JACK W. SERIG, Sr.
"Rat Pack 16" 10/66-3/67
Why Didn't I Receive A Purple Heart Medal?
By Jack W. Serig, Sr.
Published in VHPA Newsletter, July/August 1999
I have esteemed regard for those who have earned the most sacred and prestigious Purple Heart.
This is just a humorous story that happened to me which may give you a laugh or two. It is not my intention to hurt anyone's feelings, especially those of you who earned the medal. If I have, I herein sincerely apologize.
In 1962, 1 flew Otters for the 18th Aviation Company the length and breadth of Vietnam. There was no armor protecting us except for our issue flak jackets.
There wasn't too much shooting going on as yet and the enemy's aim was particularly poor in the early war stage. But every so often ships landed with bullet holes the crew didn't usually know about until post-flight inspections.
I was able to purloin an extra flak jacket to sit on, thinking that protecting that part of the lower anatomy that lay between the flak vest and me was a high, personal wartime priority.
Fast forward to 1967. There was a lot more shooting going on and the enemy's aim had improved considerably. I was determined, again, with much more reverence than in 1962, to protect "My Boys", as Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer has humorously called "the family assets."
It wasn't long after my arrival that I "found" the extra flak jacket. Even though the Hueys had much improved armor plating, including the seats, I was determined to provide myself, and my spouse, with the extra protection.
My assignment was flight platoon commander, 281st Assault Helicopter Company. My platoon was split into four detachments, each supporting the Special Forces A camp commanders in each of the four corps.
My job was to hop on Army and Air Force aircraft to get to my split-up crews and provide some flying relief so they could get some rest. I always suggested that my crews purloin extra vests for the very same purpose I have explained, thereby doing my duty to provide the greatest protection I could for my troops. I never surveyed them to determine if what happened to me happened to them.
Now, as you can visualize, sitting on a flak vest in a fixed-wing provides an altogether different effect than sitting on one in a rotary-wing.
In the fixed-wing, your buttocks may slide a little bit back and forth as you decelerate and accelerate. This does not appear to provide any unpleasant problems, as proven by the year I flew the Otter while sitting on a vest. Fixedwing pilots who sat on extra jackets never complained of any problems to my recollection.
However, not so in a Huey helicopter. I flew hour after hour after hour, like so many of you, but I sat on my flak jacket with the knowledge that I gave my "Boys" the utmost extra protection that either the Army, or 1, could afford.
The problem with sitting on a flak vest in the Huey is that you get a perpendicular movement in relation to your direction of travel and my buttocks wasn't up to withstanding that circular motion, unlike that direct back and forth which the fixed-wing provides.
After many days strapped to Huey cockpits in one corps area or another, the friction from the metal in the vest, against my soft baby-skinned behind, caused, over time, a golf ball-sized boil to eventually form on each cheek, almost perfectly placed one to the other.
I stayed out at the detachments apparently longer than I should have and the boils became abscessed. My butt hurt!
As soon as I got back to Nha Trang, I went immediately to the 5th Special Forces Group surgeon. Now this is when I got hit.
He "shot" the surrounding area of each wound with a needle full of local anasthetic and, when that took effect, he lanced the affected areas. He grounded me for two weeks and issued me a regulation doughnut piilow for my seating comfort.
To this day, 32 years later, I still carry a rounded wound on each buttock. They look like repaired bulet holes' entry markings.
In summary, I have two wounds that occurred while I was in combat or combat support mode flying Hueys in support of the war effort. Even though, so they tell me, I'm not entitled to a Purple Heart, I can show my grandkids where I was "wounded" during the war.
Jack Serig, Sr.