you can post this old Memorial Day article on our site if it has never
Lowery was our HHC company clerk in 1969/70.
he wrote this in 2004, he was an editor at the Austin, Texas Statesman.
believe he has since been 'downsized').
Hello, Ed, Ray and James; how have you been since Vietnam?
AMERICAN-STATESMAN EDITORIAL WRITER
May 31, 2004
It is a weird feeling to lift the lid off something
that has been sealed and
kept in the dark for 35 years. You don't know what may turn up.
Thanks largely to the Internet, about a dozen of us
who were friends in the
Big Red One's 1st Engineer Battalion in Vietnam have reconnected
via a Web
site, e-mails and phone calls. We didn't train together, didn't know
before the war and didn't maintain contact after it. But for whatever
now it seems important to look back on 1969 and remember. Or try to.
After so many years, it isn't easy to recall much of
anything with clarity.
Of course, there are unforgettable people, places, incidents and close
But trying to unspool the 365 days in-country and connect the strands
exercise in frustration as much as recollection.
Who was that guy shot at the laterite pit? Which top
sergeant tore down the
posters in our hootch? Who got bit by a snake while hooking up a
ever happened to that Rome Plow driver wounded at Firebase Huertgen?
For most of my life, like most of the other guys in
Headquarters and Headquarters
Company in 1969, the answers weren't pertinent. You did your year
hoping to get
home in one piece, then put it behind you; locked it away and got on
living. Guys you spent 10, 11, 12 months with -- side by side, day and
ducking rockets or steeped in sweaty boredom -- were forgotten.
Maybe they surfaced in a funny anecdote now and then.
At most, you might
wonder what happened to Ed Garner or Ray Powell or James Foley, and how
might be fun to have a few drinks and tell stories. But too much time
passed, and we're all different people than we were at 19 or 22 in Lai
an and Quon Loi.
So nothing happened; that year was left buried in the
past. No one was eager
to talk about it anyway. In the 1970s, Vietnam was a fresh wound
and not a
polite subject for conversation. In the 1980s, life was too earnest for
reflection on the war, as families, wives, kids and the economy took
The memorial wall in Washington,
so moving with all those names carved in black marble, brought some of
But the war was history by then and growing more dusty by the day.
So it was a surprise to open an e-mail from Ralph Webb
asking whether I had
been in the 1st Infantry Division. We had spent nearly the entire year
together, in the same hootch and the same orderly room. Turned out he
here in Austin
-- though we wouldn't have recognized each other on the street, the
having been unkind enough to leave us looking our ages.
Recently came an e-mail from Andy Giancana in Chicago, who
served with the battalion
medics. Then from New York, David Cepler, company executive officer;
Worth, Job Gonzalez, of the Tunnel Rats, and his platoon leader, Rat 6
Flowers; and from Arizona, Sgt. Richard Montez. People began putting
pictures on the Diehardengineer Web site. (Diehard is the unit and
designation for the 1st Engineer Battalion).
It's a strange phenomenon, reconnecting with a past
long buried. It's mainly
good conversation, but it can drift to the somber. Not that we have
memories we'd rather not dig up -- there is little of that in this
combat engineers, clerks, drivers and the like. And even the most
memories have been dulled by years.
But the sense of fatalism that overlaid the war is
still present. We recall
our friend Robert Pitts, in his steel helmet and flak jacket, who died
shrapnel caught him in the throat while on guard duty. If your number
it was up.
Still, you ran for the bunkers when you heard the
rockets whine. But we made
it this far, and there's talk about getting together at the Diehard
reunion in Springfield,
It could be the dustup over George Bush and John Kerry
got us thinking about one another. Or the war in Iraq.
Five soldiers from our old
unit were killed one day in April.
Or maybe it was just time to lift the lid and stir the
memories, before it's
Great website, I was researching my grandfathers battalion this evening
and came across your site. His name was Joseph Arcuri he was with the
1st Engineer Battalion and landed on Omaha Beach 6/6/44 . It was also
his 25th birthday, he was born 6/6/ 1919, unfornately he passed a
couple years ago. He was always very proud of his unit. He had gone to
a couple reunions over the years and enjoyed seeing many of his war
time friends. A brief story about my granddad. He asked me to take him
to see saving private ryan a few years ago, so i did, after the movie I
asked him how they portrayed the landing in the movie he said "Thats as
close as they will get." and that was that. He always told me "Sam,
don't sweat the small stuff". I guess after landing on that beach
everything is small stuff. This is a great site, it keeps guys like
grandfathers memories alive.