When you hear your co-pilot say, “I think he’s bought the farm,” and you know that he’s talking about you, and not in the context of a real estate transaction, chances are, it’s going to be a lousy day.

Yet  John Todd, college professor, lawyer and Vietnam vet, has never had a bitter moment over that particular afternoon in January, 1969, when he was shot through the left side of his face while piloting a UH-1 gunship in II Corps.

“We were scrambled what I thought would be a short engagement, about ten minutes away,” Todd explains from his office at Rochester College, where he’s taugh Political Science and Business Law for thirty years.  “Around 150 Vietcong had attacked friendly forces along Highway One near Saigon.  I saw the tracer rounds, but that was pretty common.  I saw the one that hit me—that wasn’t quite so common…”

His co-pilot managed to get the craft back to base, but had given him up for lost.  Fortunately, flight surgeons met them on the runway, and after a stay in the field hospital, he was transferred to Japan, where ‘one major surgery per week was all that kept me alive.’  After a number of months, he was transferred to the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, and then to a rehab center near Chicago where he recuperated slowly, but steadily, over the next year.

Todd’s recovery was remarkable, but it has not been full: The injury left him blind and with difficulties hearing.  But his voice has remained strong throughout.  Having earned a law degree from Georgetown and discovered his true passion—teaching—Todd has remained a vocal supporter of American policies in Vietnam.  “It started in the early Seventies, when I first heard Vietnam Vets Against the War, John Kerry’s group.  I heard veterans portrayed as drug abuser, homicidal maniacs, and that was simply inconsistent with the men I knew.  So I was compelled to speak out as part of a group called ‘Vietnam Vets for a Just Peace’.  Richard Nixon, then President, got wind of it …”

The favorable response from the Nixon administration led to numerous CBS editorials and debates against anti-war groups, and in 1972, Todd testified before a platform committee in Washington. 

At no point, he states emphatically, did he feel angry or resentful over the injuries he sustained in service to his country, even when physically attacked by anti-war protestors here in the States.  “I knew the risks going in, and so did my parents.  I count myself extremely blessed that I survived that afternoon in January, 1969, extremely fortunate that I had a chance to go to Vietnam and fight for a cause I believed in.”



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