A sacred place

By MG Patrick Brady, COL Donald Hall and Charles Kelly, Jr.

Sacred spaces. Lincoln talked about them in his address at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. In the military, they can have a special meaning. Places like the Little Round Top, where a desperate but determined Joshua Chamberlain ordered the men of the 20th Maine to fix bayonets, saving the Union line from collapsing on the second day at Gettysburg. Or the sands of Omaha Beach, where Brigadier General Norm deCota, realizing the precarious position the Allied landings were in, ordered the 2d Ranger Battalion to “Lead the Way!” Or the smoke filled Belleau Woods, where Sergeant Major Dan Daly, USMC, in an act that would result in the receipt of one of his two Medals of Honor, told his Marines “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever,” carrying the battle, and the day.

Recently, MG (Ret) Pat Brady, BG (Ret) Jerome Foust, and, COL Donald Hall, and Charles Kelly, Jr. made a special trip to one such sacred place. An overgrown field south of Vihn Long, Vietnam.

It was quiet there that day. Not like it was on 1 July 1964, when Major Charles L. Kelly, MSC, USA, while attempting to retrieve a wounded American advisor, was mortally wounded just after speaking perhaps the five most important words uttered by an AMEDD officer since Jonathan Letterman resigned his commission: “When I Have Your Wounded.”

During the six months that Kelly commanded the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance), he revolutionized—transformed, to use the current buzzword—the way the Department conducted battlefield evacuation.

And on that muggy, hot day, a small group of those who loved and honored Majory Kelly honored him, as soldiers do, on the ground where he made his final sacrifice for his country.

A bit of history here about the man, Charles Kelly, put together by COL Donald Hall,

“When I Have Your Wounded”

Those five words, among the last uttered by Major Charles L. Kelly, Medical Service Corps, United States Army–commanding officer of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance)–on July 1, 1964 are perhaps the five most important words in the history of the Army Medical Department since the Army of the Potomac published Special Order 147 on August 2, 1862.

The UH-1 “Huey” was designed as a Medical Evacuation aircraft. The Department knew WHAT it was for. It took Charles Kelly to show us HOW to use it. In these days of rice bowls, political infighting, and acrimony, let’s never lose sight of his sacrifice, or the Department’s ultimate mission. Dustoff.

No excuse. No hesitation. Fly the mission. Fly it now.

Born April 10, 1925, Whadley, Georgia
Killed in Action July 1, 1964, Republic of Vietnam
“”everything has been said. I will do my best, and please remember ‘Army Medical Aviation FIRST’.”
–Major Charles L. Kelly, 15 June 1964

“When I have your wounded”
–Major Charles L. Kelly, 1 July 1964

Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously)
Silver Star
Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster
Air Medal with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Commendation Medal
Military Order Medal of Vietnam National Order, Fifth Class
Gallantry Cross with Palm
Combat Infantry Badge
Combat Medical Badge
Senior Aviator Badge
Parachutist Badge


Top of the School House

SFC Carl R. Piper The Department of Aviation Medicine (DAM) continues to train the warfighter in aeromedical tasks and drive change by incorporating new lessons

Read More »
DUSTOFFer Newsletter

From the Wiregrass – Spring/Summer 2024

The Medical Evacuation Concepts & Capabilities Division (MECCD) continues to drive capability development and integration within the Medical Evacuation Community.  As the operational space continues

Read More »