JIMMY JOHNSON 39 YEARS LATER
RALPH SOUTHER & LEWIS "POPS" FERNANDER 40 YEARS LATER
JIMMY JOHNSON & EASY 39 YEARS LATER ( MAY 2006)
EASY & JIMMY JOHNSON WITH RALPH SOUTHER 40 YEARS LATER (MAY 2007
EASY & LEWIS "POPS" FERNANDER 40 YEARS LATER (MAY 2007)
Visit With 2 Wolfhounds 40 Years Later
When I left Vietnam and was medi-vaced to Japan I not only did not know what happened to those I left behind. I had no idea if I would ever see them again. However, not too long after returning to my home in Washington, D. C. I started the search once I was discharged from the Army.
The men of A 1/27 2nd Platoon their faces and names of those I could remember were forever etched in my brain along with my best friend at the time I went to Vietnam of Lonnie Upchurch. In the beginning the search was tedious. After all, the only tools I had were the white pages and 411. There were times that the search became totally hopeless, but I was not willing to give up.
There were many times when I'd find a name and knew it was the right one. But, almost without fail more searching was required. In the beginning the more the search led to nothing the more I seemed to forget. It would have been nice to have had name, address and phone number. The problem there was that when I like so many others were wounded for the 2nd time and sent back to the states our belongings were of no importance to some and never seen again.
So, I come home without the pictures I had taken; clothes I had purchased and everybody belonged to the Columbia Record Club. And I came home alone (in the sense that alone means without the men I had become attached).
I battled the rigors of society and slowly led a path of self destruction as I numbed myself anyway and with anything possible, never forgetting the men I left behind in the foxholes. There were times I wanted to go back to Vietnam considering what was happening here at home. I hit a bottom in 1995 after a bout (which still continues today) with PTSD and sought help from the VA. It was there that I would learn some of the wonders of the internet. I got my first computer in late 1997 or early 1998.
I learned that I could type my unit in the browser and may find something. I typeed in the information and was directed to the Wolfhound Alumni website. I signed the guestbook and waited. Within a few months I got my first reply. All along thinking I was the only Wolfhound from Alpha Company who made it home with the exception of Mike Moschkin who was also in the 2nd Platoon but left in January 1967.
I heard from one man (Charles Farmer) who had been in the hospital in Japan and told me he saw the guy (Gary Shifflett) I saved May 16th but never heard from him again. I had been to the Wall my first time in 1996 and even that journey I took alone the first 3 years. Then in 1999 I got some hope as I met several Wolfhounds face to face at the Wall. And in 2000 thanks to them I attended my first Wolfhound Reunion. It was there that I got real hope as I saw 2 men come together who had not seen each other since the Korean War.
When I got home from the Reunion I got emails from the 2 medics
("Doc" Alan Mitose) who had worked on me more than once in Vietnam and ("Doc" Anthony Taconite who pulled me to the tree line the 2nd time I was wounded).And on the same day, I found Lonnie Upchurch on the internet.
In early 2003 things were about to take a turn in the whole process. I got an email from Jerry Elsenheimer (Weapons Platoon/XO) who had visited my website. Then while in Florida visiting Mike Moschkin who had an email he didn't know what to make of if asked me to answer it ---- it was from Tom Demunnick. Then Tom found Joe Wanta (who I had been looking for since I left Nam) whose house he been driving past for 10 years in Wisconsin.
Then Jimmy Johnson and David Gamble got on the net. Jerry found our former CO, Captain Cole and Commanding General Meloy. I had located Major Tillson but he had passed. During this process I located or have been contacted by Ed Benedict; Oliver Becker and John Treano who took over 2nd Platoon after I left Nam.
The search is no where near over. However, during Veterans Day in Washington, D. C. I pointed out to my fellow Wolfhounds that there was one thing wrong with this picture. I had seen pictures and talked on the phone or emailed many I had found. I had not put my hands on them. It was then that I saw for the first time in 36 years, Luther Ingram (who I had been looking for since I left Nam) who was at the Wall for the first time and who had been the subject of my conversations in previous months.
The following year in July I saw for the first time in 36 years Tom Demunnick. The following year I flew to Chicago and Tom and I drove to Wisconsin where I saw Joe Wanta for the first time in 38 years. Tom went back to Chicago and Joe and I flew to Philadelphia for the Wolfhound Reunion where he saw Ingram for the first time.
More recently, I was contacted by Loyd Jones (Weapons Platoon/XO) and Henry Lawrence Dunmore who had been looking for since leaving Nam). I then found Sam Hartsfield and Lewis "Pops" Fernander) using the internet. Finally, around Christmas I got a call from my best friend's (George "Wally" Wallace KIA 6-3-67) sister Betty. She told me that one of the men lying next to Wally when he got hit had been to my website and called her. His name is Ralph Souther.
Around Christmas I got a call from Ralph. I was to learn not only did Ralph, Pops, Sam and Jimmy live in Georgia but they were not too far from one another. It was then that I knew I had to see them. I had been in Georgia in 2006 after attending the Vietnam Veterans Reunion in Melbourne, Florida and visited Jimmy but couldn't connect with "Pops" and Sam. This year I was more determined. So, after leaving Florida I called them as soon as I got to Jimmy's. I didn't see Sam but I did get to see "Pops" and Ralph. Like other visits it was a very emotional time for all of us.
I smile however. For 40 years I have wondered what happened to that pig. I recall being chased by one and "Pops" remembers we ate him!
If you are searching --- don't give up --- there's hope!
©BY William R. I. "Easy" Smith May 12, 2007
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED