Heroic Stories of Medics, Corpsmen and Surgeons in Combat by Mark R. Littleton and Charles “Chuck” Wright
Don “Doc” Ballard enlisted in the United States Navy in 1965. After he completed Navy recruit training and Hospital Corps School, he decided that he wanted to serve as a hospital corpsman with the Marine Corps and was sent to a Field Medical Service School. After he completed the course there, he was sent to Vietnam in 1967. Ballard was assigned as a Navy corpsman with M Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division in Quang Tri province, in South Vietnam. On May 16, 1968, Ballard treated two Marines suffering from heat exhaustion, and when returning to his platoon from the casualty evacuation helicopter pad, his rifle company was attacked by a unit of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers. While under enemy fire, Ballard was attending to a Marine who was wounded in action when an enemy grenade landed near the wounded Marine, four other Marines, and himself. He immediately covered the grenade with his body to shield the five Marines from the blast. Realizing that the grenade failed to explode, he quickly threw it out of harms way as it exploded, saving the wounded Marine from further harm or death, and the other four Marines and himself from harm or death. He then continued on attending to wounded Marines during the firefight. For his actions, he received the United States of America’s highest personal military decoration for valor, the Medal of Honor.
After having left the Navy the previous year, Ballard received the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon and General Westmoreland 1970.