FORT SILL, Okla. (TNN) - A Lawton doctor was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for Valor. Dr. Richard Brittingham earned this recognition for his service in Vietnam.
Dr. Brittingham was an 18-year-old Lance Cpl. in the Marines when he volunteered to be a door gunner in Vietnam.
Army Huey helicopter pilot, Lt. Bob Ford, said they had been shot up going into a landing zone.
“I had my other aircraft crew chief door gunner get wounded and when he got wounded he asked me, 'what am I going to do? We’ve got to have a door gunner.’ I said, ‘now look, you go get a Marine. We’ve never saw one that didn’t want to fight,’ and that’s what he did, and the Marine turned out to be Colonel Brittingham.”
Dr. Brittingham said he had never been a door gunner before, but had operated similar M-60 machine guns.
“It’s something any Marine would do,” said Dr. Brittingham.
But Dr. Brittingham had a bad feeling.
“I had this premonition that this is not going to be good," said Dr. Brittingham. "So as we’re coming in I made sign of the cross, and as soon as I was done the guy right next to me got shot in the head and the next thing I knew I got shot and then all I could do was put out suppressive fire.”
“Luckily Brittingham did his job and as a result the aircraft survived and he survived, even though he was wounded, he survived,” said Lt. Ford.
12 years ago, Lt. Ford and Dr. Brittingham reconnected.
“He called me about 12 years ago and asked if I was Lt. Ford on 21 January of 68 and I said yeah," said Lt. Ford. "The first thing he said was, ‘did I do my duty?’ I said, ‘you sure did, Marine.’”
Now 51 years later, Lt. Ford presented Dr. Brittingham with a Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V"
“It’s an honor, of course," said Dr. Brittingham. "I feel humbled by all that the Marine Corps is doing for me here today. But I’m also very proud to be here and I’ve always been proud to serve our country. Yeah, it’s a great day for me.”