Profiles in Courage: “He Was One Of Us”

Not sure if any of you caught this story last night on ABC News, but it was a good’un.

It is stories like this that as a historian and veteran, I absolutely love to learn about, mostly because you won’t find it in any official history books.

I did some digging and found this amazing article on Nguyen Hoang Minh and the SEAL’s he helped to save. As you read it this Memorial Day, say a little prayer for this humble little Vietnamese Man and his family…because of him so many American soldiers got to come home from that bloody War. What an Amazing and Noble legacy to have! -SF

“HE WAS ONE OF US”

Echoes from the Jungle

By Mike Hixenbaugh

July 26, 2015

Reporting from My Tho, Vietnam

The last time Rick Woolard left Vietnam, he didn’t think to say goodbye to the South Vietnamese interpreter who had guided his Navy SEAL platoon on dozens of hair-raising missions through enemy territory.

 “I figured I’d see him again on the next tour,” Woolard says.

But there was no next tour. After years of combat and hundreds of nighttime raids – missions that would help shape SEAL tactics for decades – the U.S. began pulling out of Vietnam in the early 1970s. The American public, it seemed, was ready to move on.

Woolard and his teammates moved on, too. Some left the service after the war, settled down, started families. Others, like Woolard, continued serving with the SEAL teams, through the Cold War and into the 1990s, helping shape a little-known special operations force into one of the most celebrated military units in history.

 “Relatively speaking, we’ve all lived pretty comfortable lives since the war,” says Woolard, who went on to become one of the first commanders of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Virginia Beach-based unit known as SEAL Team 6.

“We left Vietnam and got on with our lives,” Woolard says.

Nguyen Hoang Minh, the teammate they left behind, wasn’t as fortunate.

He had been so much more than an interpreter. Like the SEALs he worked for, Minh painted his face green and carried a gun on missions. He cussed and drank and chased women like one of the guys. At least once, his blood pooled on the floor of a rescue helicopter, mixing with the blood of his SEAL teammates.

“He was one of us,” Woolard says.

Only, he didn’t get to leave when the war ended.

Woolard and other SEALs were decorated with medals for their bravery; Minh was punished. He was arrested by North Vietnamese soldiers weeks after the South surrendered in 1975, then spent two years in a prison camp. In the decades that followed, he worked a series of back-breaking jobs, earning barely enough to feed his family.

Minh, a folk hero in early Navy SEAL lore, lived a peasant’s life.

In March, Woolard and Pete Peterson, another former SEAL, went back to Vietnam, returning for the first time to the communist country where they once fought.

They went to tell Minh they hadn’t forgotten about him.

Read the Remainder at Pilot Online

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