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Medal puts Vietnam veteran from Utah in elite company
Decoration » Patrick Watkins to receive the second-highest U.S. Army honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.

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Medic Bob Scully was shot and left by Sappers as bait to would-be rescuers.

"Watkins threw himself on top of Scully to protect him from the blast [of a grenade] and was wounded again. ... then picked Scully up and carried and passed him through heavy fire to the edge of the building," Conlon wrote. " ... Though wounded multiple times, Staff Sgt. Watkins ignored his own painful injuries and continued the search for the wounded, and through his indomitable courage and bravery, he rallied others to follow."

Da Nang, Vietnam

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Watkins said he killed at least three Sappers that night.

The battle lasted about seven hours. The Sappers retreated as the sun rose.

The attack killed 18 Americans, about 25 Vietnamese commandos working with the U.S. soldiers and about 75 Sappers. About 30 more Americans were wounded. It remains the single deadliest battle for the Army Special Forces.

Watkins was taken to a field hospital, wheremedics removed shrapnel from him. He then hitchhiked back to Forward Operating Base 4, because he did not want to divert attention from the more seriously wounded.

Watkins said his commanders submitted him for a medal shortly after the attack. He assumes nothing came of it because of how many Special Forces died and because they had been working in Cambodia and Laos — something the U.S. government did not acknowledge until years after the war.

Carol Watkins, his wife and a Marine Corps veteran, did not know here husband had been wounded that day and knew nothing about the battle until about five years ago, when others began to push for Watkins’ medal.

"Pat just left everything behind when he came back," she said.

"There’s no sense in bringing that back home," he added. "I was a professional soldier."

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The couple hasbeen married 52 years. They met when they were both serving in the Marines.

Watkins was born in Michigan and mostly raised in Sullivan, Ind., though he said his family moved a lot, including a brief stay in Salt Lake City. He enlisted in theMarines in 1957. Seven years later, he joined the Army. Along the way, he and Carol had two daughters.

Watkins remained in the Army after the attack. In 1976, he requested a post teaching ROTC cadets at the University of Utah. He and this wife wanted to ski.

Watkins retired in 1980 as a master sergeant. He and his wife live in Taylorsville.

The May 22 ceremony in which Watkins will receive the Distinguished Service Cross will be atEglin Air Force Base, Fla. It’s home to the 7th Special Forces Group. Attendees are to include a four-star Army general.

"I served among heroes," Watkins said. "I’m not a hero."


Twitter: @natecarlisle

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