BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - "It was like watching Huntley Brinkley live," is how Pat Cosper of Biloxi describes his first hours in Vietnam.
Pat was recently featured on our Project Homefront segment. The 61-year-old served as a medic in Vietnam in 1969.
"I am thinking, this is real, this is actually happening. It was almost like a dream-like state for a while," he told us during our interview at his Biloxi home.
As a medic, it was his job to treat the wounded and try to save lives. Sometimes, the men were so badly hurt, there was nothing he could do.
"When they start bleeding and screaming and hollering for their mother, when you hear that last breath come out of them. When you put them in a body bag and put them on a helicopter, believe me the war becomes real to you real fast," Cosper said.
Among his many memories of those times is what happened one June evening in 1969. His base was overrun by the enemy. A dozen men would die that night.
"The next morning, we had all those body bags just lined up," he said. "All you could see under the tarp was their boots. That is all you could see and you knew those were 12 people who were going home in caskets."
After a year, Pat came home from Vietnam. He first stepped back on American soil at the airport in San Francisco. He and the other men were spat on and called baby killers. Pat could not help but think about the irony of what the protestors were doing.
"We are over there dying and bleeding, suffering and dying," he said. "We were fighting for your freedom to spit on us, and you will treat us like this?"
Pat has suffered for many years with PTSD. One of the ways he deals with it is through counseling sessions. He also does art work, depicting some of the graphic scenes he witnessed in Vietnam.
One is a drawing of a nude little baby, lying on top of his dead mother who had been killed by shrapnel. Cosper said the baby was screaming. Pat told his lieutenant that they had to help the baby, but he was told to leave it. He again insisted they could not do that, but was told they had no choice.
As they left, he could hear the wails of the little baby. In fact, to this day he said he is still haunted by those sounds he hears over and over again in his mind.
As to his service in Vietnam, Pat told us it was 40 years before anyone said 'thank you for your service.' It came this past fall, when he walked in the Veteran's parade in Biloxi. He said countless people kept yelling to him, thank you, thank you, thank you. His only word to describe that experience was "awesome."
For many, Vietnam is a long ago memory, but not for Pat Cosper. He said he will carry the memories of that war with him until the day he dies.
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