By Jack Hackley
It was in Viet Nam, Quang Tri Province, May 16, 1968, that a 20-year-old Navy corpsman was assigned to a Marine Company that was ambushed.
A grenade was thrown into the group, severely injuring several Marines. The young corpsman picked up a rifle and shot the Viet Cong who threw the grenade. They were under heavy fire and another grenade landed in their midst. The young corpsman fell on it, knowing it would have killed several of his Marine comrades. The grenade did not explode. He got up, threw the grenade and it then exploded harmlessly. During his Viet Nam tour he was wounded eight times, treated five wounds himself, and received three Purple Hearts.
Two years later, while on leave waiting for his discharge from the Navy, his mother called him and said the Navy Commander kept calling, trying to get hold of him. He thought he had failed to turn something in, but when he called the number he was told President Nixon wanted to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Today, Colonel Don “Doc” Ballard owns Swan Lake Memorial Gardens north of Grain Valley, and I consider him a friend.
I was driving down I-70 listening to Sean Hannity, a talk show host similar to Rush Limbaugh. A caller said, “Sean, you are my hero.” Sean was her hero? I wanted to pull over to the side of the road and throw up. I think all Veterans would agree, if they had a hero, it would be one of the small fraternity of recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Ballard says it is harder to wear the medal than it was to earn it. And he has worn the medal with honor. He spends his time talking to students and organizations urging them to support our troops and to hold them in a higher esteem than some basketball or rock music star, and our students are responding to him. I can say with pride my hero is Colonel Don “Doc” Ballard.
Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075 or jack...@aol.com. Visit www.jackremembers.com