With 10 weeks of Combat Medic Training under his belt 19-year-old Marc Folden of Venice flew into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam aboard a commercial jet in April 1968 and joined the 1st Cavalry Division, the largest Army unit in the field, in the A Shau Valley as a combat medic with Aco-Company, 5th Battalion, 7th Regiment.
The valley was a North Vietnamese Army stronghold where scores of American troops were ground up by North Vietnam Army troops and Vietcong irregulars.
“My first two weeks in the 1st Cavalry Company took part in one-after-the-other search and destroy missions,” Folden recalled. “The NVA might shoot the first or the last person coming down the trail. We didn’t know. In the Valley we couldn’t see 10-feet in front of us.
“We went into a NVA bunker complex and our lieutenant got shot in the leg and hand and it blew off one of his fingers,” he said. “We had to carry him two or three hours. Our replacement lieutenant got shot in the chest the very next day.
“A good friend of mine was hit by shrapnel from an enemy hand-grenade. Another friend of mine, Don Fedenburg, and I went over the hill and rescued him. My buddy laid down fire on the enemy and dragged him to safety. I participated as the medic for for the platoon.
“A short time later another guy in our platoon got a wound in the back of the head and was in really bad shape. Don and I went out and got him. We got a rescue helicopter to fly in and send down an extractor that pulled him out of the jungle to safety.
“That same day, July 3, 1968, another guy in our squad was killed.
“For his rescue efforts of these two guys, Don received the Silver Star for heroism and I got my first Bronze Star with a V for Valor for keeping them both alive during the rescue.
“During the nine months I was first in Vietnam I never went to a base camp to shower and get new clothes because we had no base camp. I never got a haircut during those months,” Folden recalled. “All that time we slept on the ground and had no tents. We fought the mosquitoes and ground leeches that would stick to you during the night, cover your body, and suck your blood. The leeches would drive some guys nuts.
“The 1st. Cav moved out of the A Shau and 1st Corps to III-Corps further north in South Vietnam. We moved into a rubber plantation in IIICorps to fight the NVA.
“On Dec. 9, 1968 our mortar unit was overrun by the NVA. The unit was left back at our base and the rest of the outfit went out on patrol. The 20-man base unit was attacked by 150 NVA troops and 16 of the 20 guys in the unit I knew well were killed by the enemy.
“I would have been there and probably been killed, but I was put on a helicopter and flew back to headquarters. When I got there I was told, “We need to send you home to the States on emergency leave. We’re sending you to the funeral of the grandmother who raised you.
“I hadn’t showered in nine months and they put me on a helicopter and flew me to Cam Ranh Bay. When I flew in they bumped an officer on a commercial flight to the States and I took his place. All the other people going home on that flight were in clean clothes. I wasn’t.
“When I got aboard I was sitting beside a major in flawless dress. The major took a close look at me and said, ‘Were the hell have you been?’ I told him, “Out in the jungle with the 1st Cavalry for nine months.”
“Shortly after takeoff the stewardess showed up with an aerosol can of disinfectant and sprayed me down.
“When we flew into Oakland, Calif. I was the first man off the plane. I got a shower and a new uniform there. After getting cleaned up I took a cab to a nearby airport and caught a flight back home to Columbus, Ohio.
“My grandmother died before I got home. They gave me a 30-day leave anyway. By the time I got back to Vietnam all of the guys I had been with in my platoon had either been killed or were back home in the States.
“It was about that time I learned about the death of my 16 buddies on Dec. 9th at the rubber plantation. That was about the time I ran into a lieutenant I had known in the field and he got me a job flying to hospitals around South Vietnam talking to wounded soldiers who were recovering.
“I spent a year and seven months in the service. Of that time I spent 1 year, a month and 17 days in Vietnam. I was discharged in April 1969.
“Times were different in ’69. A Vietnam vet was looked down upon by the civilians in the States. I went back to college at a junior college in Florida. When the students in my class found out I had been in Vietnam before I continued my education, the students in my class wouldn’t talk to me and neither would my professor.
After getting his AA-Degree Folden spent 10 years working various jobs. Then he went to work for Bell Telephone Company of Ohio were he worked as a technician for 20 years until he retired in 2005. He and his wife Jennifer moved to Venice four years ago. They have two children: Ashley and Se Ann.
In 2000, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War, seven of Folden’s war buddies got together on Veterans Day in Washington, D.C. to reminisce about their war experiences.
“I realized I had had treated all of them in the field for their wounds at one time or another,” he said. “Since I had worked on all of them they owed me a beer I told them. I got my free suds.”
Several years ago Folden’s health started deteriorating and he requested medical assistance from the Veterans Administration. He misplaced his Army discharge and the VA was making things difficult for him. A couple of his war buddies wrote the VA directly and gave the federal government officials a bit of how Folden had kept them alive when wounded by enemy fire in Vietnam.
Here is a bit of what a couple of his drinking pals said about “Doc”:
“Every time we would get hit and someone would be wounded, who would be the first person on the move to get to him? “Doc,” AKA Marc Folden. He patched-up half of our platoon…,” Don Fedenburg, Douglasville, Ga.
“On June 28,1968 our company assaulted Rocket Ridge the dense mountain terrain west of Hue in I-Corps, just below the DMZ. It was a bad place, terrible memories for many. We took casualties every day. Steve “Mutt” Shear, our point-man, took an AK-47 round in the leg. Doc” Folden was on him instantly. I was hit in the hand and femur… in the initial enemy fire. “‘Doc’ was allover me in nanoseconds…no concern for self. He did his thing (and probably saved my leg). ‘Doc’ was reinforcing me constantly right to the end, kept the smile, bedside manner and timely morphine injection. My war was over.” Vincent M. Launch Jr., Ambler, Pa.
Folden finally got medical help from the VA and is doing pretty well today.
Roll Call of 1st. Cavalry dead at Rubber Plantation Dec. 9, ’68, VietnamSp.-4 Thomas
Sp-4 Thomas Berkfield, Detroit, Mich.
Sp-4 Van L. Randolph, Utica, Ny.
1st Lt. Michel J. Ciesiela, Eddington, Pa.
Sp-4 Michael G. Ray, Longview, Wa.
Sgt. Ira D. Cooper, Bogalausa La.
Cpl. David F. Rhodes, Pompano Beach,Fla.
Pfc. Chales E. Robinetta, Tucson, Ar..
+Sgt. Danny C. Erford, Millercity, Oh.
1st Sgt. Earl T. Shaffer, Covington, Ga.
Pfc. Chales E. Robinette, Tucson, Tex.
+Sgt. Curtis H. Sharp, Mogadore, Oh.
Pfc. Robert F. Hinkston San Jose, Calif.
Sp-4 Samuel D. Shime, Uniontown, Pa.
Sp4 Pete Lopez, San Antonio, Tex.
+Sp-4 Ervin D. Smith, Yukon, Oh.
Sgt. Talton L. Mackey Red Oak, Okla.
+Sgt.Leonard R. Martin Fairborn, Ohio
Name: Marc Lee Folden
D.O.B: 21 Aug. 1948
Hometown: Zanesville, Ohio
Currently: Venice, Fla.
Entered Service: 3 Nov. ’67
Discharged: 8 June ’69
Unit: A Company, 5th Battalion, 1st Infantry Division
Commendations: Bronze Start with “V” device for valor (three awards), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service with Silver Star, Vietnam Campaign Medal with “V” device, Campaign Medical Badge, Two Overseas Service Bars, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Vietnam Action Honor Medal, Expert Badge w/Rifle, BAR/Automatic BAR
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, June 18, 2018 and is republished with permission.
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