THE DR. KILDARE OF THE MONTAGNARDS FROM THE SOUTHERN CROSS FOR ARPIL 2, 1971.
Electronic copy of article provided by Leslie Hines
By 1LT Jown W. Peterson
FSB 4-11, (11th Inf. Bde. IO) — Nothing about Private First Class Jake W. Freudiger stirs thoughts of a Dr. Kildare or Ben Casey, but the curly-haired medic is "Doc" to more than 300 Montagnards atop that 500-foot outpost (OP) north of Quang Ngai City.
The 19-year-old medic from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade volunteered for the OP duty three months ago and has since lived in a small combination aid station-hootch overlooking the Song Tra Khuc River that winds its way from the mountains into the flatlands near Fire Support Base 4-11.
"I like it up here," he said. "These are great people and I think we can do a lot for them." In January alone the Fort Worth native treated or examined 600 Montagnards, of which about half came from a small village below the hill.
On the hill there is a mixture of ARVN and American forces. Most of the 300 Montagnards have constructed thatched hootches in the rocks within a French moat which surrounds the hilltop. The Montagnards man defensive positions, and many of the women and children Freudiger examines are their families.
Usually Freudiger sees about 120 people every week with ailments ranging from stomach aches to the greatest problem, Cellutitas–better known as Jungle rot.
"The elderly come at night and the kids during the day," he said. "The older people wait until they're real sick and won't come in right away."
Freudiger's remedies include everything from supplying a 78-year-old man with crackers because he cannot eat anything else, to patching up victims of VC booby traps or small arms fire. The aid station is equipped as well as those on firebases, related Freudiger.
Freudiger has little formal training but knows his work as well as those who have been school trained, according to fellow medics. "When I was out in the field, I took over the medic bags when our medic left," he explained. "I had watched him work, and when we were back on the firebases I always hung around the aid station and paid attention to what went on."
Freudiger makes what he calls about 20 "house calls" every day. "You have to, because some of these people don't realize they're sick or just won't come in for help. Besides that, I can get a general idea of their health."
He carries a tongue depressor and apparatus for the blood pressure test which he says "they don't understand, but that doesn't matter, just as long as I find out they're ok." It is not unusual to see Freudiger grab a youngster and take him to his mother for a bath or keep a watchful eye on a newborn during his visits.
His day is long. Those Montagnards who work the fields usually come to the aid station after dark with their complaints. At any time villagers from the flatlands will trudge up the 500-foot-long path carrying a patient on a stretcher made from bamboo poles and a hammock.
He noted the Montagnards have a set religious custom of sacrificing a dog or pig frequently, and laughingly said, "A lot of times they will get me up at three in the morning when they get a stomach ache or headache from eating or drinking too much.
Even though he came directly from the field where he had no contact with Montagnards, Freudiger said he didn't have much trouble adjusting to the customs or language. "We don't have any trouble communicating because they just point to where the problem bothers them."
"Some of the customs are funny," he continued, "But I really respect them. One is when you receive something from an old man, you accept it with both hands."
Freudiger says some of his roughest days come when he gets several medevac patients. Montagnards with illnesses or wounds beyond the medic's capability of treating are medevaced to Chu Lai or Quang Ngai City.
"You know, it's a little different up here from just pulling a Medcap. Sometimes on a Medcap you can just bandage a kid's arm and two hours later he will rip it off and let the injury get dirty. Here I make sure they follow the instructions and try to keep them clean and well," he emphasized.
"These people don't ask for anything, but I give the kids my supply of MO-CO which is a mixture of chocolate and coffee that helps to give them a little more nutrition. They help me, too. The kids come in once a day and clean the aid station and a mama-san washes my clothes. They know you'll be there when they need you."
The Montagnards have also expressed their appreciation by giving Freudiger a wrist band made of common household string. "It's pretty symbolic," he said, pointing to three small balls of string hooked to the bracelet.
"Each ball stands for each time you have attended a sacrifice and inside each is a piece of intestine from the sacrificed animal. It really is quite an honor."
In five months his enlistment is over and he hopes to get training as a laboratory or X-ray technician. Meanwhile, he says "The more we work for these people the better off we will be."
"Doc" Freudiger is a tangible example of that philosophy.
The copy of this issue of the Southern Cross was a personal purchase from Carlisle Barracks Military History Institute by Leslie Hines, with an assist from Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.