Bring Our Baby Home

Bring Our Baby Home

by Leon Rodriguez


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"This is a powerful story that must be shared. It is about Hero's, the best of human deeds, of caring, and unwavering morality despite destruction and chaos. Above all, this story is a story of humanity and grit that shows what heroism is about."
Linda Quan, M.D.
Bellevue, WA

"A riveting, true story, told by a former U.S. Army Medic Sergeant (a scrounging-Houdini) about a brilliant young military surgical team that saved hundreds of American troops' lives before, during and after the blood-ridden 1968 TET Offensive; as well as that of a newborn Montagnard girl, who returned to the U.S. with that war weary sergeant to live a free, full, productive life as his daughter, and to become an American citizen."
Sgt. James C. Hudson
Kelseyville, CA
Reporter-Photographer, Green Beret Magazine, 5th Special Forces Group, RVN 1969-70

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781477263211
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 09/06/2012
Pages: 122
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)

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MY MEMOIRS OF THE VIETNAM WAR First Tour, June 1967 thru June 1968
By Leon Rodriguez


Copyright © 2012 Leon Rodriguez
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4772-6321-1

Chapter One


26 September 1967 @ 2000 hrs.

The Viet Cong (V.C.) are working an area north of Bien Hoa searching the small hamlets around the rice paddies for suspected Republic of South Vietnam and American sympathizers and supporters. The V.C. happened upon a tiny village and began threats and interrogation. The villagers are very poor and their living conditions are more basic than you can imagine. These people do not care who is in charge of Vietnam, all these primitive souls want is to be left alone in peace. Unfortunately for the villagers the Soldiers of The Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was right behind the Viet Cong and a firefight quickly erupted.

The V.C. not only fired at the ARVNs, but also upon the defenseless villagers. The ARVNs called in American Army Air Support and the U.S. Soldiers quickly arrived in UH-1 Helicopters (Huey Gunships) to support the ARVNs. The battle lasted only a few minutes as most of the V.C. were killed or ran away. There were no injuries to the U.S. Soldiers or the ARVNs, but several of the villagers were killed or wounded. One of the injured was a very pregnant woman who had sustained a gunshot to the abdomen. The U.S. medics administered immediate care and loaded the woman, her husband and young son onto the helicopter for transport to the 24th Evacuation Hospital for treatment. At the 24th Evacuation Hospital Emergency Room the injured lady was given more pain medication and another I.V. was started. She was moved quickly through x-ray & lab and had the usual pre-op care. She was taken into the Pre-op ward where she had to wait for the availability of an open operating room table and surgical crew. The 24th Evacuation Hospital is a very busy treatment facility and the policy is to treat all Americans before anyone else. The wounded lady got into surgery after 2200 hrs. (10 P.M). The 24th Evacuation Hospital had most surgical specialties, but did not have an OB/GYN specialist. The available General Surgeon assessed that before he could repair her bowels she must have a Caesarean section in able to have room to work. The C-section was quick and produced twin baby girls. The two babies are non-reactive to stimulus, are not breathing, are cold and blue. The Surgical Nurse placed the babies on a chux pad on a wheeled stainless steel utility cart to be bagged and sent to the mortuary. The surgeon closed the woman's uterus and began the job of finding the bullet perforations and removing the damaged intestines and doing an anastomosis (reconnecting the bowels) of the guts so that they would once again function in a normal fashion. Meanwhile, a surgical technician, Specialist Bill McGillivary, walked into the operating room area and thought he saw movement of one of the babies. McGilivary stopped and flipped the toe of the baby and it moved, so he flipped the toe of the other baby and it moved.

McGilvary said, "Hey Doc, I believe these babies are alive!"

The Surgeon replied, "Get them to the Recovery Room the nurses know what to do!"

