In 1968, Ed Christensen attended Brigham Young University to study engineering, but decided later that year to volunteer for the draft. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, and during combat medic training, an opportunity presented itself for him to apply for Officer Candidate School. Christensen continually looked for ways to excel in the Army, so he completed Jump School and then made his way to the Special Forces Officer Qualification Course.
A year later, like many other soldiers, Christensen found himself being deployed to Vietnam and assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group as the Executive Officer to a Special Forces A-Detachment. While in Vietnam, Christensen and the A-Detachment were supported by 400 indigenous people of the Central Highlands, recruited by the U.S. Special Forces, known as The Montagnard. They served as front-line fighters with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Christensen recalls on March 31st, the Montagnard troops were watching the Good, the Bad and the Ugly where everyone at the camp were unaware of what they would be facing the following morning. At sun up on April Fool’s Day, the camp was under attack from an estimated force of 2000 North Vietnamese experiencing heavy rocket, automatic weapons and mortar fire. Christensen scrambled to a weapons bunker to grab a .50 caliber machine gun to only find the weapon had been sabotaged. Determined to find a way to return fire, he climbed to the top of the thirty-foot lookout tower, nicknamed “John Wayne Tower” where he found a .50 Cal machine gun and began to return fire until it unfortunately jammed. While making a radio call for assistance, he was struck by a rocket nearly severing his left arm. While under heavy enemy fire, he was medevac’d out to a Japanese hospital, enduring several surgeries before returning stateside.
If it were not for Christensen’s quick actions, they would have been overrun in what would become a thirty-day siege. In 1971, he was medically discharged and retired due to the severity of his battle injuries. Reflecting on memories of his time in Vietnam, he shared the sentiment “we were right to be there”. Christensen also explained “We worked with people who desperately needed relief from the oppression of Communist North Vietnam”.