Veterans Day Service Reunites Two Vietnam Veterans;
Pilot Shot Down November 11, 1969, Rescued by Comrade
(Nov. 11, 2019) Two old soldiers were reunited on Veterans Day at Miramar National Cemetery. Vietnam veterans Dennis Schoville and Steve Brown are linked by a near tragedy that could have killed them both. The date: Nov. 11, 1969 – 50 years ago to the day.
When 1st Lt. Schoville, pilot of an Army scout helicopter, was shot down and severely wounded during combat over the U Minh Forest in the Mekong Delta, Pfc. Brown was door gunner of a support helo that rescued the wounded Schoville from the rice paddy where his aircraft had crashed.
Schoville was evacuated to a field hospital with a gunshot wound in his left leg, and a hole in his helmet from a bullet that nicked his scalp. His observer wasn’t wounded. Brown and the pilot of the support helo also were shot through their helmets, but didn’t require hospitalization. Some time later, however, Brown was wounded and evacuated from Vietnam.
In remarks during the Veterans Day service, Schoville – now chairman of the Miramar National Cemetery Support Foundation – said, “After 50 years of reflection, I still can’t reconcile as to why others died and I survived. But, I do know what allowed me and so many others to survive, and why our survival was possible.”
He credited three factors: the personnel he served with – “We fought for each other to survive, and would sacrifice ourselves if necessary.” The troops who went to extreme measures to rescue and medevac casualties. And, “…the doctors, but more importantly, the thousands of nurses (eight of whom were killed in Vietnam) who really took care of us…there is no higher calling than theirs.”
An emotional Schoville asked Brown to stand and be recognized. The audience of some 250 gave the pair a standing ovation.
This year’s Veterans Day service, the fourth sponsored by the Support Foundation, focused on Vietnam veterans. Charlie Inot, Vietnam veteran and Foundation President & CEO, reminded the audience “…of the sacrifices Vietnam Era veterans have made for our country. Some 2.7 million Americans, including 7,400 women most of whom were nurses, served in Vietnam during the ten-plus years of the country’s involvement.”
“Despite the social unrest and anti-war protests that shook the country during the war,” he said, “the great majority of Vietnam veterans – more than 90 percent – not only were proud to serve their country, three-quarters of them said they would serve again, even knowing the outcome.”
“Today, we Vietnam veterans are held in high esteem by our fellow citizens,” he said. “Almost every day, someone will say to us: ‘Thank you for your service!’ It was our privilege to serve our country, but 50 years on, it’s good to hear that we are still recognized and appreciated.”
Jared Howard, director of Fort Rosecrans and Miramar National Cemeteries, welcomed the audience on behalf of the Veterans Administration.
“Today, there are 19.6 million living veterans. Ordinary citizens who did extraordinary things,” he said. “They are our mothers, fathers, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our children and our neighbors. Collectively, these veterans made possible our nation’s values, specifically our freedom.”
Duane Norman of Ramona, an Air Force Reserve veteran and quadriplegic who was injured in an auto racing accident, was the featured speaker at the service. Speaking from his wheelchair, he reminded the audience that, “When those who served in Vietnam came home…they weren’t always received the way those who returned from World War II were received. I’m so thankful today that has changed, because, they deserve the same kind of respect that others received who served.
“This country has always been very, very good about standing up for our troops and giving them what they need when they need it,” he said. “The VA healthcare system is amazing. I look forward to the day when Congress will work as hard to make sure the VA has what they need to service the people who have stood up for us. Much in the same way when we’re asking them to go to war.”
Inot closed the Veterans Day service by quoting an Old Testament passage from Isaiah, Chapter 6, Verse 8: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me.”
“When our country called,” he added, “each of you raised your hand and said, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ And for that, every day, we thank you for your service.”
By Bill Heard
Support Foundation PIO