McGillivary wheeled the babies into the Recovery Room and the Nurses began cleaning off the blood and Vernix Caseosa on the babies. They found two cardboard boxes and cut a white cotton blanket for padding in the boxes and to cover the babies. The Nurses covered the boxes with clear perforated food wrap and inserted an oxygen line into each box and they placed warm irrigation containers in the boxes to help warm the babies. The babies began moving and appeared to be breathing normally. The cardboard boxes were labeled Baby #1 and Baby #2. A little later the Nurses named the babies Sandy and Cindy. The Nurses definitely did not like the babies being labeled with numbers. The Mom was out of surgery at midnight and all settled in for a nights rest with the lady's husband and son sleeping under her bed and the two new babies at each side in their cardboard boxes.


27 September @ 0600

I left the Senior NCO (non-commissioned officer) tent (the hootch where I slept) and walked through the lightly falling rain over to the complex of Quonset huts which is the 24th Evacuation Hospital. I walked into the central surgical Quonset hut and my night shift NCO in charge, Sergeant Trimble, warmly greeted me and said there is no major breakdown of equipment and everything is going smoothly.

Sergeant Trimble has a large smile as he said, "Sergeant Rod, we had a little productive surgery last night! We delivered twin baby girls!"

I said, "That is a good thing!"

I went about my duties and later found myself just as curious as the rest of the Operating Room Staff in needing to see the newborn babies. I went into the Quonset hut that housed the I.C.U/Pre-op/Post-op Recovery area. Captain Virginia Devine is the Nurse in charge. You may have heard the expression, "Good looking gals are good," yes, Virginia Devine is a very beautiful woman and also a professional highly competent U.S. Army Nurse.

Captain Devine smiled and said, "So even the hard core NCO is curious?"

I said, "Captain Devine, may I have a look see?"

She said, "Of course, maybe someday you will be a daddy."

I passed the many beds filled with injured Soldiers, Marines, ARVNs, Civilians, even some V.C. Then I saw the Vietnamese mom, her baby girls on each side in cardboard boxes and her husband and young son under her bed. The mom got my complete attention; her eyes were sooo big and wide open. I didn't know if it was pain, fear, astonishment, wonder or just 'what the hell is going on.' This woman who had never been inside a real building, never known electricity, air-conditioning, beds, sheets, pillows, or had never had medical attention with all of the gadgets. Then I looked at the babies. My Goodness, they are so very small as they lay covered with their white cotton blankets in cardboard boxes labeled #1 Sandy and #2 Cindy. My mind is a little clouded as I think of these two precious babies and how innocent they are and all caught up in this ugly war. I looked at the Dad, I don't believe he ever visited a barber, he had small clumps of long facial hair, his teeth (what few he had) were dark brown and broken. He looked to be less than five feet tall, but his feet are huge. I'm sure he has never worn shoes in his life; the soles of his feet are calloused at least 1/2 an inch. His hands are scarred and work worn. He wore only a dirty white thong and a tee shirt one of the corpsmen had given him. The little boy was said to be six years old, but looked more like a small four year old. He wore filthy red shorts.

Later that evening, I thought about what Captain Devine had said, "Maybe someday you will be a daddy."

In Vietnam, most of us communicated with our wives or loved ones with the miniature audio cassettes. I got a cassette off tonight to my wife telling her about the unusual occurrence of the birth of twin baby girls in our surgery. My wife, Else, and I have been married for over four years. No baby. We really wanted a child. My wife had seen the doctor to make sure we could have kids. The doctor said just relax, the kids will come. Else went as far as taking prescribed pills to prevent pregnancy as it was believed that when stopping the pill she would be more fertile and susceptible to pregnancy.

"Oh well, what kind of dad would a career soldier be."


28 September 1967

I began my usual routine and met with Sergeant Trimble. His face had the expression of sadness.

I said, "Sergeant Trimble, what is the problem?"

Sergeant Trimble replied, "Baby #1, Sandy, has died."

The entire O.R. Staff, Pre-op, Post-op folks are all deeply saddened with the loss of this innocent baby.


2 October 1967

The Vietnamese mom had recovered quite nicely and was scheduled to be discharged from our hospital. Arrangements had been made for the family to go to a tent city just outside of Saigon that held refugees and displaced persons. That is when the shit hit the fan. The mom refused to take Baby #2.

