Central Texas Heroes: George Stevens

WACO, Texas (KWTX) One Central Texas veteran understands the meaning of service on many levels.

George Stevens spent more than 20 years in the Army and another 22 as a Killeen Police officer and detective.

But that's especially impressive when you discover the terrifying and life-threatening way those decades of service began.

George Stevens completed patient lifts scores of times as a combat medic on a helicopter in Vietnam.

But this was one he'll never forget.

"We had a few patients, and we were hovering at tree top level putting a cable down, the rescue cable with a hoist on it. And I was standing on the skids of the helicopter, directing the pilot in," he said, "I looked down and I didn't feel anything. It looked like someone took a can of tomato juice and it was just pouring out of my leg."

"We were hovering at tree top level and they'd fired up at us," Stevens told us, "when I got to the emergency room I actually passed out, woke up a day later."

He didn't realize until then that he had been shot through both legs and his back.

He was alive staring at a long, challenging road.

"I ended up spending time in the hospital in a casualty company for seven months," he said, "most of that seven months was physical therapy where they're putting weights on your legs and having you lift your legs."

It took a year for Stevens to be able to bend his leg.

Stevens enlisted in January 1970.

Everyone his age was serving and he wanted to do his part.

He would become a combat medic like his uncle.

"They sent me to the 25th infantry division, a city called Swan Locke," he told us, "maybe 10, 12 times a month we'd run into somebody and there'd be a gun fight."

And combat medics were in the thick of it providing medical attention in the middle of a battle zone, with bullets flying by their heads.

"Medic has to move from point A, from patient to patient," Stevens said, "you start an IV, stop the bleeding and move on. There's not much else you can do. If you've got to splint something you use the other leg, use one leg to splint the one leg or the other."

He remembers one night when he didn't know how he and other medics could help all the wounded men who'd been attacked.

"Another unit got attacked and we went in to support them but it took a long time for us to get where the were, and by the time we got there it was dark at night and we had, I don't even know, how many wounded, I treated about 11," he said, "I don't know how many wounded but it was a hectic night because you couldn't see anything and you couldn't put any lights on."

Soon the draw down of the 25th began and Stevens took on a slightly different role.

"I was with the 25th infantry division four months and they started going home in 1971. I get transferred to the 101st where I volunteered to be an dust off medic, helicopter ambulance medic."

And that's when his combat injury sent him home for good.

But his spirit of service never took a hit and Vietnam would not be his last war.

He stayed in the Army 22 years, serving as a medical instructor at Fort Sam Houston, and ended up as an operation sergeant major at Fort Hood.

Eventually, the Gulf War took him to Saudi Arabia putting his years of experience to work, deciding on the direction and placement of units.

He retired in 1991 and kept on serving his community, as a Killeen officer and in the special investigation division.

It was a lifetime of service, for the only country he can imagine calling home.

"I've traveled a lot of places around the world and I've found no place better than America," Stevens said.