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40 Days in Vietnam

Raymond Washington/Da Nang Vietnam

He was born in South Bend WA and grew up on a small farm in Raymond WA.  He learned to hunt and fish, and back packed in to the Olympic National Park and the Washington Cascade Mountains.  He once got lost over on the Humptulips River when he went fishing while a friend was cruising timber.  I have included a picture at the end of the search and an article about his resourcefulness.  You can enlarge it if you want to read it. 

He had a great sense of humor, teasing and laughing everyone around him.  He started out in foster care after being removed from his home at age 5 months or so for being left alone with me, his 6 yr old sister.  He was eventually returned to his mother and his step father adopted him. He had a favorite uncle who used to play with him, toss him in the air catching him, and when Stan teased him incessantly,  and loved him dearly.

He participated in Little League baseball and basketball and was actually  able to convince his mother he needed a basketball hoop on the living room wall where he could practice through the rainy winters at home. 

In high schoool he participated in cross country track, which required several 10 mile runs a week.  Convinently, the same exact distance his girlfriend lived from his place.  I always suspected it was not for the track that he was into it!!  

He wanted to be a Marine for as long as I can remember, often having spirited discussions with his buddies about which branch of the service was the best, toughest, most effective.  He was an avid collector of  military artifacts some of which dated to the Revolutionary War.  He often trade with others to enhance his collections. 

When he graduated from high school in June of 1964, he wanted to go into the Marines immediately but he was 5 months short of his 18th birthday.  His mother would not consent for his enlistment.  So in typical Stanley fashion, he gave her a choice of signing now or if he had to wait to join up then he would no longer be part of her world.  He got his way.

He did well in basic training at Camp Pendleton, but while on leave after completing basic he managed to get into a little trouble in Tiajuna, requiring a bit of a loan from his big sis.  He came home for Christmas and left early in 1965 for advanced training on Okinawa.  (Raider or Ranger)  He had already been awarded a medal for marksmanship, an outshoot of his years of hunting I am sure.  He was experiencing some shortness of breath but indicated he had to just suck it up and improve his conditioning.  He was told to report to sick bay but they did not follow it up.

He arrived in Vietnam late summer or early fall of 1965.  He noted right away that they did not have the equipment to keep their rifles working right.  You could buy it on the black market but not get it from your supply depot.  It was so humid there that the M-16 rifles jammed, and he noticed boots were rotting off Marines feet, again something in short supply through the Marines but another black market commodity. 

When he wrote home asking for a better knife, a kit for rifle maintenance, and some socks, we were appalled.  While we promptly sent him what he needed, we also notified Julia Butler Hanson the US Representative from Southwest Washington state.  It quickly became a national issue, and supplies did improve. 

I had everyone I worked with save me 3# coffee tins which were the common source of house hold coffee prior to the days of Starbucks and Seattles Best.  Every week I baked cookies, gathered tins of sardines, powdered drinks, canned nuts, and other delicacies and packed them into the coffee tin, sending them along.  I had begun doing this once he completed his basic.  Once we began shipping overseas the cookies took a beating in transit but he still scarfed down every morsel.  Once he mentioned that I began packing the cookies in dry popped corn.  They seem to survive the trip better but they were so hungry for stuff from home they ate the packing too.

About his 40th day in Vietnam, he was under fire while on patrol out of Da Nang.  He felt a sudden pain in his chest and thought he had been hit.  He was helped back to the aid station where they diagnosed a collapsed lung without injury and moved him to a field hospital for a chest tube insertion.  To insert a chest tube they take a metal pointed trochar the size of a stubby cigar, and punch a hole in your chest.  They then insert a chest tube through the hole and suture the tube to your chest wall, attaching the other end to a water bottle under negative suction.  As you breath in and out normally, the air trapped between the chest wall and your lung is slowly force back into the bottle and  your lung gradually expands back to normal.

After this procedure the Marine Corp told us he would be returned to active duty in about 7 days.  Repeated efforts to find out his status gave us wildly contraditory reports.  First we were told he was returned to active duty, but his mail was returned to us. Second we were told he had been evacuated to Couey Military Hospital on Okinawa because the lung would not stay up.  We called Couey every night for two weeks, and developed a loving relationship with the long distance operator who would check to see if he was there before putting the call through so it did not cost us.  Of course he was not there.

Next we got notice he had been returned to active duty, so by now I was fed up with it and called the Defense Department who got on someones rear and we had a call from the Marine Corp Comandant telling us he had been moved to the Phillippines instead.  In a matter of days he had been moved to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland California. 

