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"A real good kid"

  • Published
  • By Jerome Greer Chandler
  • VFW Magazine

On Jan. 30, 1966, 20-year-old Army medic Thomas Cole was in a muddy trench in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Though wounded himself, Cole continued providing first aid to the wounded and dying around him.

Also present at the battle was AP photographer Henri Huet and war correspondent Bob Poos.

Huet snapped a series of photos of Cole, one of which would appear on the Feb. 11, 1966, cover of Life magazine. Numerous newspapers across the United States also published it.

The iconic photo appears on the cover of this issue of VFW magazine. It shows Cole, who served with A Co., 2nd Bn., 7th Cav Regt., 1st Cav Div., tending to Staff Sgt. Harrison Pell at An Thai.

In a battle account of that day, Poos wrote: “Cole kept going, answering the call of a wounded man here, a dying man there. Cole spent an hour in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation trying to revive one terribly wounded soldier. The man died.

Six months later, and just two weeks shy of his return to the U.S., Cole was in the thick of battle in Nha Trang. As he ran to help a fallen soldier, he was hit by gunfire. His left arm was shattered and another bullet struck his left thigh. Nevertheless, he survived and returned home to Richmond, Va.

Poos, who died in 2008, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2000 that while he had lost track of Cole, he would never forget him.

“He was saving a lot of lives,” Poos said. “[He was] a sharp kid. A real good kid.”

Before going to Vietnam, Cole had expressed an interest in medicine. More specifically, he wanted to be a physical therapist.

Over the years, some vets who were once treated by Cole have sought him out unsuccessfully.

Do you know Thomas Cole? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Email

Reprinted with permission. August 2017, VFW magazine


VFW member Jerome Greer Chandler was an Army medic, a 91A. In 1970 he served with D Co., 2nd Bn., 501st Inf. Regt., 101st Airborne Div. A regular contributor to VFW magazine, Chandler is a former assistant professor at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.