SP6 Lawrence was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he was the third of sixteen children. His family was extremely poor, so he was actually raised by the neighboring family, the Samuels. Joel attended city public schools, including Atkins High School, and was a member of the Merchant Marines for one year. At the age of 18, Joel enlisted in the United States Army as a Medic. SP6 Lawrence served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. While serving in Vietnam, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 503th Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. Specialist Five Lawrence Joel and his battalion of paratroopers were sent on a patrol for Viet Cong soldiers near Bien Hoa, Warzone “D” in the heart of Vietnam. Bien Hoa was a city in Dong Nai Province, about 20 miles east of Ho Chi Minh City (formally Saigon). His battalion was charged in conducting Operation Hump, which was a search and destroy mission by the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. The battle resulted in heavy losses for both sides with 48 paratroopers lost and 410 dead Viet Cong troops.
On November 8, 1965, Joel and his battalion shortly found themselves in a Viet Cong ambush, outnumbered six to one. Under heavy gunfire, Joel did his duty as a medic, and disobeyed orders to stay low to the ground and risked his own life to help many wounded soldiers. Nearly every soldier in the lead squad was either wounded or killed in the battle. Joel himself was shot twice (once in the right thigh and once in the right calf) he continued to do his job. He bandaged his own wounds and continued to treat the wounded in not only his only company but in his nearby sister company as well. Soon his medical supplies were completely depleted, he made his way around the battlefield searching for anything he could use on a makeshift crutch while SP4 Randy Eickhoff ran in front and provided covering fire. Joel attended to thirteen troopers and saved the...
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