By Andrea Arnold
Paul Hulka Specialist E5, was drafted into the US army in 1965 and spent one year training to be a combat medic before being sent into action in Vietnam. As a drafted soldier, they were offered several options for the type of role they were going to play, but selecting your own way meant a longer service requirement. Hulka had some higher level schooling under his belt so they sent him to medical training.
As a medic, Hulka saw and experienced a lot of tragedy.
“I went on a six day R&R trip to Hawaii,” he said. “When I came back, most of my unit had been annihilated. When I walked in, one of the soldiers said ‘Hi doc, we thought you were dead.’ I would have been if I had been there. Out of the four medics that were there, two had died, one was left a parapaligic and one, the new guy, had hid when the ambush had started.”
One moment during his service stands out as a life-changing one. He tells of a non-chemically-induced out-of-body experience.
They were out on ambush patrol, and had been for several nights. Their lieutenant felt sorry for them and allowed them to bunk in a hut for the night. As the medic, Hulka was granted the “bed,” wooden slats on a frame.
He hung his gun on the bedpost and fell asleep but then woke up suddenly, unable to move.
“I knew something was wrong so I tried to reach for my gun,” he said. He then found that he was floating, looking down at himself, laying on the bed. As he floated higher, and out of the hut, he figured that something had happened, that he was dead. He had an overwhelming feeling that where he was headed was not going to be good.
“Then I woke up,” he said. He was back in his bed, and able to move.
“It had a profound effect on the rest of my life,” he said. “I was living pretty rough before that. It was the beginning of a new life. A wake-up call. It made my whole military experience worth it.”
Hulka and his family moved to Canada six years after he returned home from service.