Freedom Fighters: R.D. Wittner - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: R.D. Wittner

R.D. Wittner. (Source: KLTV Staff) R.D. Wittner. (Source: KLTV Staff)
(KLTV) -

R.D. 'Ricky' Wittner's purple heart is encased beside his air medal and soldiers medal. With the soldier's medal holding a special place in his heart.

Wittner had joined the army in 1969 at the age of 19.  by February of 1970  he was a flight engineer and door gunner on a Chinook helicopter in Vietnam.

The Chinook hauled everything; people, ammunition, jeeps, food, and fuel, and its destinations were usually combat zones.

With the enemy firing on the Chinook on most of its trips, Wittner was used to  being shot up, but on July 10,1970, he found out what it was like being shot down. Wittner's helicopter had already completed its run for the day when another helicopter scheduled to bring in soldiers and fuel to some navy riverboats, was held up. There were 28 soldiers from the 25th infantry aboard, plus the crew of four and a large amount of fuel.

The explosion knocked Wittner out of the helicopter as it hit the ground. Official records differ as to how many lives Wittner saved that day.  He lost two of his crew and some of the soldiers were badly burned. In spite of the lives he had saved, the loss was devastating to Wittner.

Wittner was in the hospital 28 days, and after he was released, he asked to go back into combat, although his hands were still bandaged. After additional time in the country, R.D. Wittner returned home.

He says today, in spite of everything, he would do it all again.

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