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Gilbert Purple Heart recipient continues to help fellow veterans

They called him "Big Band Aid" in Vietnam. The senior combat medic was shot while aiding the wounded. Now he continues to fight for veterans.

GILBERT, Ariz. — 21-year-old Army Specialist Charles “Chuck” Byers was a tall young man whose call name was “Big Band Aid.” He served in the United States Army from 1966 to 1972. Anticipating he was going to be drafted, Byers enlisted and chose to go into the medical field.

He was sent to Vietnam to serve as a senior combat medic and it got scary in a hurry.

“As they’re taking me in for my first night, they tell me I’m the replacement doc because they just been overrun, and they killed the medic, and I am now the replacement. So right away there is a lot of anxiety,” said Byers.

On June 1, 1968, his life changed forever when his unit was ambushed. It was just 23 days before he was to go home. Byers and another medic volunteered to go out and treat the wounded.

“He said, ‘I wanna go.’ I said, ‘Dave, you can’t. You only have nine days left.’ He said, ‘These are my guys and I need to be with them,’” said Byers.

The two medics were airlifted and dropped off in the wrong area but still got to work.

“We started patching up as many guys as we could. I was on my third guy that’s when I got shot. I took shots in my left arm and in my gut,” said Byers.

“First thought was I’m going home, and my second thought was – they’re still shooting at me, and I need to protect my patient. So, I did the best I could and returned some fire,” he said.

Byers made it out, but sadly the other medic did not survive. Byers was treated for his wounds and was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

“To be a Purple Heart recipient means I shed blood for my country. That’s the common bond we share with one another,” said Byers.

He recently was picked to represent Arizona for the National Purple Heart Honor Mission where he was honored along with fellow recipients and got to visit the Hall of Honor in New York.

“We all share that same legacy. That same bond of having the Purple Heart,” said Byers.

He stayed in the medical field after his service.

Now retired, his service to the country continues. Byers is working with local U.S. senators and legislators advocating and fighting for veterans' health, rights, and wellbeing.

“There’s a reason why we survived, and I didn’t want to throw that away. So, that’s why I continue to advocate so strongly,” said Byers. “Proud of my service. Proud that I served in Vietnam. I’m proud I was able to be there for my brothers.”

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