Never leave a man behind: A story of lifelong friends

Never leave a man behind: A story of lifelong friends

By Angela Morefield

You know the old military saying, “Never leave a man behind?” Wel,l that’s exactly what Southsider Jerry Ammerman stands by when it comes to his lifelong friend Bill Throckmorton.

Ammerman and Throckmorton met when they were in high school. They spent time hanging out at a local neighborhood drugstore for fun. A short time after high school, in 1963, Ammerman enlisted in the United States Army, and told Throckmorton. The next day Throckmorton happily told Ammerman that they were going to do it together, as he had enlisted also.

Jerry Ammerman enlisted in the Army in 1963. (Submitted photo)

They left on the June 27, 1963 for Fort Knox, KY for three months of basic training. After finishing basic training, the friends went to Fort Sam Houston, TX for Advanced Individual Training (AIT). AIT is where soldiers learn the skills to perform their jobs in the Army. After their AIT training was completed, they traveled to Germany, where they spent two years serving in the Army. The pair was then deployed to Vietnam for their last year in 1966.

“In that time period, we got separated because of the assignments they gave us,” Ammerman said. Throckmorton was in the infantry unit and was traveling on an APC (army personnel carrier) in a very hostile area when the troop was hit by a landmine and the vehicle exploded. The Army sent him to a hospital in Japan for treatment. He had serious brain damage. Throckmorton was later transferred from Japan to a hospital in Washington D.C., and then Bethesda Maryland Army hospital. Ammerman was discharged from the Army in June of 1967.

Throckmorton needs help moving in and out of bed into a wheelchair, as he has limited mobility from the brain damage, and has trouble speaking. “For the last 53 years, he’s been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes,” Ammerman said. “They talk about servicemen paying the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s true with Bill because he hasn’t had a life.”

Ammerman, standing, visits his friend, veteran Bill Throckmorton, frequently. (Photo by Angela Morefield)

Throckmorton currently resides at Rosegate nursing home on S. Emerson Avenue, where he has been for about five years. “He lives a pretty lonely life,” Ammerman said. “They (the nursing home staff) get him up in the morning, put him in a wheelchair, take him to breakfast, then he pretty much sits in his wheelchair in the hallway or the lounge until it’s time to eat again and he can’t get up or move.” Throckmorton used to go to the VA for treatment, but the nursing home decided to have the house doctor take care of him instead. “I think Bill deserves all the credit,” Ammerman said. “Bill loved the military and will still tell you he would do it all over again.” Ammerman visits his friend at the nursing home frequently.

After Ammerman’s time in the military he worked at Chrysler for a year, and then he decided to become a fireman and was sworn in. He retired from the Indianapolis Fire Department after 36 years. He worked out of Garfield Park Station 29, and at Station 3 in Fountain Square. He just celebrated 50 years from the day he was sworn into the fire department this past October. “It’s the greatest career in the world,” Ammerman said. He spends his time now selling real estate and is a member of the American Legion.

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