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Introducing ... Vietnam vet Phil Hall


Sweet Owen Contributor

New Columbus native Phil Hall served in the U.S. Army from October 1970 until June 1972. During his service he served as a medical specialist during the Vietnam War, providing care and support for many of the sick and wounded troops.

From Owen County to Vietnam

“I served in Vietnam from 1971 to 1972,” Hall said. “We had 30 days leave before we were sent over. I came back home during that time and on to Vietnam.”

Despite his hope of becoming a combat engineer, Hall soon learned that the Army had other plans.

“After basic, I got orders to go to Fort Sam Houston in Texas. That’s where we went for Advanced Individual Training (ATI). I didn’t know what training was there, so I started asking around, and one of the sergeants said, ‘Medical training. They’re gonna make you a combat medic.’ I gave physicals to the new recruits coming in. I stayed there for a few months. I came in one morning, and my sergeant said, ‘Hall, come in here. I have orders for you. You’re going to Vietnam.’

“The first night I got over there, I heard mortars going in and out. I sat there and thought, ‘Where am I at? This is crazy!’ I was 10,000 miles from home and scared. You just can’t help but be scared. When I first got over there, I didn’t know the difference between (incoming and outgoing mortars). I just heard the explosions. This one boy that had been over there a while said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll learn the difference.’ When I ran the dispensary, it was in a valley, and at the top of the hill was the airport. When the B52 bombers would come in, the North Vietnamese would fire on the incoming planes. One of the boys told me, ‘You better get down.’ He was right. It didn’t take too long to learn the difference.”

They called us ‘Doc’

The duties of a medic were often more than just treating physical wounds. The medics at the hospital ensured that the strength of the troops was sustained. Many men suffered injuries resulting in amputation and severe burns from explosions. The pain that resulted from these injuries went deeper than just physical scars.

The medics were there for them, both physically and mentally. They comforted them during a time of turmoil, helped calm their fears of the unknown, and provided medical care and support during their time in both the field and the field hospital.

“I would always try to talk to the patients,” Hall said. “I would ask them where they were from, what happened, and basic conversation. The troops that were being treated would always call us ‘Doc.’ A lot of times, the medic was the only ‘doc’ they had, especially in the field.

“I went into Cam Ranh Bay until I received orders to go to Qui Nhon to the 67th evac hospital. There, I worked in the intensive care unit. We treated the troops and a lot of the South Vietnamese. I was there until December 1971 and received orders to transfer to go north to the 95th evac hospital in Da Nang.

“Before I went to the hospital, I ran a dispensary in Da Nang. The dispensary provided various medications to the troops for illness, pain, etc.”

The toil of the war, both mentally and physically, combined with the accessibility to addictive substances in the area during this time made addiction another challenge during the Vietnam War.

“As part of my duties in the dispensary, I helped care for those suffering from addiction. I would provide medical attention and dispense medication to help them through the process. It was such a bad situation. I did that for several months and was shipped to 95th.

“At the 95th, we saw many wounded. One night there was a compound hit about two miles from Da Nang. There were about 14 troops that were critically wounded or killed. One of the boys came in and he had lost his leg because of the attack. They came in on us before we knew what was going on. I ran into the bunker, and I thought my buddy was behind me, so I yelled for him to follow me, but it was the enemy, and instead, they threw a grenade toward me. I tried to kick it away, and that’s when it exploded. The North was a much harder area. It was a wake-up call for me being there and a harrowing experience. As a medic, we saw the aftermath of war. There were those that sustained life-altering injuries, and there were those whose injuries resulted in a life taken too soon.”

Coming home

“I was at the 95th when I was discharged. No fanfare, they just gave me my discharge papers. We flew back to Oakland, California, before coming home.”

Many soldiers returning from Vietnam did not receive a warm welcome home after serving during the war.

“We didn’t choose to go over there; we were doing what we were told,” Hall said. “Did they think that the almost 60,000 people whose names are on that wall would have wanted to die in that godforsaken place? I was fortunate to come home to the people in Owen County; they were friendly and just glad to see us come back home. I am glad that today, veterans receive thanks. I can wear my hat now, and kids will come up to me and thank me for my service.”

When Hall returned home, he began working for his uncle as a bricklayer and married his sweetheart, Vanessa Osborne, in 1973.

For his service in the Army, Hall received several commendations, including the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal.

Every service member has their own personal story and for most, it seems like a distant life, but at the same time, it feels like it was just yesterday.

“Taking care of the wounded and taking care of those that had lost their lives was hard. It’s something you don’t forget. Fifty-two years later, I still think about it. There were some bad things that happened over there. This boy that came from Owen County was not used to looking at nothing like that, but you really didn’t have a choice.”


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