Photo from: Hispanics in the Defense of America
As the aircraft touched down and the pilot lowered
the collective, two Grunts crawled out of a bunker with the wounded Marine,
whose eyes and head were totally swathed with bandages. The Grunts
were still 80 feet from the helicopter when mortars impacted.
BLLAAAMM! BLLAAAMM! BLLAAAMM! BLLAAAMM!
The wounded Marine appeared confused and staggered around the crater as enemy fire whipped all around him.
Corporal Gomez yanked his electrical long-cord loose and ran out to help. He reached the wounded man and pushed him to the ground. As detailed in his subsequent Navy Cross citation, Gomez "selflessly used his own body to shield his comrade from the hostile fire impacting around them . . . ." He then encouraged another Grunt to help him, and together they carried the blinded Marine into the waiting H-46. With full topping power on the twin turbines, the helicopter jumped skyward for Charlie Med at Khe Sanh.
The above copied from:
Bonnie-Sue A Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam by Marion F. Sturkey, Heritage Press International 1996, p.433
AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY
(NARRATIVE PROVIDED BY ERNESTO "GOOIE" GOMEZ)
"About Hill 881. After I had the wounded Grunt, and thought the fire had somewhat subsided, I carried him towards my chopper. However, being at that altitude, and scared beyond belief, I quickly ran out of steam. My legs literally crumpled and I fell into a small crater, probably mortar made, and covered him again. I was right outside my chopper but completely exhausted. My gunner unhooked the intercom cords from his flight helmet and ran out to help us. He literally grabbed the wounded Marine, and with seemingly little effort, loaded him aboard the aircraft. What cover we had from the NVA gunner was actually the smoke from mortars they had fired into our position. My gunner was subsequently awarded the Silver Star for his actions. I know my guardian angel was at my side that day."
The pilot, LtCol. Mel Stein Commanding Officer of HMM-262, told me we had taken hits while in the zone. His exact words were, "Something big has hit us Gomez." I again unhooked and went outside to assess the damage. All the hits were right below the copilot's seat, a bad place to be damaged because of all the bell cranks, pulleys and cable controls. I asked LtCol. Stein to go into a hover to see how the controls felt. He declined saying, "I'm going to try to make it to Khe Sanh, we've gotta get out of here." We departed the zone with a "guns hot" clearance from LtCol. Stein.
When we arrived at Khe Sanh the damage was further assessed and a list of parts was prepared to facilitate the repairs. Two days later another crew chief, Cpl. Dennis Snider, and I changed two blades and a right engine actuator. Two pilots were "faxed" out to fly the bird back to Quang Tri.
One evening, while hiding in a hole at Khe Sanh, I ran into a Grunt named David Davila from New York city. David and I had been in Memphis together but he had dropped out of the aviation training program. We prayed together in that fighting hole. I remember being very cold and shivering, all I had was my flight suit without a T-shirt. I was only prepared for day flying. Then David gave me a big swig of hot coffee and he went back to his post at the perimeter.
Ernesto "Gooie" Gomez
Former Corporal USMC
For extraordinary heroism while serving with Marine
Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, in connection with operations against the
enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 25 January 1968, Corporal Gomez
was the Crew Chief aboard a CH-46 transport helicopter assigned an emergency
medical evacuation mission on Hill 881 near the Khe Sanh Combat Base.
The pilot proceeded to the designated area and landed in the zone as two
Marines began leading a casualty, whose head and eyes were covered with
bandages, toward the helicopter. When the entire landing zone was
subjected to intense enemy fire, the two men were forced to drop to the
ground. Observing the blindfolded casualty attempting to reach the
aircraft unassisted, Corporal Gomez Gomez unhesitatingly left the helicopter
and rushed across the 25 meters of fire-swept terrain to the side of the
injured man. Quickly pulling the Marine to the ground, he selflessly
used his own body to shield his comrade from the hostile fire impacting
around them, and as the enemy fire continued, he took cover with the casualty
in a nearby rocket crater. Corporal Gomez remained in this exposed
area until another crew member rushed to his assistance. Then the
two Marines, protecting their wounded comrade from further injury, carried
him to the helicopter. The pilot was quickly informed that the injured
Marine was aboard, and the aircraft lifted from the hazardous area for
the medical facility at Khe Sanh. Corporal Gomez's heroic actions
were instrumental in saving his companion's life and inspired all who observed
him. By his courage, selfless concern for the safety of his fellow
Marine, and unswerving devotion to duty at great personal risk, he upheld
the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval
The photograph below, from "Leatherneck" Magazine of
June 1968, submitted by:
James King, former Cpl. USMC
Cpl. Ernesto "Gooie" Gomez's History Index