Courageous Corpsman, once given up for dead, awarded belated Medal of Honor.
Shot four times, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Ingram was barely recognizable. The medevac helicopter crew tagged him "killed in action." But Ingram wasn't dead, despite his bullet-riddled body. He recovered and went on to become a nurse, to marry, and to father a son and a daughter.
At a 1995 reunion of his Vietnam unit, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, some comrades realized that Ingram had never been decorated for the heroism he displayed on March 28, 1966, in Quang Ngai province. On that day, the 21-year-old Ingram accompanied his unit on a search-and-destroy mission against North Vietnamese forces. Every member of the lead squad was killed or wounded. Cries of "Corpsman!" were everywhere, and Ingram rushed to answer. He was shot through the hand, then shot through the knee, but he continued to minister to the wounded.
About to reach another patient, Ingram was shot through his right eye by an enemy soldier who popped out of a spider hole. As Ingram returned the fire and killed the soldier, the bullet exited at the left side of his skull. "This must have been the first time that soldier had shot someone while looking him in the face," Ingram said. "I could see the look of sorrow in his eyes. Probably the most painful thing I ever did in my life was eliminate him and get on with the process."
Ingram would be the first to recognize how important getting on was. "I mean, you can lay there under fire and die or you can get up and go," he said. "And I decided that the men needed me out there."
Ingram "pushed, pulled, cajoled, and doctored his Marines for hours," according to his Medal of Honor citation. While moving one of his fellows to safety, he was shot again, this time through his lower torso. He tried to refuse evacuation but had lost so much strength that his vital signs were virtually unreadable -- and he was given up for dead.
No one knows how Robert Ingram's Medal of Honor paperwork was lost in the 1960s, but everyone recognizes that it finally went through because his friends never forgot what he did for them. On July 10, 1998, Ingram became the first Navy member to receive the Medal of Honor in 20 years. Appropriately enough, his award ceremony was held on the 100th anniversary of the Navy Hospital Corps.