Freedom Fighters: Mike Collins

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Mike Collins served as a combat medic in the Vietnam War. The country's extreme heat, often rising to 120 degrees, was the first obstacle Collins had to overcome when he first arrived.

"The heat hits you. It's like walking into a wall," says Collins.

Collins was stationed at Koo Che Air Base with the Fourth Battalion.

"You were subject to being hit all the time," Collins says.

Even though the base was under constant mortar attack, ambushes in the field were the most deadly. And that's where it was Collin's job to save the lives of the wounded. With only basic supplies to treat major wounds, that wasn't always so easy.

"We saw wounds like traumatic amputation from arms to legs, sucking chest wounds, shot in the chest, a lot of shrapnel," says Collins.

Pressure bandages and tourniquets were the most common medical equipment, with morphine sometimes used for the worst wounds. Often, it was evacuation by medical helicopters or medivacs that meant the difference between life and death.

"Everybody would say, Doc, call medivac. The medivacs would come regardless of the firefight, regardless they would come in and they would come in with the doors open. There weren't any doors on the helicopters and we would put them on litters," says Collins.

Evacuation of the wounded was probably the most dangerous job for the combat medic.

"Sometimes under fire, sometimes getting to the helicopter would be a problem but we always tried to get everybody out," says Collins.

After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Collins was stationed for a time in San Francisco, where our military had to endure attacks of a different kind.

"You couldn't wear your uniform to a ballgame at Candolton Park. You'd be called a baby killer, you'd be spit on," says Collins.

Collins retired from the army in 1981. As Coordinator of Veteran Affairs at Tyler Junior College, he understands the problems our young servicemen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are going through.

"My job as a combat medic helps me in this job, in as much as they know I've been there," says Collins.

Mike Collins says he's proud  to served and proud of the service.

"If I got a call that said, he we need you back in the service, I'd do it in a heartbeat," says Collins.

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