Retired NAV Y H O S P I TAL C ORPSMAN F I R S T C L A S S NEAL KELLER 35 www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com WBM “You’re focused on who you have to take care of and what you have to do to get there,” he says. Sixteen days later on April 7, 1967, Keller was more seriously wounded. He was alongside Marines conducting a sweep to locate the source of the rounds being fired at US aircraft outside of the US combat base at Dong Ha. Keller felt an explosion behind and underneath him. He sustained shrapnel injuries to his legs and back, result-ing in damage to his left kidney and the removal of his spleen. A piece of shrapnel still remains lodged in his abdomen. “Something blew up right behind me and underneath me,” he says. He was evacuated by helicopter and operated on at a battalion aid station, a type of front-line field hospital. The operations were successful despite the bare-bones accommodations, includ-ing walls constructed of green-painted packing crates. His next stop was an actual hospital at Da Nang, a Vietnam-era military base, and then he was sent to the US military base at Yokosuka, Japan. A day later, on his birthday, he was shipped back to the United States. He acknowledges the lasting impact of his injuries. “I’ve got scars — I’ve got parts miss-ing,” he says; residual twinges of pain he calls little odds and ends he says haven’t hindered him at all. He served in the Marines for seven and one-half years. He then finished his college education at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. After graduation, he managed hospital labo-ratories in North Carolina and then Florida. After retirement, Keller and his wife, Sandra, moved back to North Carolina. They’ve lived in Hampstead for about four years. The couple has a son and daughter and four grandchil-dren. He says the richness of the life he lives still hasn’t erased his combat memories, however. “I think about the guys — the situa-tions,” he says.
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