Frank Hayes is a highly decorated Purple Heart recipient who firmly believes he is not a hero but has served with many heroes who did not return to America after serving their country in Vietnam.
Hayes received the Vietnam Service Medal with 5 Bronze Service Stars, Bronze Star Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Meritorious Unit Emblem Valorous Unit Award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation Badge, Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal, First Class Unit Citation Badge, and, of course, the Purple Heart.
Hayes entered in October of 1967 into the Army Airborne Infantry and joined originally to make a career in service. However, that was not to be.
After training Hayes graduated in the top 4 of the 180 in his class.
Although Hayes is proud of his service to his country, he is not happy with the results of the war. Now he struggles with PTSD. The agony of reliving the war each and every day must take a toll on him.
Hayes served in the Vietnam war on the front lines from 1968-1969. After serving in Vietnam, Hayes served in Germany for 8 months. His first term of service was three years.
Hayes served in Charlie Company of the 101st Airborne Division. When first arriving in Vietnam, Hayes and 39 other men joined the company that had lost so many men. In fact, it took these 40 men to bring the company up to the usual 100 to 110 men.
Hayes received his wound in South Vietnam while being in the field for 58 straight days.
Although he was wounded in September of 1968 his records show that he was wounded July 14. At the time of his being hospitalized he was asked when he received his wound. Frank was so “messed up” that the only date he could recall was his Father’s birthday in July. He gave the hospital that date.
As Hayes struggled to tell of some of his terrible experiences he endured in Vietnam, with tears in his eyes, he recalled his best friend. He was from Minnesota and was 26 years of age while Hayes had just turned 20 years of age. His friend had 2 children. He gave his life in service for his country.
A couple of years ago, Hayes’ friend’s brother visited him, and that visit helped both of them.
I was privileged to see some pictures of Frank Hayes’ friends who served with him in Vietnam. However, Hayes does not know if some of them lived. Hayes was like everyone else. He thought the war would be over when he returned home. However, that was not the case for Frank Hayes as he suffers each and every day.
Hayes received 10% disability after his release but did not want to accept that check each month as it reminded him of the terrible war and the many hardships that war gives to all.
Hayes was advised to get help but he refused. After refusing for so long, his disability check was taken from him. He was relieved and “happy” as he did not have to be reminded each month when the check usually came.
In 1980 Hayes rejoined the service. After about 20 years, Hayes reluctantly went to see the VA doctors and was immediately hospitalized. Upon his release he received 100% disability.
Frank Hayes keeps to himself. For therapy Hayes paints and is a pretty good artist in my opinion. He also writes as evidenced in this that he authored.
As we all saddle up at dust
For the Huey to go we must.
To a God forsaken place
Trial by fire we must face.
Beneath the sound of the chopper blades
Prayers and promises were made.
A hot L. Z. was made plain
As the air filled with gunfire and pain.
As all my senses were awaken
I know now, my mind they were taking.
The price I thought I made them pay
Draws interest from my mind everyday.
Without warning I’m forced to recall
The ones I knew that gave it all.
I remember I can’t forget
War is HELL and it ain’t over yet.
It’s so hard for me to pray
For the death and evil of that Perpetual Day.
Vietnam, 68 – 69.
Hayes struggles every day as is evident when something as simple as a microphone making a strange noise has him reliving the war all over again.
One can only imagine what not only Frank Hayes endures each day of his life but others like him, too.
Although Frank Hayes reiterates over and over, “I am not a hero. I know some heroes who did not make it back.”
What do you think?