Vietnam Veterans Respect Today's Medical Soldiers
September 28, 2007
SFC Dennis Collett, medic, and LTC Anthony Pasqualone, nurse practitioner, are veterans of the Vietnam War now serving with the 399th Combat Support Hospital. Both work in the intermediate care ward of the Multi-National Forces Hospital in Al Asad, Iraq.
"Today we have a volunteer service and we get a much higher educated and more dedicated Soldier. In Vietnam, we had Soldiers who did not want to be there; they were drafted. It was extremely difficult to deal with those Soldiers. Today its much better," said Pasqualone.
"Enlisted Soldiers now in the hospital are most eager to learn. They are like sponges that soak up everything that you teach them," he added.
"I am totally amazed about what Soldiers today do to save lives. From the command down I feel that the 399th is committed to saving lives. Life is a priority in this unit," said Collett.
Collett began his Army career more than 30 years ago. He served in the supply field as a specialist four in Plei Ku, located in the central highlands of Vietnam. His primary duties were to issue supplies, serve on the quick reactionary force and conduct sector patrols about 14 to 15 kilometers from his base camp.
After he returned from Vietnam, he had a 10-year break in service.
"I came back to the Reserves because I felt something was missing, we didn't have a good welcome home, and I felt some anxiety after returning from Vietnam," said Collett.
Collett trained to be an Army medic in 1981 and served during the first Gulf War with the 343rd Ambulance Company.
"The medic training was good back then, but we have much better equipment today," said Collett.
Collett feels that the biggest improvement resulting in such a high percentage of lives being saved on the battlefield today compared to Vietnam is the addition of the Combat Lifesaver Course into a Soldier's training curriculum.
"The medic doesn't have to do it all," he said.
Pasqualone entered the Navy in 1969 after receiving an associate degree in civil engineering.
"The Navy needed Seabees to work various projects to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. I volunteered," said Pasqualone.
Pasqualone served as a civil engineering technician on the humanitarian team. His base camp was located in the village of Go-Cong, which was a small village 35 miles south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta.
"The villagers were wonderful people. It was a pleasure working with them and helping them," said Pasqualone. Some of the projects the Seabees built were schools, roads, maternity wards and warehouses for the villagers' rice.
"Homecoming was very difficult for me and other Vietnam veterans. Anyone who came back in uniform was frowned upon, spat on and even called baby killers," he said.
Pasqualone today is responsible for the hospital's orthopedic clinic and also works in the sick-call area.
In 1972, Pasqualone joined the Army National Guard and entered the medical field as part of a medical detachment with the engineers. He became a licensed practical nurse in 1975, a registered nurse in 1978, and received his commission in 1981.
During the first Gulf War, Pasqualone served in Mainz, Germany, as backfill to an active duty unit which deployed to Southwest Asia.
"I have been with the 399th CSH for 16 total years. I served with them from 1985 to 1999, and then transferred to the National Army Medical Department Augmentee Detachment. In 2002, I volunteered to deploy with them to Kuwait before the war started for a six-month deployment. Then a week before this deployment, the chief nurse asked me to volunteer for this deployment. I couldn't say no," said Pasqualone.
<i>From the September 2007 Mercury, an Army Medical Department publication.</i>