Brian Leet never expected to find a soldier with a heartbeat in a body bag.
Not until recently did Leet, originally from Minot, know the name of the man whose life he saved 40 years ago, and then get to meet him again.
Leet read a story in a Disabled American Veterans magazine about a veteran named Urban Miyares, of the San Diego area, who had been saved when a military medic tagging corpses found him in a body bag during the Vietnam War.
Submitted Photo •
Brian Leet, second from right, Cambridge, Minn., formerly of Minot, and Urban Miyares, second from left, never knew each other until recently, although Leet saved Miyares’ life when he pulled him from a body bag in Vietnam 40 years ago. Leet and his wife, Karen, and Miyares and his wife, JoAnn, pose for a photo taken this year in San Diego.
"I did recall and my wife did too that I found a man, a soldier, in a body bag who had a heartbeat," said Leet, who lives in Cambridge, Minn. While he was in Vietnam Leet wrote to his wife, at that time his fiancee, about finding a soldier alive in a KIA (killed in action) bag.
After reading the story about Miyares, late last year Leet sent an e-mail to Miyares. They compared information the region they were in, the date Aug. 12, 1968, when both were in the region and it fit together.
Earlier this year, the two men met face-to-face in San Diego.
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They got together again in October in San Diego for a Veterans Affairs-sponsored sports clinic for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Leet's job with the U.S. Army in Vietnam was to review the soldiers in body bags. "He was the only one I found with a heartbeat, which made it unique," Leet said, in an interview Nov. 18. Leet said no one had checked this soldier for wounds because he was found face down in a rice paddy after a firefight.
Leet said that actually Miyares, who didn't know he had diabetes, had gone into diabetic shock and fell over when the fight occurred, then was picked up for dead and put in a body bag.
"It's unique if you had a bullet or shrapnel wound and you were in one of those bags, you were gone. But to find someone with a faint heartbeat..." Leet said.
On Veterans Day this year, the San Diego Union-Tribune ran a story about Miyares and Leet and what happened in Vietnam. Miyares had never talked about his near-death experience until then.
Miyares told the Union-Tribune that on that day in 1968 when he almost died, he, then a 20-year-old Army platoon sergeant, remembered "advancing single file across rice paddy dikes when the silence was pierced by yelling, screaming, gunfire and mortar shells. His last recollection was falling face down into muddy water." He said it was "like a dream. Everything was spinning. Then I hit the water." Leet said he remembered waking up in a military hospital and another 9th Infantry platoon soldier, who was checking on him, told him an Army medic pulled him out of a body bag.
Leet grew up in Minot and graduated from Minot High School in 1965. His mother, Maurine Wolf, and other relatives live in Minot and area.
Leet went into the Army in March 1966 and was in combat medic training for about a year before going to Vietnam. In Vietnam, he worked in a battalion medical aid station at Lai Khe, about 60 miles northwest of Saigon and about 15 miles from Cambodia.
When Leet found Miyares in the KIA bag, he pulled him out and carried him to a treatment room. Miyares then was airlifted by helicopter out of the area, but Leet never knew what happened to the soldier or where he was taken.
"About two years ago I saw this article," said Leet, referring to the DAV magazine "and that's what led to my research."
Leet and Miyares, now both in their early 60s, first met by e-mail, phone and then early this year when Leet and his wife, Karen, were in San Diego, Leet called Miyares and they and their wives got together for a visit.
They met again in October when Miyares and his wife, JoAnn, invited the Leets to the VA-sponsored summer sports clinic for soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two couples spent about a week together there, Leet said.
Miyares, who is blind, taught sailing at the sports clinic, Leet said.
"Urban was sighted in Vietnam and as the disease (diabetes) progressed, then lost his vision," Leet said. He said Miyares is very active with other veterans and has made two cross-Pacific sailboat races to Hawaii with several other veterans.
Miyares, originally from New York, formed the Disabled Businesspersons Association, a nonprofit organization, to help disabled veterans.
Leet, now retired, also worked with disabled people for the state of Minnesota for about 30 years. He has a nonprofit business teaching horseback riding, mainly to disabled children during the summers.
Before moving to Minnesota, Leet got his bachelor's degree at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, then finished graduate school in counseling and guidance at North Dakota State University, Fargo,
Leet said it was "just a fluke" that he was reading the DAV magazine that day and came across Miyares' story.
"When we first met (by e-mail) I just said my name and said I read your story, and I just wanted you to know that I was a medic over there during this time and I did find a man with a heartbeat in a body bag," Leet said.
Leet said there was enough information the timing, location and circumstances, that the pieces came together. It all made sense," he said.