John Ogden

By Paul Wood

Photo By Rick Danzl/The News-Gazette

URBANA — John Ogden was injured in Vietnam, twice in the same battle.

“I left my body and came back,” he says of May 12, 1968, when as a 19-year-old Army volunteer, he was hit first by shrapnel from mortar fire and 20 minutes later by shrapnel from a rocket.

Ogden, 67, was in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968, after going to Mansfield High School. His family was in farming.

The Tet Offensive was in 1968, and made that an especially dangerous year for Americans in Southeast Asia.

Ogden was in an artillery unit near Nha Trang Air Force Base.

He says he was temporarily assigned to an infantry unit that came into contact with a full regiment of North Vietnam regular troops.

“I saw the bushes moving, and I told the commanding officer,” he remembers.

A few seconds later, mortar fire wounded him.

Worse yet was leaving the terraced hill, when a rocket came through the ramp of the armored personnel carrier he was in, killing a medic.

“I was gone; I was only on my way out, above everything. I was up very high and looking down,” he says.

“But I decided I wasn’t ready to go. I screamed no and the next thing I know I was waking up and picking flesh out of my eyes.”

Much of the later action was a blur.

“We got off the hill, and I was Medevac-ed to Saigon,” he says. “A priest gave me the last rites, and I wasn’t even Catholic.”

Though he had shrapnel wounds to both legs, an arm, his back and his face, Ogden was judged to be healed and healthy enough to do some perimeter guarding after he got out of the hospital and before he was sent home.

He became a carpenter, having learned some skills building a “hooch,” or makeshift hut, in Vietnam.

Ogden has had a successful career in carpentry, working in the union and in his own business.

The out-of-body experience wasn’t what turned him into a devout Christian.

He says his brother Richard’s murder in 1977 made him pick up the Bible and read deeply into it.

The world political situation suggests the biblical end of times is near, Ogden says.

He expects there to be the Rapture soon, and calls his body his “Earth suit.”

Ogden’s experience in Vietnam colored his perception of current politics. He believes Iraq is a case of the U.S. having its hands tied in war.

“There shouldn’t be rules of engagement in war,” he says. “We should be using every weapon we have.”

He blames the president for the situation and has an “Impeach Obama” sticker on his vehicle, using stronger language in his own home.

Ogden has a daughter and two grandchildren.

Do you know a veteran who could share a story about military service? Contact staff writer Paul Wood at