For many years this soldier was content to leave the mud and canals and battles of the Mekong Delta far behind. I would forget about all that if allowed. But those experiences continue to intrude on my life. For 20 years after returning home I didn’t have a dream; at least one I could remember. That, as it turned out, was a blessing. Because when they came it was horrible.
Many were actual replays of incidents but others were like the product of a horror movie. Nothing can twist the human mind so much as the human mind. Let’s add a lot of body parts and legs that can’t get anywhere no matter how hard they try or how critical the situation.
Because of all those things I never had the slightest desire to attend any kind of reunion. But as I aged the combat experiences became more to the fore of my consciousness. In an attempt to keep my marriage intact I began a program of intense therapy, which brought out the ability to talk some about the past.
In 2012 I began to get emails and phone calls from a couple of men who had formed the reunion of Bravo Company, 3/60 Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. I began to attend those events and discovered what had been missing all those years — the comradery of a group that had faced day-to-day extinction together.
When I landed in Orlando, Florida, for the latest reunion, Ruhlin Gregory lit up my cell as soon as I got off the plane. Gregory and the bunch from 1st Platoon 1967 were my responsibility as medic. I have been surprised about the amount of respect those men have for me even today.
He had kidnapped the hotel jitney driver and was on his way to pick me up. When the jitney pulled in, the driver got out, grabbed my bag and said “Is this yours, Doc?” When we got back to the hotel, the clerk handed me my room key as soon as I walked in. “Welcome Doc.” It truly doesn’t get any better than that.
We had very special company at this year’s reunion. We had the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Randall Wenner of today’s 3/60th Infantry, a training battalion from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, who even adopted our old name, “River Raiders.” With Colonel Wenner, was Command Sergeant Major Anthony Ulmer and Captain Richard Bradley.
Bradley had been with us at the previous reunion; he was no longer the Bravo Company commander, but was welcome as a fellow combat soldier. All three of these men wore the Combat Infantry Badge. There is only one way to get that award, guess what it is. At any time these men could get orders to pack their kit and head off to some miserable and dangerous corner of the world.
Also present was SFC Eddie Gonzales, also cadre at Ft. Jackson, who brought his wife and four children to the reunion. The kids made full use of the hotel pool.
They spoke, each one about duty and honor. They honored us in their full dress uniforms and we embraced them in turn as brothers in arms. These are active-duty soldiers who stand ready to defend our way of life and government. For those who hate the military, praise the Lord that you can do so because these men and others like them are giving you the freedom to express your feelings in private or public.
As a kind of postscript to all this, Colonel Wenner sent us an article about the recent graduation of Private Kelsey McCarthy from the River Raiders training battalion in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Fifty years ago her grandfather, Larry Reed, was with the River Raiders, Bravo Company, 3/60 Infantry in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The Raiders operated jointly with the Navy in boats and helicopters.
In the course of his action, Reed was awarded two silver stars. One of those was from the Navy making him one of three soldiers to receive that Navy award. Beside the silver stars the man received numerous other awards for valor. Both he and Kelsey are excited over her graduation and the link to his old unit.