By the end of a ferocious battle in 1970, Army Special Forces medic Gary Michael Rose was down to “bandanas and shirtsleeves” for bandages.
Then-Sgt. Rose, who goes by Mike, was part of a small group of American commandos and local tribesmen on a covert mission in Laos during the Vietnam War. They were supposed to try to disrupt the North Vietnamese, who were funneling weapons on the Ho Chi Minh trail, a major supply route that networked throughout the country. The mission was covert because Laos was neutral during the war and there weren’t supposed to be any U.S. combat troops on the ground in Laos. It was called Operation Tailwind.
The Americans, who were members of what was called the Studies and Operations Group (SOG), started taking fire even before their helicopters landed. That was the start of a four-day firefight that left all 16 Americans wounded, including Rose.
Rose worked constantly, despite his own serious wounds, including a hole in his foot big enough to slide his finger through.
“My job was to focus on the individuals that were hurt,” he said on Friday at the Pentagon. “When you focus in those kinds of circumstances, you don’t concern yourself about getting hurt or killed, because if you dwell on that or think about that, you’re not going to be able to focus on what you’re supposed to be doing, and you probably will get hurt or killed.”
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