Nine years ago I published my first book, With Love Stan: A Soldier’s Letters from Vietnam to the World.
This book took me four years to complete, and on a journey that would change my life, and that of my family forever.
As a result of writing my brother’s story—his tour of Vietnam, I found many of his Charlie Company members in the process. Stan talked about so many of them in his letters home to me and my parents. We got to know them in a fragmented way.
The summer of 2006 we decided to contact as many of Charlie Co–the men who served with our brother as we could. Some had contributed to Stan’s book—providing me with valuable firsthand recollections of their tours-of-duty, and friendship with my brother.
So, in July of 2006 seventeen fellow soldiers, friends of my brother Stan, members of the 199th LIB, Charlie Co. 2/3, showed up at our Iowa farmstead. The same home our brother and son and left 37 years before.
They were now in their late fifties and early sixties, but when they laid eyes on each other for the first time in three decades, the years melted away…they reached for each other and embraced. Tears filled their eyes, heavy sighs left their lungs, as if they had been holding their breath for thirty plus years.
Vietnam Veterans packed away their uniforms, purple hearts, and the trauma of their battlefield experiences. The greeting they hoped would be friendly when they reached America’s soil, was anything but! Hatred, revulsion, and disrespect was their welcome. Most had not spoken to their families or wives about what happened over there. For some, it caused relationships to crumble and addictions to take over their lives.
I had no idea what I would find on the other end of the many phone calls and correspondence when I started writing. What I found was an eagerness to open up… at last. To share their war experience, and especially to reconnect with their fellow military brothers.
Since that first reunion, we’ve met every two years at a different location to celebrate Charlie Company’s service, friendship, and love for each other— only they know what happened in the rice paddies, and jungle of Vietnam.
The bond has grown even stronger and more of the men of Charlie Company, have been found.
We have lost a few since our first meeting, but they will be remembered and honored this weekend at the home Charlie Company member, Jerry Nelon and his wife, in North Carolina.
The blessings and healing continue!