The Marine Corps has a policy of never leaving the dead or wounded on the battlefield, but sometimes the mentally wounded do get left behind.
Seabrook resident Ray Wodyinski is doing what he can to make sure everyone gets out. Wodyinski three tours in Vietnam.
"I was just a scared skinny kid," he said.
He remembered the fighting around Chu Lai, his unit being hit hard by the Vietcong, being almost overrun, the hand-to-hand combat, and the enemy dead piled into a ditch.
He also remembered the time near Danang when they got hit by two 500 pound bombs. Two Navy jets were jettisoning their ordinance before heading back to the carrier. The pilots thought they were over water.
"They didn't know there were Marines below them," he said.
He remembered his friend, Bob Kerry, getting buried alive by the dirt thrown up by the blast.
"He was just 18 like the rest of us," Wodyinski said.
After his last tour, he left the Marines and became a paramedic for 17 years. He finally called it quits after responding to a call about a baby. The baby was obviously dead, and the parents were distraught. He and his partner had a disagreement. Wodyinski wanted to roar off with the lights and sirens, acting like they were doing what they could to save the child. His partner wanted to tell them the child was dead. The ER doctor overruled Wodyinski. That was enough for him.
"The next morning, I just couldn't do it anymore," he said.
He admitted he was in denial about post-traumatic stress disorder. He was on a downward spiral.
"People would say you have a problem," he said. "I'd say you are the one with the problem. I'm fine."
It wasn't. He was in and out of jobs and marriages. His steady companions were booze and rage.
"My low point was sleeping in the back of my Toyota," he said. "I'd drink two fifths of Old Grand Dad on a good day. Just one on a bad day."
Eventually, he quit drinking.
"But I stayed on combat mode," he said.
He wouldn't leave the house for days. He slept in two-hour spurts, continually checking the door locks and peeking out the blinds.
"I was checking my perimeter," he said.
Eventually, he showed up at the Debakey VA Center in Houston. After a while, he learned to trust the staff.
"That's when I started getting the help that I needed," he said.
He went into a 12-week program and now, he recruits vets for the program and mentors them. He's helping to organize a Wellness Fair at the center on Friday. There will be staff from a number of disciplines from inside the VA, as well as outside organizations for those who want to, as he says, fly under the radar.
"If we can save just one vet, it's worth it," he said.