The mom got very emotional, the translator told our hospital Staff and Administrators that the mom said, "If one baby dies, then the other baby should die also."

The mom screamed, cried and carried on until the Vietnamese authorities asked if the baby could stay for a while until arrangements could be made with an orphanage. The translator explained that these are Montagnard people and they are a very superstitious tribe. The 24th Evacuation Hospital Administrator reluctantly agreed. Before the mom left she named the baby Nguyen Thi Mein.

Captain Devine and her Staff are elated that Baby #2 will stay with them. Captain Devine knows full well that Baby #2 would die if she left our hospital. A very premature baby needs careful care, oxygen, cleanliness, proper nourishment, nursing and love.


9 October 1967

Good news. Today Hanoi announced that it would observe a seven day truce from 27 January to 3 February 1968 in honor of the TET Holiday. Such truces had been honored in the past—The North Vietnamese usually used the truce period (which meant a short halt in U.S. bombing as well) to re-supply, and the South Vietnamese used truces to allow many of its troops to take a short leave.

Baby #2 is doing well. Care packages arrive frequently with baby clothes, baby powder, baby shampoo, diapers and similac. The Hospital Carpenters have made a crib for Baby #2. Baby #2 is a celebrity patient, in fact all the 24th Evacuation Hospital Staff loves this tiny infant.

I must give you a visual of what Baby #2's home looks like. The Quonset huts are long rectangular buildings. As you walk into the main entrance on the right are a dozen beds that are for the I.C.U. Patients, as you continue along to the right is a plywood tunnel that leads into x-ray & lab. Across the tunnel to the right are a dozen beds for the Pre-op Patients. At the end of the hut is a door that leads outside where the litters are kept for carrying off the dead to the mortuary after the bodies have been bagged and tagged. Walking back to the front of the hut are where the, all too frequently, inoperable comatose dying Patients lay, (usually most of their heads are blown off) they are in fact dead but their young hearts continue to beat. Continuing on is another plywood tunnel that leads into the Operating Room Area. Then moving on is the Nursing Station with Baby #2 nearby in a crudely constructed crib. Continuing toward the front door are a dozen more beds for the Post-op Recovery Patients.

There are no words that can adequately thank and compliment the I.C.U./Pre-op/Post-op Recovery Staff of the 24th Evacuation Hospital for their outstanding care given to our injured servicemen during their critical time of need.


11 November 1967

More of the same old, same old. The war is getting worse and the causality count is greater every day. The only bright light is that Baby #2 is growing like a weed and is so full of smiles. With the number of injured greatly increasing the Operating Room Staff are working their butts off and not complaining. There is a little grumbling from a couple of surgeons, but that does not affect their job performance. The surgeons put in more hours of duty than one can imagine.

I must mention that the weather has changed from the rainy monsoon season to the very hot dry season. The red dust is everywhere.

Dear reader, I feel that I must share with you a little more of Baby #2's home.

Our unit's designation is:

The U.S. Army 24th Evacuation Hospital, located in Long Binh, South Vietnam.

Our Patients are comprised of:

U.S. Army

U.S. Marines

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Navy

Army of the Republic of Vietnam

Republic of Korea (ROK) Tiger Division

Royal Thai Army

Australian Servicemen

Vietnamese Civilians



North Vietnam Army

Viet Cong (V.C.)

