Medic Armel reflects on service


Times Leader Staff Writer

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — R. Keith Armel carries his share of memories from his service as a medic in the Army. The St. Clairsville American Legion’s veteran of the month for January shared some of those experiences.

Armel served in Germany 1956-1958. He noted that the draft required him to serve two years.

“We had a mandatory draft at the time,” he said. “I volunteered my draft. I said I’d go at a certain time so you don’t waste any time in your life. Three days after I graduated college, I was in the Army.”

However, he began training in a different branch of the military while in college.

“I was in the Marines,” he said. “They had what they called a PLC program. Platoon Leader Candidate, and that was when I was in college, when you get out of school, you go into the Marine Corps.”

He noted that this prior experience of basic training served him well.

“I was made platoon squad leader,” he said. “That had a lot of benefits, actually.”

He was tested and placed in the medics, then sent overseas.

“I was in the Eighth Infantry Division, and we knew that we were going to Germany to replace the Ninth Division,” he said. “I was senior aide man in the battalion aide station.”

His duties covered a wide gamut, from treating typical ailments to problems particular to those overseas.

“We just had a day’s work to do all the time,” he said. “People come in with normal things. Colds and stuff like that. Flu. Honestly, gonorrhea. We treated a lot of people for gonorrhea. That was three shots of penicillin.”

He also helped deal with serious injuries due to weapons fire.

“We had field problems,” he said, recalling one case where medics were called out to a training accident. “There was a young fellow, he was 18 years old — they had live ammunition problems –he was in bad shape. He had been shot in the side. It went in the side and out the back. The Army employed a lot of German doctors. A German doctor and myself were in an ambulance and we went to Stuttgart.”

However, that attempt did not end successfully.

“I was holding oxygen on him all the time, and I suddenly realized he wasn’t responding to anything. I’ll never forget the German doctor examined him with his stethoscope and so forth. He just sat back in his chair and he said: ‘We did what we could for him.’ He was dead.”

Armel also highlighted a strict aspect of military procedure while remembering the deceased soldier.

“He was in his sleeping bag when we went over to get him, keeping a patient warm in a case like that, shock, is a good way to treat them in that situation,” he said. “About less than a month later, I get a call from regimental headquarters. They wanted to charge me for the sleeping bag.

“You have to account for everything in the Army. If he had had a rifle with him, and you couldn’t account for that, it’s your fault,” he said. “They were going to charge me an amount of money to pay for the sleeping bag which the fellow was in when he died.”

Armel added that he and his sergeant were able to convince their superiors to drop that charge.

Armel served as a corporal and eventually acting sergeant.

This was his first time overseas. During leave, Armel was also able to visit numerous European countries.

“Probably the best thing I ever did was go to Germany while I was in the Army,” he said. “The best times I’ve had where while I was on leave.”

He noted another turning point in his life while in service.

“The girl that I thought I was going to marry sent me a Dear John letter. That was the best thing that ever happened to me, because when I got out I met the lady I married,” he said. “That was 57 years ago.”

On joining civilian life, Armel sold pharmaceuticals and was transferred from his native Pittsburgh to St. Clairsville, where he has lived since 1958.


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