DEROS – September 3, 1970
As most of you know I was away for the last ten days. Although I enjoyed myself, I have to say I missed you guys. Today is my thirtieth anniversary of coming home for Nam. I tell people I have two birthdays July 17th when I was born, and September 3, when I was reborn. I felt the same way that all of you did about leaving my Brothers behind, but when my “Freedom Bird” beckoned, nothing could hold me back. For those of you who saw “Private Ryan” you may remember when Ryan told Tom Hanks, “tell my mother that when you found me I was with the only brothers I had left” (I think that’s quoted right). That’s the sense I believe we all had, these are my Brothers, and I’m leaving them. For thirty years I have wondered about those I left behind.
Over twenty years ago, my former squad leader John Coleman found me, I remember the first time I heard his voice, I thought my heart would jump out of my chest! We set out to find others we had left behind, it was slow going in those pre Internet days. We would look up names in phone books when we traveled. On a visit to New Orleans in 1988 we found Jack Ponson, he had an old address on Frank Seeman then we sent out old pictures we had to home town addresses and found Ed Cutler, David Pitts, Gary Gallant, James Foust. But that was it, the search just went dead from there. Only David and Frank are on the Internet. So I started posting on Net Bulletin Boards, then one day Dave Henslee, got back to me. Told me he was with Alpha No Slack in ’67, and right after that I heard from Mouse Hammond he was in country with me in 1st platoon and I in 2nd Alpha, we must have crossed paths. Heavy Villanueva, got back to me and said; I just wanted to hear a No Slack!, once again. He thought that Dave, Mouse and I probably wouldn’t want to hear from a Charlie Co. grunt. So after twenty nine years I had located a dozen Brothers by snail mail and on the Internet. Then I get a NO SLACK from Streak Nerney. Streak says he’s in contact with a “few” Brothers who talk by CC Email to each other, would I want him to put me in touch with them? PLEASE, So that how I hooked up here.
Over the next few months I got to know a lot of new guys, and Dave Cook would send new names to the group all the time, and we told a few war stories, and I got and sent a lot of bad jokes, and I got and sent a few good jokes, and then I heard about the Reunion. I first thought well, I don’t think I want to go to a big drunken bash some place. But then I got to know everyone better, and I said to Patti, we need to go and check this out. She said lets go, and now we can’t wait till next year.
The Web Page that has grown out of last June’s reunion could only happen due to the kind of Fellowship I experienced there. David J., Dale and Mouse have put in countless hours using their skills to formalize our place in History. Our Page isn’t going to be found on the back bookshelf of a library collecting dust. Our Unit will be out there where your children and great grand children will know what Brotherhood means. The donations you have sent in guarantees that our site will be FREE of all advertising and other distractions. If you haven’t been there the pages are changing constantly. There’s been lots of new pictures added, from the reunion and we even have a shower.
But there’s more coming and if you didn’t get the message the address has been shortened to http://screamingeagles-327thvietnam.com. Check the page out today then again next week when you have time, there’s building going on so more people will be able to have pictures and their BIOS. Scan those photos or mail them to Dale and David J. Remember your grandchildren will be surfing the web and your long lost buddy’s grandchildren will be able to find OUR page for him. He might not remember your name or you his, but that picture from 30 something years ago will ring a bell. We also need your ideas, and stories, for the Page, and if you post your idea’s and stories OPEN MIKE by CCing everyone the input will bring out the best in us.
So, Sept. 3, 1970 I checked out of No Slack, and took a quick chopper ride to Phu Bai, from Eagle. There at the out processing center I met up with some of the guys I had been in AIT with at Ft. Dix N.J. We had been the last infantry class at DIX, everyone said because too many troops from DIX were KIA. Anyway the whole company was sent to Nam. We got our orders a few weeks after Man walked on the Moon. It was strange times.
Heading home to North Jersey I was in my car with Mike Sabella, He was from Teaneck and I was from Saddle Brook N.J. because of our last names starting with a S, he and I were assigned everything together during AIT, because we had grown up in adjourning towns we were friends. We were being passed by cars full of hippies going to Woodstock that weekend, the world was changing but we were going to Nam. After leave, I met Mike and we flew to California for processing at Oakland and on 09-03-69 we took the longest plane ride to the NAM. After P Training at Bien Hoa, they held Mike and I for bunker line duty, while the rest of our, should I say classmates, went to their Units, some to the 101st, most elsewhere. We hoped that we would be assigned to the same platoon, but he went to FIRST STRIKE and I to NO SLACK. We were reunited in Phu Bai along with some of the other guys from AIT. I took this first attached picture as we were boarding the C-130 to Cam Ranh Bay.
The second attachment is the SEVEN-O-QUICK that provided my Freedom Bird Ride to the World.
It was taken 09-04-70. There was silence while everyone boarded and the tension was thick as they closed the doors. Lots of things were going through my mind as we taxied for takeoff. As the plane lifted off a giant Whoop! went up and the whole demeanor of the passengers changed, everyone had a big, you know what, eating grin on. Sabella, I and some of the guys were talking about what we were going to do when we got Home, and someone wondered what kind of reception we were going to get when we hit The World.
We arrived at Ft Lewis Washington early evening on the 3rd, went through customs and were issued a shower and some Class A’s. Told we could have a chit for a steak dinner, but decided against it. It was Labor Day weekend and we thought we should take a hop to San Francisco where we might have a chance at a Red Eye to New York. Well I know some of you have bad coming home stories, and I must say we stood out in all that Flower Power going on. Us in our new Class A uniforms and our roast beef sun tans and the civilians in their ripped up bell bottom jeans and tie dyed T-shirts. No one bothered us, some stares, maybe a mumble, but nothing else. We, Mike and I went to the New York, gate and just started camping out. The flights were all booked. Late that night the airline people told us that the next flight was the last and we would be stuck till the morning. We had been sitting in the reception area near two older (about my age now) woman, who had overheard us talking. One of them came up to us and asked if we had just come back from Nam. When we replied affirmative, they both walked over to the ticket people. Next thing I knew we were being called over. The woman had given us their seats! I know that I thanked them, but never got their names, I have a mental picture of them smiling at us and then I was on the plane to N.Y. God Bless you Ladies. The rest of the trip was uneventful, even our last chopper ride.
We got to Kennedy Airport at first light. Still wanting to surprise our folks we hadn’t called them to say we were home. Mike called a friend and he said if we could get to Newark Airport in N.J. he would pick us up. Pan Am, had a helicopter shuttle flight between Kennedy and Newark, we boarded the chopper and Mike said, look Jim they have seats in this one. We even had seat belts on. First we flew to a skyscraper roof in the middle of New York City, then on to Newark and then home. A very quiet ending to the Adventure of a lifetime.
Welcome home Brothers, I can’t wait till next June to shake your hand at the reunion. Send those pictures and stories. Remember if you want to send a donation to help keep up the WEB page, mail it to Dale Hansen 3171 CR 3815 Athens, TX 75752. All donations are kept anonymous so even if you can spare a dollar it will help. Summer is over, lets hear a little chatter on The Net.
No Slack and Above The Rest!