Rendering My Salute
By: Phil Scholten
While stationed at Clark Air Base in 1968 - 69 during the Vietnam War, Clark was one of the main bases receiving wounded. The injured GIs would fly in on C131's and then gently be loaded on to large ambulance buses. The buses had red lights and sirens on them, even though they would drive very slowly to the base hospital.
As soon as the buses were ready to leave the flight line for the hospital, the Security Police Desk would receive a call and the dispatcher would assign units to block off intersections so the buses could continue on their slow drive to the base hospital without interruption. I was normally assigned to an intersection on Dyess Highway. I would position my Security Police vehicle with its lights activated across the intersection and get out to block traffic.
After the vehicles were all stopped, I would turn toward the buses and render a hand salute. Some of the injured, laying on stretchers at the window level would salute back or show the peace sign, sadly some could not respond. After the buses passed I would return to my vehicle. The stop cars already had there passengers back in them and they proceeded on their way.
One day while I was rendering my salute I heard a call for my unit over the two way radio in the vehicle. I turned to walk to the vehicle and noticed that no one was sitting in the, at least, 12 vehicles that were stopped, they were all out saluting also. I was more proud than ever to be in the United States Air Force with all these other sympathetic individuals.
All this time I thought I was the only one saluting while the vehicle people waited for the intersection to clear. I was gladly wrong.
After the buses left the flight line another C131 that had landed and would start off loading silver aluminum caskets. The caskets were placed on a small flight line cargo train and brought to a hangar. Shortly after these caskets were removed another train with caskets stacked three high would be brought to the C131. The reality of the war finally hit me. What a heavy scene this was, but it was done very quickly and efficiently.