William J. “Doc” Boatman
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class
Served with 3rd Bn. 7th Marines and Aboard USS Eldorado (AGC-11)
First of all I joined the Navy in Oklahoma, not in Texas, although my parents lived in Fredericksburg at the time, so technically I am a Texas Vet. In 1965 I was a Pharmacy Major at the University of Oklahoma fighting to keep my grades up and working to pay for college…a battle I eventually lost when I did not return to school after my freshman year. I dropped out for a semester….not a smart move in 1965 and ended up getting drafted just after Christmas. I was going back to school in January, I thought, but the draft board had a different kind of education in mind for me.I guess I considered myself a conscientious objector at the time – I knew that I couldn’t shoot someone, so I had to make a choice, go to Canada or become a Medic. I talked to the Army recruiter who told me that if I was drafted I could not be guaranteed a medic position. The Navy recruiter told me that if I wanted to go into the Navy, he would sign me up as a Hospital Corpsman Recruit. I liked the sound of that and the idea of sailing the seven seas was definitely appealing to me, so I signed on hoping to be a pharmacy technician, the field I was interested in the first place.It went well to start, I was a platoon leader in boot camp and after boot camp I got posted to Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes, Illinois. Upon graduating from that training in the top 10, I got a spot at the Pharmacy Tech School in Portsmouth Virginia, although the class did not start for 6 months. I was posted at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth to await the opening of next class at Tech School. After about three or four months working on the wards at the hospital, I told to report to the personnel officer. I went eagerly, thinking that I was soon to be reassigned to the Tech School. Instead, I was given two weeks leave and told to report to Camp Pendleton, California to start a different Tech School, Field Medical Service Technician School and assignment to the Fleet Marine For ce. I was going to combat in Vietnam with the Marines.I think I was more afraid of being trained by Marines….I had heard all the stories about Marine boot camp, than I was of going to Vietnam. Training went well, however, even though I called a Woman Marine Major a BAM thinking it was the same as the calling a woman in the Army a WAC. No one told me that BAM meant Broad Ass Marine. Needless to say she was not amused!Upon arrival in Vietnam, I was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines who were then located in the DMZ at Dong Ha. I stayed in the rear with H&S Company for the first week because 3/7 was moving to an area Southwest of Danang, which in later years would be known as the Arizona Territory. My first job was to work with the 7th Engineers making road sweeps for mines. I eventually was transferred to a line company; India Company whom I stayed with until I was medivaced six months later with what I was told was Dengue Fever. After spending a few weeks in the hospital in Japan recovering, I was expecting and wanted to go back to my unit. Again, the Navy’s plans and my plans ran afoul. I received orders to the USS Eldorado, AGC-11. I objected to no avail, and found myself back in the Navy, doing what I had initially signed up for, running the ship’s Pharmacy. I made two Westpac Cruises with the Eldorado, spending a little over two years aboard.
After my release from the Navy, I attended the University of Texas and graduated with a BBA in Management. In reflection on my military experience, I am able to justify my service in Vietnam… I kept to my personal conviction to not kill, and was able to assist many who were injured or sick. I was proud to be a Corpsman, and prouder still of my service with the Marine Corps, short though it was. The Marines made a man of me, and I was honored to be counted among them. I am glad that I went into the service instead of Canada, although I hold no grudge on those who chose that route. I am a proud member of the Texas Association of Vietnam Veterans, and Vietnam Veterans of America. I have spent many years as a veteran’s advocate, especially concerning Post Traumatic Stress issues.