This US Army Medic Continued to Help the Wounded on the Battlefield Amid Flying Bullets Despite Being Badly Injured

Yana Bostongirl
ArmyPhoto byRyan HoffmanonUnsplash

Lawrence Joel was born on Feb. 22, 1928, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and enlisted in the army following his graduation from high school. He decided to become an Army medic because he believed that it suited his peaceful personality and aligned with his desire to help others.

When the Vietnam War broke out, he was sent to Vietnam as part of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Armed with nothing but a medical aid bag filled with bandages, morphine, and life-saving plasma, Joel made his into battle with an infantry company.

What awaited the troops who were dropped off by helicopters near a Viet Cong stronghold was a massacre.

In the epic 24-hour battle that ensued, nearly all the men were either injured or killed from the relentless hail of bullets that the Viet Cong unleashed upon them. However, that did not deter Joel from trying to help as many wounded soldiers as he could as this excerpt explains: "Ignoring enemy fire, Joel rushed forward to reach the wounded and dead. As he darted from man to man, a machine-gun bullet struck him in the right leg. He paused long enough to rip open his pants, stuff a bandage into the wound and administer morphine to himself."

Despite being injured, Joel went right back to administering first aid and offering comfort to his wounded comrades.

What happened next is a testament to his bravery: "Finding a man who needed blood, Joel knelt in full view of the enemy to hold the bottle high enough to administer life-saving plasma amid a hail of bullets. Joel saw one soldier with a chest wound bubbling out his last ounces of blood. He pressed a plastic bandage bag over it hoping to congeal the blood—and silently praying for a miracle. The soldier survived."

Joel took another bullet, this time to his right thigh, and even then he refused to stop and head back for treatment. He continued with his ministrations throughout the day and night until he finally collapsed.

By the end of the firefight, 400 Viet Cong and nearly 50 Americans died on the battlefield.

On March 9, 1967, President Lyndon B Johnson presented Joel with the Medal of Honor for his courageous and selfless actions on the battlefield. Joel Lawrence became the first living Black American to receive the award in combat since the 1898 Spanish-American War and the first medic to get it in Vietnam

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