piece together what happened Oct. 5, 1967 — the day his platoon was ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers in Chu-Lai, Vietnam.
The last thing Seijo remembers, he said, is being shot in the elbow and hearing an unknown medic call for morphine. What he didn’t know was a bullet had penetrated his skull just above his right eye. Seijo blacked out and woke up in a hospital in Japan.
“I didn’t know I’d been shot in the head until the doctor in Japan told me how lucky I was to be alive and showed me the X-ray. He said it was unbelievable I was still alive,” Seijo said.
Never miss a local story.
After recovering, Seijo completed a second tour in Vietnam. He continued his military career, serving as an Airborne instructor at Fort Benning and later as the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Military Police School at Fort McClellan, Ala., retiring after 28 years with no answers to what happened that day in Vietnam.
But in October 2009, a phone call shed light on his past.
“I was getting ready to watch the World Series and the phone rang,” Seijo said. “A man asked if I recalled Oct. 5, 1967, and I said ‘yeh, that’s the day I got shot.’ He said ‘Well, I’m the medic who responded when you were wounded.’”
Dr. Ken Gates was a 22-year-old draftee fresh out of Airborne School when he was shipped to Vietnam. Seijo learned Gates not only saved his life, but the lives of four others that day. Gates was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions but Seijo doesn’t believe that’s enough — he feels Gates should be awarded the Soldier’s Medal or higher and hopes locating the other wounded Soldiers will help.
Seijo asked Gates to send him a detailed letter of the events of Oct. 5.
Reading the transcript was a “wake-up call,” Seijo said.
The platoon, with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry (Airborne), 101st Airborne Division, had come across a village on top of a small hill and sent squads to search it. As the troops neared, NVA soldiers opened fire, hitting the point man and several others, including Seijo. Gates went into action, first heading to treat and evacuate the point man and then heading over to Seijo. The medic bandaged him, gave him a shot of morphine and then went in search of the next wounded Soldier, an M60 gunner. Before Gates could treat him, rounds exploded around them, injuring the medic and killing the gunner.
Gates returned to Seijo and carried him through knee-deep mud under heavy fire to where the rest of the platoon had set up a defensive perimeter.
Gates treated the wounded until a MEDEVAC arrived.
Fearing the helicopter would be too heavy with him aboard, Gates stayed behind as the rest of the wounded were evacuated. It was the last time he saw Seijo.
It was only by chance Gates saw Seijo’s name in a veteran’s publication last year seeking information about his past in Vietnam. The two reconnected and talk regularly now.
“There are a lot of people who try to forget Vietnam and for others it stays with them until they find some answers,” Seijo said. “I believe I’m alive because of Ken — he was a young man who did a remarkable job with what Uncle Sam gave him.”