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Authored by Lt Col Michael Christy, US Army (Ret)

Forty-two years ago I met some great young men.  We were all part of a rifle company humping the jungles of Vietnam.  In a matter of hours I would be seeing 18 of them at a reunion in Myrtle Beach.  I know they would have aged, but in my mind’s eye they are still the brave young warriors who did their duty in a nasty war they didn’t totally understand.  And through it all, bonded together as brothers, placing their lives in each other’s hands.  I was proud to be one of them.

When the plane reached cruising altitude and the pilot finished welcoming us aboard, I began a conversation with the young man.   His name was Jason, an engineer from Atlanta, who was heading home following a business trip to Los Angeles.  When he asked me where I was going, I told him about meeting up with some men I served with in Vietnam. “We read about Vietnam in high school,” he said, “but I didn’t learn much.  There were only four, maybe five paragraphs about it in our history book.”  I was amazed.  How could a 10-year war that changed the United States in so many ways rate only four paragraphs?  I decided to tell Jason as much about the how’s and why’s of the war as best I understood them and what I observed from my ring-side seat.

When I finished Jason wanted to know how the men felt about the war?  “They didn’t want to be there.  Most of them had been drafted.  They were a long way from home in a hot, dangerous place full of bad smells, bugs and snakes.  Every step they took, they didn’t know if it would be their last,” I answered.  “Yet in spite of all the uncertainly, the camaraderie we built among each other is what kept most of us going. We knew we had each other’s back.”

Our conversation was interrupted by a flight attendant asking us what we’d like to drink.  I got some water, Jason a coke.  Sipping our drinks, we both fell into silence.  Soon Jason closed his eyes, perhaps contemplating what he had just learned about the Vietnam War from an eye-witness.  Or maybe he was thinking of getting home to his wife.  Me, I stared into the nothingness, lost in thought about the reunion and how it would not have happened without a website exclusively for veterans and active duty men and women.

I was invited to join,
affectionately known as TWS, by a friend and like most everyone who signs up, my main purpose was to find old friends from my service days.  But before I started my search, the instructions I read suggested I begin by filling out my profile page with as much personal information about my military and personal history.  There were places to document my boot camp, units I belonged to, combat operations I took part in, medals and awards I received, insignia and badges worn, as many photos and home videos as I wanted, and a whole bunch more.  Enough information that would create the perfect military resume and allow anyone I served with to easily find me.

Once I finished filling out my initial posting of personal information and a few photographs, I began my search.  In a matter of hours I found six Army buddies I served with in Vietnam and contacted them using TWS’s private message system.  It was exciting to reconnect after all these many years.  Over the weeks and months I located more friends and others found me.  Some told me they found me based on my name alone while others found me through schools we went through at the same time, but most located me by the units we’d served in together.  If I hadn’t filled out my profile as completely as I did, I doubt if as many of my service buddies would have found me. 

After months of exchanging emails and messages via the TWS message system with my Vietnam comrades, the idea of holding a reunion began to take shape.  There was a lot of enthusiasm and the beginning of some planning.  The final shove, however, came from somewhere else. 

One day I got a TWS message from an unknown veteran.  He wrote he had been a member of our company when it arrived in Vietnam in 1965 and for the past eight years, the original members had been meeting for reunions every two years.  His name was Eloy “Cliff” Pena, and he wanted to open up the next reunion to be held in Myrtle Beach to all veterans from all years who served in the company.  I wrote back we would be there and got busy getting the word out.

Reflecting on how it all came about, I was struck by the versatility of TWS.  It not only brings together long-lost friends, it’s a national archive where millions of stories and photos are posted, and with each, a lasting legacy of America’s military heritage.

Whenever I get the chance, I like to search for photos and stories posted by vets who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  It never fails to amaze me the detail some of the veterans have posted.   It is better than a history book because these are personal accounts and because these living, breathing “scrapbooks” come straight from the gut and the heart.  The postings by friends and relatives honoring the men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice are the ones that get me the most.

Inspired by the firsthand accounts of historical wars and battles by others, I began making a detailed history of Vietnam.  So far I’ve posted over 200 photos and stories, beginning with the French occupation.  It’s still a work in progress but eventually it will have all major battles and end with a modern Vietnam, now one of our trading partners.  What Vietnam veteran would have ever dreamed of that happening?

Somewhere in my mental praising of why I love TogetherWeServed, I must have fallen asleep. The next thing I felt was the plane leveling off and the pilot telling us we would be landing in 15 minutes.  The head flight attendant got on the horn with some gate numbers for connecting flights and thanked us for flying their airline.

The plane landed at Atlanta and parked at a gate.  Walking off the plane I said goodbye to Jason and headed for the gate my flight for Myrtle Beach would leave.  Two hours later the commuter plane landed.  I called the hotel where I would be staying and where the reunion was being held.  In a matter of minutes, a hotel van picked me up. 

The excitement and anticipation was growing inside as I realized that within minutes, I would be coming face-to-face with some of my combat buddies after all these years.  They understood better than anyone else about what Vietnam meant because they were there, they shared in the experience too.  No doubt Shakespeare had us and millions of other warriors in mind when he wrote in Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my Brother……”



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