Once I was asked why did I want to open a can of worms, referring to my inquiries regarding my time in Vietnam. Well, the answer to that is a simple one. For it has taken years on a journey that has led to a healing process that started long after I left Vietnam.
Of the things I held onto were the memories of the men I shared foxholes with, forced marches and firefights with the Viet Cong. There were some memories of good times when we were allowed to laugh and have a moment of fun. Yet, even in those times the knowledge of knowing that the jungles that often drenced with rain and blistered with the hot sun crawling with the ememy would be there waiting for our return.
I for one soon blocked dates and places. I learned that friendships were not to be made. And that there was no room for self-pity or weakness of any kind. Atleast, you couldn't show it.
But, like many I found friendship hard to avoid. And I became friends with one George D. Wallace (aka Wally). It was the kind of closeness where we found that we had some things in common and we could talk to each other. But. Wallace was killed on June 3, 1967 and I received a serious warning from our platoon sargent (SSgt Kenneth D. Black) not to make friends because I took Wally's death real hard and I was sad and depressed for awhile afterwards.
In the meantime, there were others that I came to know and in some cases develop a closeness. The problem was that I tended to take heed to the words regarding making friendships and at the same time ignored it because we needed each other and that meant something more than being friends. It meant watching each oher's back. It meant being together as a unit. It meant having someone to talk to that understood. And it seemed that only those that were right there with you understood. Something that carried over into post Vietnam as well.
So, I did my time in Nam and after being wounded the 2nd time I returned to the States after a stay in a hospital in Japan. It was then that the haunting memories of the men I served with took it's heaviets toll. I didn't know who was alive and who wasn't. It was then that I took on the task of finding anyone who made back to the World. And considering I came home seemingling alone on the flight back to the World, I felt a sense of guilt that my buddies were still there and I got to go home.
Initially, I attempted to find out the events of my last day in Nam (September 4. 1967). During my search I was given the name of Captain Williams and that I needed to contact him for any details of that date because I was informed that I was recommended for the Silver Star. My search turned up empty. I got to the point that I didn't beleive that he existed over the years.
In addition to looking for Captain Williams I tried to find others but all I had to go on in some cases were last names. There was Gary Shifflette ( the point man who I pulled from a canal when he was wounded). There was Sgt. Riley the last face I remember seeing ( I was wounded trying to pull him to safety during an ambush on September 4, 1967). But, there were others some I was close to like Clarence Dunmore, Luther Igram, Donahue, Pops, Gault, SSgt. Black and General Tilson,
For years I had all but given up on ever finding any of them much less anyone else who served with my outfit........1/27th Wolfhounds. Yet I clung to this hidden hope, this hidden faith that one day I would find them.
In the meantime, I found that one nitch to hold onto and that was helping other veterans. I learned to pass on the tools or coping skills I picked up in the PTSD and other programs and groups. I started extendng my hand more and becoming more visible.
I started participating in once avoided Veterans events like parades and became more active in the Veterans community and would attend reunions in hopes that I would find just one of the men I served with.
I would look at old photos and just remember what I could and try to remember what I couldn't.
Above all, I found renewed faith and hope and never gave up!
September 4, 2003