- Associated Press - Friday, August 18, 2017

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - Quincy native Dan “Waggs” Waggoner will never forget the day in January 1969 when he lay wounded on a battlefield in Vietnam wondering whether he was going to survive.

Waggoner, a young Marine, was filling a canteen in a river when an enemy rocket suddenly exploded near his feet. The blast sent him flying and knocked him unconscious. When he finally awoke, he was a bloody mess, with shrapnel impaling numerous parts of his body.

To make matters worse, Waggoner noticed a U.S. attack plane — apparently mistaking his unit for the enemy — bearing down with machine guns blazing. Bullets struck several members of Waggoner’s squad.

Suddenly a fellow Marine came to Waggoner’s aid and helped lead him to safety as gunfire exploded around them.

A short time later, Waggoner and some other wounded soldiers were loaded onto a military helicopter and whisked away for medical attention.

Waggoner didn’t get to thank the Marine who, he believes, saved his life that day.

“I didn’t even know what his name was,” he said.

Years later — sometime around 2002 — Waggoner tried to track down the Marine. He remembered him only as “a wiry blond kid from South Dakota.”

Waggoner wrote a story about his experience, and it was posted on the internet through a military association. A member of the association, Tom Couillard of White Bear Lake, Minn., read the story and said to himself, “That sounds like Mike Castle,” who, like Waggoner, was a member of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, in 1969.

Waggoner wrote to Castle and learned that it was, indeed, Castle who came to his aid that day.

Waggoner and Castle quickly became friends and have stayed in touch ever since.

About six years ago, Waggoner decided Castle should receive some recognition for the heroics he displayed in 1969. So he launched an effort to get Castle nominated for a medal.

After encountering numerous bureaucratic hurdles during the application process, Waggoner’s efforts finally hit pay dirt. Word came earlier this year that Castle would be receiving a Bronze Star, with a combat “V” insignia, for his “heroic achievement” on Jan. 30, 1969.

The medal was to be awarded today in a ceremony aboard the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, S.C., during a battalion reunion.

Waggoner was planning to be there.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said. “It means a lot to me to see him get this.”

The citation issued by the secretary of the Navy specifies it was being given to Lance Cpl. Michael G. Castle, a machine gunner with the squad-sized patrol that came under heavy fire that day in an area northwest of Con Thien.

“From his position in the tree line, Lance Corporal Castle saw a grievously wounded Marine lying in the open,” the citation reads.

“Seeing the OV-10 (attack plane) circling for a second run, and despite his own painful wounds, Lance Corporal Castle rushed out in the open to the wounded Marine. Undaunted by the rounds impacting near him, Lance Corporal Castle used his own body to shield his comrade from further injury. Lance Corporal Castle then assisted the casualty to the safety of the tree line, where other Marines had established a defensive perimeter.”

The citation says Castle “reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the greatest traditions of the Marine Corps” for his display of “courage, initiative, and total dedication to duty.”

Castle, who now lives in Columbia, Texas, said he was grateful to Waggoner for his persistence in nominating him for the medal.

“It was very nice that Dan went through all that trouble for me,” he said. “I feel very honored by it and feel a great friendship with Waggs.”

Castle said he was simply helping another Marine when he came to Waggoner’s aid that day.

“I don’t think I was very heroic,” he said. “This is what happens in war. We help each other.”


Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://bit.ly/2hsNxHh


Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, https://www.whig.com

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