Army medic still serving
Fellow soldier saved his life in Vietnam; Ellsworth man now assists other vets
EDITOR’S NOTE: To suggest a veteran for this series, which runs weekly through Veterans Day, email Metro Editor Marly Reichert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ELLSWORTH — U.S. Army veteran Fred Schrock, 78, of Ellsworth, spent over a year in Vietnam where he served his fellow soldiers.
Today, he stills serves fellow veterans and understands more than most what “I got your back” means.
Schrock grew up on the family farm and graduated from Jackson-Milton High School in 1961. He said the dairy farm was owned and operated by his grandparents, Fred and Lilly Toot, and later by his parents, Ralph and Esther Schrock.
“Today I rent out the fields,” Schrock said. “The dairy part is gone.”
After graduation, Schrock became a lay minister in the First Federated Church in North Jackson. He also was a longtime member of the Jackson Golden Oaks 4-H Club and the Ellsworth Junior Farmers. In 1962, he was named 4-H King at the Canfield Fair.
In 1965, Schrock was drafted and entered the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector. He felt strongly about President John F. Kennedy’s statement, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
He took his basic training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he received training as a field medic. After training he was assigned to the 14th Infantry of the 25th Division, U.S. Army, and was assigned to Scofield Barracks near Honolulu, Hawaii.
“From there we went to war,” he said. “The entire 25th Division boarded the USS Walker and headed to Vietnam. We were told just before Christmas in 1966 and left in January for a year of service.”
Even as a conscientious objector, Schrock was respected by his comrades. He said they lived by the motto, “Look out for us, and we will look out for you.” That would come into play during the first major battle for Schrock’s unit.
Early on, Schrock’s role as medic saw him performing day-to-day activities like giving shots and first aid as needed. But that would all change on Nov. 19, 1966.
“We were the lead company on a reconnaissance,” Schrock said. “We heard three shots fired and thought it was sniper fire. We were commanded to halt, then, after a short time, were given the command to advance and all hell broke loose and kept going until dusk.”
He said the first words he heard were the call for “medic.” His company was hit so hard and fast that it was commanded to retreat, but Schrock had to advance to help the wounded get to a location where they could be treated and airlifted by helicopter if needed. Twice Schrock had to head into the danger zone to help the wounded. His second trip was when he remembered the motto.
“While helping a wounded soldier, I came face-to-face with the enemy who raised a rifle and pointed it at me,” Schrock said. “I heard two shots fired, and saw the enemy drop. Soldiers from my unit saved my life. They had my back. Throughout the experience (in Vietnam), I had deep thoughts about being a conscientious objector and how others killed the enemy to save my life.”
Schrock continued to move and treat the wounded, and help load them onto medical helicopters to be flown out of the battle zone.
“At the end of the day I was soaked with blood and sweat,” Schrock said. “That night the firing stopped. I leaned against a tree and couldn’t sleep all night. The next day we went in to get the KIA (killed in action). I had to identify the fallen by their dog tag and then place them in body bags. What was very emotional for me was seeing a fellow medic, Herbert Supp, who was hit in the face. He was a handsome young man and his parents had just purchased a Ford Thunderbird for him to use when he got home. He had told me when the battle started that if he was to go out (into the battlefield) he would be killed. I could only identify him by his tags.”
He said commanders, medics and communications operators were targeted by the Viet Cong. The goal was to create chaos among the ranks. He also said the Viet Cong tied themselves to the trees so even if they were killed, the American soldiers would waste ammunition as they continued to fire at the body in the trees.
In January 1967, Schrock’s unit received orders to return home. The night before they were to leave, the base was hit. Fortunately, no one was killed.
“Coming back on the plane, I looked out the window and saw what a beautiful country Vietnam was,” he said.
After returning home, Schrock got a job at the new General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant where he worked in assembly inspection and material handling as a forklift operator.
In October 1972, at age 22, Schrock went on a blind date at the First Federated Church’s square dance. He dated Jackie Watson and went on to marry her and help raise her son, John Q. Hall. Jackie had lost her first husband to cancer.
In 2005, he retired from General Motors and the couple built a house on the family farm property. In March, the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary.
Over the years, Schrock became more and more civic minded, continuing to serve as “what he could do for the country.” He joined the Jackson Citizens Association and served a term as president. He helped form the Jackson Historical Society about 10 years ago and is vice president, and is president of the Ellsworth Historical Society.
He also became an ordained minister through Greenford Christian Church and serves on the pastoral care team. In this role, he is able to serve as pastor at roughly 30 funerals each year.
As if that weren’t enough, he serves as chaplain for the United Veterans Council and is president of the Mahoning Veterans Memorial at the Canfield Fairgrounds.
One thing he is passionate about is telling his story of service. He still chokes up when he speaks of his comrades who didn’t make it back. He said he doesn’t do it for himself, but to share with other veterans so they will release the stories they have bottled up inside.
“My key thing is the unity of veterans,” he said.
Just like his service in Vietnam, Schrock still has their backs.
SERVICE BRANCH: U.S. Army
MILITARY HONORS: Vietnam service and campaign medals, National Defense Service medal, and was named 2016 Veteran of the Year by the Mahoning County United Veterans Council.
OCCUPATION: Retired from General Motors in Lordstown
FAMILY: Wife, Jackie Schrock, and son, John Q. Hall