American Civilians: U.S. Government Employees, Air America, Red Cross workers

Other Foreign Civilians

U.S. Contract Workers: Vinell Power, PA&E, RMKBRJ

The following is the list of surgical specialties of the 24th Evacuation


Neuro Surgery

Thoracic Surgery

Vascular Surgery

Orthopedic Surgery

Genitourinary Surgery

Maxillofacial Surgery

Plastic Surgery

General Surgery

The Neuro Surgeons do mostly craniotomies for injuries caused by high velocity trauma (Claymore mines, bullets and shrapnel) and low velocity trauma (bulky objects to the head, spent rounds, blunt trauma to the head). This is a sad case study of kinetic energy. The Orthopedic Surgeons keep busy with an incredible array of fractured bone injuries caused by about anything you can imagine. The Vascular Surgeons keep busy trying to save hands, feet, arms and legs by doing vascular reconstruction. The General Surgeons are busy with abdominal trauma, soft tissue wounds, delayed primary closures, tumors, appendectomies, goring's (water buffalos) and multiple fragment wounds. The Eye Surgeons do enucleations (removal of eye), cataracts and removal of foreign bodies in the eye. Plastic Surgeons do plastic repairs of the face and revisions of scars and cleft palate reconstructions. The Genitourinary Surgeons do nephrectomies (removal of kidney), repair ureters and bladder injuries. The Maxillofacial Surgeons are part of the WRAIR team (Walter Reed Army Institute of Research). This group has the latest in facial reconstruction and repair tools. In fact they have a complete ASIF kit made by the Swiss. This kit contains mini templates, screws, plates, taps, drills, and bending rods designed for facial injuries. The 24th Evacuation Hospital with specialists from Walter Reed Research Team is the first American hospital to use these tools.

Our Operating Rooms actually ran a schedule. For the most part there are few battle causalities in the morning (except for head injuries which there are so many that the Neuro Surgeons operate almost 24/7 as the 24th Evacuation Hospital is the Neuro Surgery Center). The schedule is made up of; delayed primary closures (wounds that cannot be closed at the initial time of surgery usually because of high risk of infection), cases referred from MEDCAP (Medical Civil Action Program) such as cleft palate reconstruction, cataracts, tumors and scar revisions.

Late in the afternoon, evening and late night we receive most battle casualties. Early morning and mid-morning we could usually catch up with the back-log.


20 November 1967

This is the beginning of difficult times for me in maintaining special supply needs for surgery. Many items required for surgery are not in the U.S. Army Medical Supply Catalog. Examples:

Fogarty embolectomy catheters, which are used to draw out old blood clots that are lodged in the injured arteries, a real must to save a limb (the blood clots are caused from prolonged use of tourniquet).

Vascular forceps, vascular scissors, vessel loops, which are used for arterial and venous reconstruction.

Malleable suction/cautery tips, which is the main tool used by Neuro Surgeons to clear a surgical field and cauterize small vessels.

The list goes on and the 24th Evacuation Hospital Supply Officer tells me, "If the Army wanted you to have these items they would be in the Medical Supply Catalog."

As an NCO in charge of Operating Rooms since 1959 I am an expert on ordering standard or non-standard medical supplies. I know what I am talking about. My job is not to argue with this clown and the Surgeons cannot operate with my excuses. So, I write to NCO's around the world in U.S. Army Hospitals and ask for their help. I received supplies from The 106th General Hospital in Japan, from Letterman Army Hospital, from Fitzsimons Army Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital. Also, I contacted my friends in country, the 93rd Evacuation Hospital, the 3rd Field Hospital, the 12th Evacuation Hospital. We got many of the special items we need to care for our Patients. I remember a note attached from a package from SFC David Bustos saying "Nothing but the best for troops in Vietnam." SFC Herb Null the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi, Vietnam sent needed supplies. Herb Null was my best man when I got married on 25 October 1963 in Ludwigsburg, Germany.


26 November 1967

Our MEDCAP Program focus is in and around the Bien Hoa Province. We set up a tent and exam tables. The locals are lined up and waiting for us to check out their medical problems. We go with several Doctors, Nurses and Corpsmen. We see toddlers that are totally emaciated, but have huge bloated stomachs filled with worms, we have many children with cleft palates, we have many Patients with cataracts from the age of eighteen months to eighty-five years old. After the cataract patients have their surgery our Optometrist fits them with two pair of glasses provided by The Lions Clubs of America. We schedule Patients for removal of tumors and scar revisions. For these people we get to care for it is like a miracle.


Excerpted from BRING OUR BABY HOME by Leon Rodriguez Copyright © 2012 by Leon Rodriguez. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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