Soldier shares Vietnam stories

Michael Grennell

In the forests of Vietnam, army specialist Leonard Rugh saw his life forever changed in September 1969.

While retrieving ammunition for a squad mate, Rugh was shot in the head by a North Vietnamese soldier. Initially given a grim prognosis by his doctors, Rugh overcame his devastating wounds and now almost 44 years later, he shows up at Saddleback College for his weekly class.

In his book, “Promises Kept: How One Couple’s Love Survived Vietnam,” Rugh recalled the day in 1968 when he received his draft notice.

“My twenty-third birthday was only a few days away and I had been married for almost two years,” Rugh wrote. “But this afternoon the letter I had hoped would never come arrived.”

A year later, Rugh’s wife Luanna received the news that he had been wounded in action. Rugh was transferred to the Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton where he underwent surgeries to replace part of his skull and physical therapy in order to walk again. In March 1970 he was released from the hospital in Camp Pendleton and was moved to the Veterans’ Administration Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. twenty months of therapy and rehabilitation later, Rugh was released from all hospital care and rehab, and moved back home with his wife.

When Rugh returned from the hospital, he stayed inside his house for much of his time as he did not believe that he was fit enough to be outside. After the birth of his daughter in 1973, Rugh’s wife pressed him to go outside on walks with her and his daughter. Eventually, he started going out more and began to meet people and talk with old friends.

In 1974, Rugh signed up for classes at Saddleback College. After nine years of taking various classes, Rugh received his college diploma from California State University, Fullerton.

A few years later, Rugh began taking a writing class for people with brain injuries. In this class, Rugh discovered a passion for writing, and he began writing his book.

With the help of his wife, the letters home he wrote in Vietnam, and his friends from his attachment in Vietnam, Rugh completed his book after almost 20 years, and had it published in 2009.


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