Ray Amelio grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side, and after graduating from high school he attended nearby Duquesne University. Like many young, rambunctious students, Ray could have—should have—paid a little more attention to his studies. It was only a matter of time until he was asked to leave school, as Father MacEnulty suggested in his suspension letter to Ray, “to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.”
Ray’s unintended exit from college led him to the navy in 1966—at the invitation of the draft board, of course. After basic training, Ray became a hospital corpsman and served aboard the USS Wasp (CV-18) for a while until the Marine Corps needed him in Vietnam.
As a combat medic in country with the 3rd Marine Division, Ray served in the thick of it. Bombardments, mortars, fire fights, fallen bodies. He was wounded twice. “I’ll never forget the sights, sounds, and smells,” he says. “Blood has a certain smell.” After all these years, the smell of death in the fields and villages stays with him.
Serving in Vietnam was an object-lesson in adaptation, perseverence, and survival. When life get tough, Ray says, he reminds himself that nothing can be worse than being in Vietnam.
On September 15, 2012, navy veteran Ray Amelio sat down with us at Pittsburgh’s Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum to share his story. We setup our mobile oral history recording studio in the grand, spacious Gettysburg Room, with its august dark wood paneling and historic décor. Curator Mike Krause provided us with the most splendid prop for our impromptu set—a Vietnam-era navy corpsman dress green uniform. “That brings back memories,” Ray said as soon as he saw the jacket. “Do you think I can try it on?”
KEYWORDS: BOSTON, MA; BRANIFF AIRLINES; BRAVO COMPANY; BREW, DR. LT. COMMANDER; C-130; CAMP LEJEUNE; CARRIBEAN; CASEY, TOM; CORPSMAN (MEDIC) SCHOOL, CHICAGO, IL; DA NANG, VIET NAM; DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY; DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY VETERANS ASSOCIATION (DUVA) (1969-1977); ETHRIDGE, MELVIN CAPTAIN; FIELD MEDICAL TRAINING (SEPT 1967); FRIENDS OF DA NANG; GEMINI XII; GREAT LAKES NAVAL TRAINING CENTER; GRECO, FATHER; HICKEY, LT.; HUTCHER, DR. NEIL; WASHINGTON, DC; JANESVILLE, WI; JONES LT. (MEDICAL SERVICE OFFICER); JONES, LT. COMMANDER; KALZIA, FRANK; KHE SANH; MAN OVERBOARD DRILL; MCCARTHY, JUDGE; MCANALTY, FATHER; NAVY HOSPITAL, CHICAGO; OKINAWA; OLIVER HIGH SCHOOL; PHU BAI, VIETNAM; PITTSBURGH, NORTHSIDE; QUANG TRI, VIETNAM; SIEGE OF KHE SANH; ST. THOMAS; TIBAK, PUERTO RICO; TREASURE ISLAND; TRENCH LINE; US STEEL; USS SALAMONIE; USS WASP (OCT ’66-JUNE ’67); VETERANS LEADERSHIP PROGRAM; WILES, JERRY
The Social Voice Project is dedicated to understanding the voices and stories of our lives–those first-hand, authentic accounts of lived experiences we call oral histories. Sharing these experiences reveals our social, economic, and political lives, and they help forge important understandings of public histories.
The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative is a veteran-run, award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to capture, preserve, and share the voices, images, and experiences of veterans of all eras and branches of service with a Western Pennsylvania connection.
The mission of the Veterans Breakfast Club is to create communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten. We believe that through our work, people will be educated, healed, and inspired. The Veterans Breakfast Club is a non-religious, non-political 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.