Note: This is part four of a series. You can read part one, part two, and part three, here.

Sometimes during hellacious battles, heroes ride in on white horses. Sometimes quiet, unassuming heroes ride into the hell storm of battle in a Navy ambulance, combating tenacious enemy sappers while saving American and indigenous soldiers’ lives.

At midnight on Aug. 22, 1968, hospital Corpsman Third Class Henry Valentino (Val) Santo ended a 12-hour shift at NSA Naval Hospital, Da Nang, across Highway 1, east of MAAG 16.

At that time, NSA Naval Hospital, Da Nang was the largest casualty facility in Vietnam, and according to Santo, possibly the world. By the end of 1968, more than 13,500 casualties would be brought to the facility and treated during the peak year of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, with the highest number of personnel in-country at 543,000. As a Navy corpsman, Santo’s assignment in Receiving 1 was to give life-saving medical treatment, prepare patients for surgical intervention, and provide evacuation and triage in the field.