KENNEWICK, Wash. - Retired Sergeant, Bob Johnson, spent 10 months in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 when he was wounded in combat and awarded the Purple Heart. Now, five decades later, he recalls it like it was just yesterday.
"As I was walking back down and weaving my way through the perimeter when a mortar round landed right behind me," Johnson said.
Retired Vietnam Veteran Bob Johnson was thrown toward a bunker on March 22nd, 1969.
"I noticed blood coming out of my shoulder and I knew that I had been hit at that time," he said.
A rescue helicopter was called in to pick up Johnson, only to be a mortars next target, while more ground troops were getting ambushed.
"Couple of guys were seriously wounded and so all I recall I was so high on morphine at that point that I was just floating in the clouds but the helicopter had just gone up and waited til they could get those guys stabilized and went back down and put my stretcher on the top rack and loaded their bodies underneath me," he said.
Johnson said he was taken to what you would think looked like the hospital from the TV show Mash, where he would be awarded a prestigious metal for his sacrifice in the most unprestigious way.
"2nd lieutenant I think was probably brand new to Vietnam, came wondering through the wards with a hand full of purple hearts and he came up to me and says, we really didn't have one for you but the guy that was suppose to get this died. So, here's your purple heart,"
Johnson suffered multiple shrapnel wounds and still to this day has fragments in his ankle and right shoulder. But it has taken him decades to come to terms with the Purple Heart.
"That purple heart had very little meaning to me at that point. It was just like extra change or something,"
Five decades later, Sergeant Johnson now sees the Purple Heart for more than just extra change.
Johnson said he now talks openly to help others through Point Man Ministries, a Christian outreach for vets by vets.
As Johnson said, we must not forget our freedom is never free.