By now he had a potential diagnosis but the thoracic surgeon at Oak Knoll wanted to biopsy the lung to be certain.  He was to under go this surgery in two days.  By now I am not having a lot of confidence that military medicine could get anything right.  So I called my boss and asked for an emergency leave and headed for Oakland that night without telling anyone.  I called a friend in San Jose to see if she would put me up during my quick trip, and she did for which I have been forever grateful. 

Stan did not know that I was coming, and as I walked up the ramp to his ward, he happened to be walking by the window.  The look on his face was priceless, and grateful too.

As he was prepared for surgery the next day, he offered anyone in his 20 bed hospital ward a months pay to do a stand in for him.  He got no takers but a few laugh from the  war wounded warriors there for treatment.  At the end of his surgery as he awoke in ICU, he remebered his protocols and when the nurse, a Naval LT ask him if he needed something for pain, he said "Yes, Please Ma'am".  He was now enjoying his 4th chest wall puncture with a trochar to bring a lung up. 

The news was not good, he had a disease that was going to kill him, but the surgeon thought in 25 or 30 years.  The Marine Corp made arrangements to retire him and 13 months later he was dead, having suffered 22 puncture wounds to his chest with cigar sized metal trochars followed by chest tube insertion.  He died of heart and lung failure, and the USMC he loved so well, sacrificed him to service in Vietnam saying he was not sick when he shipped out, then denied him a place on the Memorial Wall.  And the Marine Corp in typical fashion did not get his retirement pay to him, nor pick up his medical expenses until shortly before he died.  His medications were charged at the local pharmacy and the family groceries charged at the local food store.  Everyone in town knew the pressures the family was under and turned a blind eye to the fact that they could not pay for everything before Stans medical benefits caught up with him.  Small towns can be like that.

He spent as much time in the hospital those last 13 months as he did at home. We had his care transfered to Madigan General Hospital at Ft Lewis as it was closest to home.  He enjoyed frequent visits from his high school girl pals, much to the envy of his ward mates and he was held in high esteem because of it.  He took a lot of good natured ribbing, and requests to share visitors.  I drove the trip from Portland to Ft Lewis 3 x a month or so, depending on what I could afford gas wise. 

He knew he was dying, but he never complained.  He found ways to enjoy what level of life he could have with his acute shortness of breath.  A friend got him a dog, and another friend loaned him a big black lab, both dogs were constant companions on his bed in the living room.   On my visits home, we would take the lab swimming, someone had taught it to dunk swimmers. While Stan could not go to the swimming hole on the creek, he reveled in stories of the lab trying to dunk his younger brother.  He was a guest of honor at a wedding in September in Alaska.  I was worried about him flying but he was hell bent to go.  It was the wedding of his best friend, and he would not be swayed.  He died just weeks later. 

He died 4 days before his 20th birthday and was interred on his 20th birthday with millitary honors at Fern Hill Cemetary in Menlo WA just southeast of his home town of Raymond..  Some 300 people stopped by the house days before and after the funeral.  Neighbors came in while we were gone for the funeral and set up a buffet.  The Honor Guard came by the house to change clothes before returning to their base in Bremerton.  We insisted they stay long enough to eat, and eat they did. They were clearly boys who enjoyed home cooking and did not see much of it.  We were grateful for their presence as it added a note of honor to Stan's passing, and to this day, I cannot listen to Taps.    TAPS I find the words at the end of this link particularly moving

He died 42 years ago, and I miss him still

Nancy Petersen

RN Retired

Sister

Stan Hudson

Raymond Wa

I was visiting at the farm, and Stan who was a soph in high school was trimming the grass away from the electric fence to keep it from shorting out along a small creek below the house.  The electric fences in those days, just shorted out and did not work if grass touched the line so they had to be kept free of things growing up from the ground.

There was maybe 500 feet of fence, so I grabbed a hand sickle and began to help.  As I came to a fence post, I found a piece of wire wrapped around the bottom of the post and going down over the bank in to the creek.  Stan was working behind me a ways, and realized I had found the wire.  His dad was working in the fenced area hoeing some crops.  The look on Stan's face was priceless.  Kind of pale, shaking his head to not pull it up, I waited for him to catch up with me.  "What's this?"  I said, he grinned and said it was  the only place he could think of to hide his hard cider!!   I laughed and let it stay cooling in the bottom of the creek.  A little later I got a taste of his home brewed cider as we shared a laugh.

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