Kerry “Doc” Pardue
BENNY DALE CASH – MY FIRST CASUALTY
I don’t know how anyone else felt, but for me, when I found out I was going to Vietnam my biggest concern, outside my own survival, was could I do the job set before me. Would I be good enough? Did I have what it took to save lives? Would I be able to handle being under live fire? How would I handle death and dying? It didn’t take me long to find out the answers to those questions.
I arrived in Vietnam on March 23rd and my first ambush patrol was on the evening of March 26th. The medics were assigned to go out on patrol with the security teams on a nightly basis. I was given a medical aid bag, morphine, a 45 caliber pistol, an M-16, with ten magazines of ammo, 2 canteens, and a poncho. At 2300 hrs we left Camp Holloway and walked out about four clicks to set up an ambush for Viet Cong. There were 12 of us on this patrol. Thank goodness it wasn’t hot – about 70 degrees on a pitch black night. We were about 1/4 of a mile away from an ARVN base camp. All of a sudden all hell broke loose.
The ARVN’s had mistaken us for Viet Cong and opened up on us with M-60 machine guns and M-16s. As soon as we were being shot at the guy next to me pushed me down. He placed himself where I was just standing; in doing so, he took a gunshot wound to his right side. (He took the round with my name on it). I heard him scream out I’m hit I’m hit. I heard the Platoon Sergeant yell out not to shoot back. He and others started yelling, “We are GI’s” over and over.
In the mean time, I have crawled over to the guy who got shot and immediately started to put a field dressing on his wound. I got my and his flashlight on trying to see and bullets are hitting all around me. I turn him over and look for an exit wound and can’t find one. He is awake the whole time and every time I move him he screams out in pain. In about 2 minutes the firing stops and they call for transportation to come get us. Thankfully, he was the only one who got shot.
I am brand new and don’t know how to call dust-off. They sent out a deuce-and-a-half. Meanwhile I put together two ponchs and get four guys to help me place him on it and carry him to the road and load him unto the back of the truck. I sit with my back to the wall of the truck and place him against me trying to cushion him from the bumps. He keeps asking me if he is going to die and I tell him no that he will be at the doctor soon. He tells me about his wife and his family and I reassure him that he is going to be okay. I remember praying to myself “please God let him be okay”.
We got to the aid station and they placed him on an IV and treat him for shock. He went into surgery. I visited him twice at the hospital and 28 days later he dies from liver failure. His death has always had a profound impact on me. The week he died I got sent to Ban Me Thouc.
©Copyright May 2004 by Kerry “Doc” Pardue
PFC – E3 – Army – Selective Service
1st AVN BDE
20 year old Married, Caucasian, Male
Born on Sep 13, 1947
From ASHVILLE, ALABAMA
His tour of duty began on Jan 19, 1968
Casualty was on Apr 30, 1968 in PLEIKU, SOUTH VIETNAM
Hostile, died of wounds
Body was recovered
Panel 53E – Line 10
Author’s Note: About six months after I got out of the Army I began to have a lot of dreams and flashbacks to that night and others like this one. I found out Benny’s address and wrote his parents but I never heard back from them. So this year I got a hold of his sisters and brother and talked with them about Benny. I have visited the Wall six times to say good-bye to 12 guys. But his name is always the first name I find and touch.
I made a decision to speak with Benny’s family about him. I thought that they needed to know what happened to him from one of the last people to see him alive; and, I guess too, for me to get some closure about him. Below are the comments on the WALL and emails.
Kerry Pardue (message left at www.thewall-usa.com)
Fresno, CA 33 years ago tomorrow night
Hello, my friend, I am so glad that I am able to write you like this. I finally kept the promise I made to myself and got in touch with your family. You can sure tell that they love you and miss you, and really look up to you. They seem very nice Benny. I spoke a long time with your sister Annette and your brother Don. I didn’t get to speak with your sister Loretta but I will or to your best friend Bobby Clark or your wife. I did speak with your niece Debbie; she was very kind to me. I sure wish I had done this sooner so that I could have talked to your Dad and Mom. You are not forgotten at all and they are SO PROUD of you. I am thankful to you for pushing me down. I’ve missed telling you thank you for that before you died.
THANKS MY BROTHER: I LOVE YOU.
Sunday, April 29, 2001 (message left at www.thewall-usa.com)
Hello good friend.
We finally meet again. I have missed you my friend. Not much has change here in Ashville. Things have gotten bigger and more confusing. I go to your grave site occasionally to say hi. I spent some time looking for you in Viet Nam but when I found you it was too late. I was waiting for my orders to return to the States. I wanted to warn you about Charlie. You know now he has many faces. I was wounded three times myself, but I beat Charlie. I made it home. Sometimes I wonder if I beat him or not. The only winners of that war were the people selling ammo and caskets. I received a message from your friend the “Doc”. This is how I found you. He tried to take care of you but someone needed you more than we did. I will stay in touch now that I have found you again. I love you and miss you my BROTHER.
From: (email address supplied)
To: (email address supplied)
Subject: Benny Dale Cash’s Niece
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2001 23:23:25 EDT
Thank you for contacting my mother, Annette, this evening by phone. I was thankful that I happened to be there on a visit. We were also thankful to talk to you and we wished that we could have talked to you before now. It was a surprise moment to hear from someone who knew Dale from Viet Nam. Tomorrow (April 30) will mark the anniversary of his death.
As I mentioned on the phone, I was 9 years old when my Uncle Dale was shot and killed. I have very vivid memories of that time. I am the oldest of the grandchildren of his parents’ lineage and I am his only niece. In 1968, his nephews were all younger than me or had not been born yet. So, I am able to share a lot of Dale’s memories with my mother and her siblings. My grandparents had a difficult time for the rest of their lives with the acceptance of losing their youngest son in Viet Nam. My grandfather died in 1981 and my grandmother died in 1994. They are both buried beside Dale.
To help keep my uncle’s memory alive, I wrote an article in a genealogy book about his life. The name of the book is The Heritage of St. Clair County, Alabama. I used the information that was given to the family about his time in Viet Nam. I will gladly send you a copy of the article if you are interested in it.
Please feel free to share any more memories of Dale with me. Even though Benny was his first name, he was Uncle Dale to me.
Again, thank you for calling my mother.
Take care and keep in touch.
From: (email address supplied)
To: (email address supplied)
Subject: Re: Benny Dale Cash’s Niece
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2001 21:12:20 –07
Thank you for your kind words. I just wish that there was some way we never had to go through this part of our lives. Each year Dale’s date of his death has always been hard for me. Of course, I know that his family suffered a lot more than I did, in particular his mom and dad. I wrote his mom once but I don’t know if she ever got the letter she never wrote back. Hopefully, we will all understand the sacrifices that families made to their Country. I am very proud to have served with your Uncle Dale and we are free nation because of his service. He will never be forgotten because he is a part of my heart and all that I am. He was a hero is every sense of the word. He reached out to push me down when the bullets started flying and because of him doing that I am alive today. God bless America and your family. My prayers will always be with you all.