Central Texas Heroes: John Metcalf, part 2

WACO, Texas (KWTX) One Central Texas Marine didn't let an injury in Vietnam that ended his military career stop him from a life serving others.

Veteran John Metcalf

John Metcalf was hit by two grenades as he and his squad tried to track down Viet Cong fighters who had attacked his camp.

It was October, 1967.

"My entire left side from the bottom of my foot to the upper part of my back, I was hit about 45 times," he told us.

Metcalf drug himself to cover in the jungle and laid there in and out of consciousness until someone found him.

"I hear noise, and I thought well, I guess it's over dude, because you can't find your weapon and there's people coming after you," Metcalf said.

Fortunately for Metcalf, it was a U.S. Marine.

"Actually, it was the other squad leader," he told us, "he comes in with no shirt, no weapons, no nothing and just picks me up like a rag doll, at this point he weighed about 180, and I weighed 212 pounds."

He was sent to a hospital in Japan.

Metcalf had sufered major injuries to his left leg and had to learn how to walk again.

His military career was over.

"I ended up with a compound fracture of this leg," he said, "this grenade must have had eyes because it severed the peroneal nerve in four places. I wasn't going to walk again normally."

The peroneal nerve controls the lifting of your foot.

With no physical therapy he took it slow, and eventually, through practice and with the help of a brace, he regained his ability to walk.

Because of the injury he was taken off active duty the following year.

But what hurts even now is what happened right after he was hit.

"We you get wounded, you have an anniversary date, it's always Oct. 11 for me," he said, "on my 49th anniversary, a memory came back to me that is the most horrible thing that happened in my life. When I got wounded, my squad abandoned me. In the Marine Corps, 'leave no man behind' is written in stone "

You remember his squad left him.

It was someone from another squad who found him and saved him.

And last year that anniversary was especially tough.

"Twenty-two a day are committing suicide. I've always said, I'm never going to commit suicide," he said, "on that 49th year, I did contemplate it."

"Because Semper Fidelis is not a motto, it's a way of life, you're always faithful," Metcalf said.

He credits his wife Cora for helping him get through it.

"If you can say it you can deal with it. It's not as horrible. It's out. If it's inside your mind you're trapped," he told us, "I told her about this and she just listened."

"She has a compassion that utterly shocks me," Metcalf said of his wife.

And he encourages other veterans to talk about their struggles.

But in his life, he turned his pain into something beautfiul taking his injury experience and helping others.

He remembered how kind the nurses were to him and other injured Marines, on a medical flight back to Alaska from overseas and what they did when they landed.

"Everone left, except the nurses, and each one of us got a 30 second backrub. That was the most fantastic thing in the world," he said.

"It made me feel human again," Metcalf told us, "those nurses were number one."

And one day the opportunity presented itself to him.

He said, "I was working as an orderly in a hospital, and this woman came up to me and asked me, would you want to be a nurse?"

Metcalf dedicated decades of his life to his career as a nurse, helping the wounded, showing compassion, and making lives better in the country he fought to protect.

"The Marine Corps was one of the best things that ever happened to me," he said.