Freedom Fighters: Nick Sciarrini - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Nick Sciarrini

(KLTV) -

Nick Sciarrini joined the Navy as a hospital recruit, which led to a lifetime in medicine.

Sciarrini had liked his health and biology classes in high school so much, he decided a career in medicine was the path he should take.

"I joined the Navy as a hospital recruit, hospital yeoman recruit, and went to the appropriate schools, went to operating room school," he said.

By the time re-enlistment time came around, Sciarrini's course was set.

"When it came time to re-enlist, they said 'what do you want to do?' I said, 'I'll re-enlist if I can go to Vietnam.'" Sciarrini said. "It was 1965 and coincidentally, they approved it, and I re-enlisted as an E5 Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, and went to Vietnam, served with the Marine Corps."

Almost all of Sciarrini's time in Vietnam was spent in the field.

"Most of the time, we were just going out trying to find the enemy and usually they found us first. My first real operation was when I was wounded for the first time." said Sciarrini.

Sciarrini did not know at first that he had been wounded.

"I didn't know what had happened. It just felt like a rock or something, so we just kept going and I ended up when I got back to the rear, one of my superiors said 'looks like you're limping, what's wrong?'" he said.

A chunk of shrapnel had lodged into Sciarrini's leg, which meant a couple of days in the hospital, and lots of antibiotics, since he had been wading in waist deep water.

"We were going up a big field, rice paddy open area, and we just started getting shot at and mortars coming at us," he said.

In fact, Sciarrini had gotten so far ahead of his company, he had ended up in another company.

"But you know you don't ask for an address when you're treating someone under fire," he joked.

Sciarrini's wound came about when his group was pinned down by enemy fire. He was wounded again after eight months in the field.

Usually, Sciarrini slept with his helmet, rifle and medical bag. The one time he didn't, mortar fire came into camp.

"I jumped up and jumped into my foxhole I had dug, then I realized I didn't have my medical bag," he recalls. "I didn't have boots. I didn't have my helmet, gun, nothing."

Just as Sciarrini ran to gather up his things, mortar fire hit behind him and knocked him into a bush.

"I was pretty fortunate. I got hit down my left side, but was just shrapnel, was just small shrapnel," he said.

Sciarrini says he would have probably been blown to bits if the soft ground hadn't absorbed most of the impact. Even though Sciarrini was wounded twice, most of his time in Vietnam was spent tending to others.

"You can say what we did back then in Vietnam was what paramedics can do today," Sciarrini said.

Nick Sciarrini spent 30 years in the service, retiring as a commander in the Medical Service Corps. In July of 1993, he came to East Texas to serve as executive director of the Northeast Public Health District until October of 2006.

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