Central Texas Heroes: Bud Melson

Veteran Bud Melson

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Bud Melson joined the Texas Army National Guard in 1965, but by 1970 something inside was pulling him to do more.

"I had two good friends killed in Vietnam and I thought o.k., here I sit, safe in the states all the time, and that's when I signed up for selective service to be drafted," Melson told us.

He was drafted into the Army by July of that year and in Vietnam by August.

Melson was a medic assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, known for its role in Normandy on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, now fighting a much different battle in a much different place.

"Fire Base Jack was a brand new base in the lowlands, it was nasty, red mud. It was monsoon then," he told us.

Melson was a medic on search and destroy missions, and the conflict got incredibly intense on the border during the Lam Son 719 Invasion of Laos.

"That's when we really found out what war was," he told us.

Enemy soldiers fought back with everything they had.

"Small arms, mortars, little machine guns, they basically had everything we had," he told us.

The memory of those that were lost still hurts him.

He remembers one night his group came to the aid of a recon team in trouble.

"We met them and the NVA were right on their heels and we were in a small arms fight and one of the recon boys got hit. We fought the NVA off and called for medivac," Melson told us.

But weather conditions kept the helicopter from flying.

He provided medical care for the soldier all night.

The next day the weather cleared up but it was too late.

"Before the medic got there or the medivac got there, the soldier passed away," he said.

But he saved many lives too and one of those experiences earned him a Bronze Star with Valor.

He was in a helicopter crash.

Melson said, "we crashed in some trees and everybody was shook up, we got out of the helicopter and it was catching on fire."

But the pilot was trapped.

"I was trying to cut the pilot loose out of his harness and get the door to open and anyway they started popping mortars on us and I got hit with a mortar round, or a piece of shrapnel from the mortar. But we got the captain out," he said.

He was injured but slowly recovered.

Melson spent a year and a half serving in Vietnam.

And when he came home the backlash from those who opposed the war wasn't just rude, it was violent.

He was attacked at an airport in San Francisco.

"One of them shoved me and pushed me around, when he pushed me around, another one spit on me. When he spit on me that was it," he said.

Their fight was broken up by military and airport police.

"Had to go back to base and get another uniform because they had torn mine and had blood on it," he told us, "it was really heartbreaking to be honest with you."

And that coupled with the loss of his fellow soldiers made for a tough transition back home.

He visited the Vietnam Wall with fellow veterans.

"That is a healing wall, because you look up at that wall, and that one slab, and see your brothers' names up there," he said.

And he relies on the support of fellow veterans to get through those difficult times, veterans bonded forever by their experiences.

Melson said, "that's the best therapy in the world to get with your friends, your brothers."