"Heroic Doc" Of Liberty Bridge - Vietnam War
In the early morning of March 19, 1969, a Marine combat base at Phu Loc 6 near An Hoa, Vietnam, became the scene of a surprise enemy attack.
As the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) infiltrated the camp’s barbed wire perimeter, a 24-year old corpsman named Bobby Ray charged into the melee to render emergency aid to the mounting casualties. He even fought off an attack of two NVA soldiers before he himself was wounded.
Despite heavy loss of blood, Ray managed to crawl through the barrage of enemy fire to assist another fallen Marine, shielding him from a grenade blast. In the act of saving this Marine’s life Ray ultimately sacrificed his own. The following year, Bobby Ray—or as he is better known to us today, David Robert Ray—was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Today, if you Google “David Robert Ray” you will come across a portrait showing a gangly, smiling youth in service dress and a “Dixie Cup” hat. Taken at Hospital Corps School San Diego, Calif., in October 1966, it is a heavily cropped image that conceals the fact that at 6’6" ... Ray towered over his classmates and he typically shied away from getting his photograph taken.
Those who knew him best would recall his sophisticated taste in music, love of books, natural charisma and a sense of service. Ray was awarded a scholarship to the University of Tennessee in 1963, but this same sense of service weighed heavily on him. In his junior year he left school to join the Navy, enlisting on March 23, 1966.
It was in 1968 while at Long Beach that Ray learned of the Tet Offensive and the growing challenges in Vietnam. Several of his classmates from Corps School had already deployed to theater with Marine units and Ray too wanted to do his part.
He requested transfer to the Field Medical Service School (FMSS) in Camp Pendleton, Calif., and after graduating on June 25, 1968, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) destined for Vietnam.
Just two weeks later he was part of a mission to protect Liberty Bridge, a strategic supply artery across the Thu Bon River connecting An Hoa to Da Nang. This bridge had been a prime target for the Viet Cong and it would be destroyed and rebuilt many times over throughout the war. It was attacked again on the morning of March 19th, setting the stage for Ray’s heroic actions that would ultimately punctuate his life.
Today, if you visit any Navy medical command you will find Ray’s portrait proudly exhibited among the 28 pictures of hospital corpsmen, physicians and dentists who have each been awarded the Medal of Honor. For those of us in the Navy Medical Department these individuals are symbols of service and sacrifice in the most trying moments of our history and standard-bearers for what one Medal of Honor recipient later described as acts of “true spirit [and] determination.”
Babb, W.A. “He Died a Marine.” Leatherneck Magazine, October 1974
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