Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Medevacs & Medics, Angels of Mercy

By Ed Marek, editor

March 17, 2012

America lost a hero today - "Just a farm boy from Utah" - George E. Wahlen

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America lost a hero on June 5, 2009. His name is George E. Wahlen of Ogden, Utah. He died at the age of 84.

He joined the Navy in 1943, wanting to be an aircraft mechanic. Instead, the Navy trained him to be a corpsman and assigned him to a Marine battalion as a pharmacist's mate second class.

In February 1945, he landed with his division on Iwo Jima. During the ensuing battle, while helping a wounded Marine, he was hit by grenade shrapnel in the face, temporarily blinding him in one eye. He refused treatment and kept working. He ran through intense enemy fire carrying another wounded Marine to safety on his back. An adjacent platoon lost its corpsman, so he ran through heavy mortar fire to take care of that platoon's wounded as well as those in his own. In all, on this day, he treated 14 casualties.

Some days later, he was wounded again in the back, and again refused evacuation. The next day he went with his outfit on an assault over more than 600 yards of open terrain and was hit in the leg. He could not walk, so he crawled 50 yards to care for a fallen Marine. Only five of the 250 men in his company escaped from being killed or wounded. Back in the States and after being hospitalized, he left the Navy in December 1945.

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While at the hospital at Camp Pendleton, he received two Navy Crosses and then, in Washington, received the Medal of Honor from President Truman. Truman told him, "I'm sure glad a pill pusher finally made it up here."

In 1948, he enlisted in the Army as a medical technician, was given a commission, served in Korea and Vietnam, and retired at the rank of major in 1968. After retiring in 1969, he took a job assisting veterans at Weber State University. Wahlen was an "ambassador" for veterans' causes, lobbying for funds to improve the Utah Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Camp Williams and to build two nursing homes in the state.

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Three buglers played "Taps" at his burial, he received a 21-gun salute, two Marine helicopters passed over his grave, with one peeling off toward the mountains as it passed. Members of the Patriot Guard provided a flag line (Photo credit: Steve Griffin, The Salt Lake Tribune). Some 400 people, including generals and admirals, attended his memorial.

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During the memorial for Major Wahlen, Terry Schow, director of veterans affairs for Utah, announced a veterans nursing home under construction in Ogden will bear his name. And the promise was kept. George Wahlen would say he was just a farm boy from Ogden.
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Forward Surgical Team, the FST