Seriously wounded, Bryant Schroeder prayed as he and fellow Green Berets took cover near their downed helicopter and awaited rescue deep inside Cambodia.
The U.S. Special Forces medic survived for about nine hours on the ground before he was flown out of harm's way and hospitalized for his combat injury, one that would merit him his third Purple Heart and send him home from Vietnam in 1969.
Schroeder, who completed much of his military training in Georgia, where he has family, recovered from his physical injuries. But it would take years to heal from his survivor's guilt, hypervigilance and flashbacks.
Although generations of his family have served — ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War and his daughter is a U.S. Army veteran who lives near Milledgeville — this Veterans Day marks the first time Schroeder will celebrate with a dinner at his local American Legion post. For many years, Schroeder, who turns 80 on Nov. 21, stayed away from such public gatherings because they brought back painful memories of friends killed in Vietnam.
“There is counseling that helped me get past it,” said Schroeder, who lives in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. He considered his heritage and other Americans who have served honorably and decided he needed to “start honoring them and my comrades that I served with.”
‘I Did a Lot of Praying'
The second oldest of four children, Schroeder was born in Muskegon, Michigan, and raised in Salt Lake…