THIS GIANT LEFT HIS FOOTPRINT IN A FAR OFF LAND A GENERATION AGO
It was a lifetime ago, November 11, 1967. LZ (landing zone) X-ray. Your unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your Commanding Officer has ordered MedEvac helicopters to stand down.
You were 19, wounded and dying in somewhere in the jungled Central Highlands of Viet Nam .
Huddled on the jungle floor, listening to enemy machine guns shred the air, you know this is going to be the end.
Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and will never know what really happened.
The world starts blur as you bleed into the foreign soil, in that far away land, and know this is your last day, last hour…perhaps last minutes..
Over the machine gun fire – you faintly hear that throbbing sound of a helicopter….whup…whup..whup…whup.
The noise grows into an overwhelming sound that deadens the crack of enemy machine guns.
A shadow moves across the sky. You look up to see a Huey coming in. It has no MedEvac markings. The downdraft from its rotors kicking up a tempest.
Captain Ed Freeman is coming for you. He’s not MedEvac: It’s not his job.. but he heard the radio call and decided to fly his Huey down into the inferno that’s your world..
Freeman’s helicopter flares and settles roughly into the middle of the position, as enemy fire increases, in an attempt to kill the chopper. Shouts in a foreign language can be heard as the distinctive sound of AK-47s and Russian heavy machine guns penetrates your shrinking world.
Freeman looks down as your sweat-soaked friends load injured buddies, three at a time. Others continue firing towards the pressing enemy. Gunfire nibbles at the Huey.
Against all odds, Freeman lifts off, up and out through the gunfire to the doctors, nurses and safety.
And, he returned 13 times!!
That is truly cool bravery, under the very worst conditions. This is not some, heat of the moment situation, in which a guy falls on a hand grenade. This is an ongoing commitment that saw Ed Freeman return, time, and time again, when he could have stopped and walked away after one very brave rescue.
With his last flight, people realized that Ed Freeman had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.
He took 29 of our buddies out that day. They would not have lived without Captain Freeman and his Huey. They would not have lived their lives. They would not have had children and their childrens’ children.
The pool of those who owe Ed Freeman the debt of life has been an ever-expanding pool over the years, and will go on into future generations. Many will not know who they owe their birth, and life to…. Ed Freeman and his act of bravery so long ago in a far off land in a futile war..
But some of us will remember our friend and what he did so long ago..
I am reminded of the last stanza in “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” honoring the memory of those who fought at Gallipoli in World War One.
And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me
And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong
Who’ll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Those who were saved on that day, will remember Ed Freeman.
And those of us who have, on occasion, experienced the disconnected reality of flying into and out of dangerous situations, never realizing the true threats, only thinking of the mission…will remember, with true pride – having known and shared the same airspace with Ed Freeman…a giant among giants.