Mount Cavalry, Wis. (WFRV) – From Mount Cavalry farm boy to being drafted into the U.S. Army, Paul Birshbach knew as the youngest of nine, his name would eventually be called.

So in ’67, he was headed off to the center of Vietnam.

“(I was) an APC jeep driver, it’s a little bit smaller than a tank. I was trained to be a driver, with the 50 gun and all of that stuff,” Birschbach recalled.

Part of that training included getting his crew out of dangerous situations, which they often found themselves in.

Left alone in the midst of gunfire, Birschbach found himself close to death.

“For some reason you always hear the bullets going past you, and one of them hit me in the neck,” he remembered, through tears. “But I was very fortunate.”

His driver Charles Odey rushed him to the medical tent while medic Connie Stoval applied pressure to his neck. 

Doctors were able to use a vein from Birschbach’s neck to put into his neck to save his life. It’s still there 54 years later.

Birschbach earned a purple heart and says, he survived for a reason.

“That’s why I’m so active now, because I knew the Lord put me here for something,” said Birschbach.

That something for Birschbah is giving back. He helps run the American Legion post in Mount Cavalry.

Because he says, if he was kept on this earth for one reason, it’s to pay it forward.

“Well it’s just I appreciate what other veterans have done and try to help them out. Some just need a little bit of help for their well-being, that they’re taken care of and people care about them,” Birschbach said. “I guess that’s what it is. When you’re laying in a hospital for four months, you’re thinking, ‘Why did the Lord keep you alive?’ So that’s I guess the biggest (reason).”