A missile blast in Vietnam cut short this soldier's career

A missile blast in Vietnam cut short this soldier's career

By Kristin Davis

MOAA members will be participating in the association's annual Storming the Hill event April 18. One of the issues we'll bring to members of Congress is the fight for recognition for Chapter 61 retirees. This is part of a series in which those medically retired servicemembers discuss their experiences. 

Maj. Thomas Throckmorton, USA (Ret.), was not expected to survive when the missile blast that hit a helicopter over Vietnam in 1969 knocked off a chunk of his liver, destroyed his hip, and broke his pelvis in two dozen places. It also tore open adhesions from a bullet wound to the stomach suffered in Vietnam four years before.

“The priest was giving me my last rites,” Throckmorton says. 

He spent 15 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. “I received a waiver to stay on duty but finally was retired after more surgery,” Throckmorton says. “The Army was my life. My whole life had been spent on Army posts. I didn't know what civilians did.”

His grandfather had chased Pancho Villa through Mexico and fought in the Vosges Mountains of France in World War I. His own father had served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

“I graduated West Point in 1960 and volunteered for Korea because it was supposed to be the best training for young officers,” Throckmorton says. “In 1963, I volunteered for Vietnam. Branch said I couldn't go because I was on hold for the career course. That was the one time in my career I asked for my father's help.”

Throckmorton envisioned serving longer.

“But for my injuries, I would have had a full career,” Throckmorton says. “The VA has rated me 100-percent disabled, but every penny of that money is deducted from my Chapter 61 retirement pay.”

MOAA supports ending the deduction of service-earned retirement pay to offset VA disability compensation for those servicemembers whose service-connected, non-combat related disability retirement under Chapter 61, 10 U.S.C. precluded them from serving at least 20 years. Click here to take action.