Clarence Sasser (FS ’67)

Clarence Sasser (1947–2024), Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient

Clarence Sasser (FS ’67) was a U.S. Army combat medic in the Vietnam War who was given the Medal of Honor for his valor in rescuing the wounded. He died May 13, 2024 in Sugar Land, Texas at the age of 76.

Clarence Sasser’s legacy
Born in Texas, Sasser briefly attended the University of Houston before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1967 after being forced to reduce his courseload to part-time due to a lack of money for tuition. He had been studying chemistry and dreamed of one day being a physician, but with that dream deferred, he was able to achieve a version of it in the Army. Sasser trained as a medic at Fort Sam Houston and soon found himself serving in Vietnam.
A combat medic, Sasser accompanied his platoon when they left camp on missions. In the field, he treated gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds, and other injuries. On January 10, 1968, he was with his platoon on a reconnaissance mission when they were transferred via helicopter to enemy territory. As soon as they landed, they began receiving enemy fire, and Sasser was shot in the leg as he exited the helicopter.
Sasser shrugged off the gunshot wound, which he called superficial, and immediately got to work assisting other injured soldiers. As he finished bringing one wounded man to safety, Sasser was hit with shrapnel that tore through his back and shoulder. Despite his own injuries, he continued assisting the wounded, exposing himself to more enemy fire. It was a particularly dangerous situation for Sasser — the enemy knew killing a medic would make other soldiers more likely to die due to lack of medical attention — but he made it out alive that day while helping many others in his platoon get to safety. Sasser’s injuries were treated at a military hospital in Japan, and he continued to serve there after his recovery. After the war, he returned to his study of chemistry and went on to work at a petrochemical refinery.
In 1969, Sasser was presented with the Medal of Honor, the official citation noting his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” In 2010, a statue depicting him running in uniform with his medic’s bag was erected at the courthouse in his native Brazoria County, Texas.
Notable quote
“The thing that pleases me most about my tour over there was the reverence that was afforded the medics by the infantry soldiers. To them you were Doc. You were the man that if anything went wrong, you were the person that could help them out, possibly save their lives.” — from a 1987 oral history interview for AMEDD Center of History & Heritage

The following article appeared in the UH Houston History Magazine:

Clarence Eugene Sasser was just twenty years old when his actions earned him the Medal of Honor. His enrollment at the University of Houston had kept him out of the draft, but as the Vietnam War progressed Sasser dropped his student status to part-time. The Army subsequently drafted him, but he prefers to think that he “volunteered to be drafted.”
He headed to Fort Sam Houston where he trained to become a combat medic. By September 1967, Sasser was in Vietnam. Assigned to an infantry unit, he regularly treated gunshot wounds, shrapnel injuries, and jungle-related skin issues while on patrol. In January 1968, Sasser’s unit was backing up those on the front. “We thought we had an easy time for a change,” he recalled. The first two days of the engagement proved relatively simple, but on day three they received
orders to head to the front. Helicopters took the group to a rice field under heavy fire. Sasser was shot in the leg as he exited the aircraft at roughly 11:00 a.m. on January 10. The next hours turned into the longest day of his life. The soldiers fought against enemy snipers, mortars, and booby traps; and the wounded Sasser attempted to tend to as many injuries as possible. He had become friends with the men in his unit and felt a responsibility toward them, saying, “There’s no way that I could have, in my mind, not went to see about someone when they hollered medic, or when they called Doc.” That day and overnight, Sasser sustained painful shrapnel
injuries, was knocked unconscious by a ricocheted bullet, and became a target for snipers, and yet he continued to tend to his fellow wounded. Just before day break, helicopters evacuated the soldiers. President Richard Nixon presented the Medal of Honor to Sasser on March 7, 1969, to reward him for his “extraordinary heroism” as a combat medic. After his tour ended,
Sasser completed his degree and worked at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Houston for much of his career. Looking back on his service, Sasser notes, “I am particularly proud that my medal was for saving lives, rather than destroying lives. That’s not to say anything against the guys that were combat soldiers, or whatever, that killed people and of course received the medal. I do not mean to insult or belittle their accomplishment.… It’s just that I’m particularly
proud that mine was for being a medic and was for saving lives.” The Medal of Honor is the highest military award granted to members of the United States Armed Forces. Over 3,400 medals have been conferred upon deserving military personnel who “distinguish[ed] themselves through conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.”
To read more about other Houston area Medal of Honor recipients,

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