These days, we read much about veterans who need our help. They certainly deserve it, and we should give it. But most veterans deserve our admiration.
I commanded the 7/13th Artillery Battalion in Vietnam in 1967-68. The 7/13th pioneered the artillery raid, moving guns by helicopter onto a hilltop in enemy territory and shooting for a day. During my 10 months with the battalion, we fired 350,000 rounds of ammunition and lost three men killed.
In autumn 2011, the 7/13th had a reunion in Washington, D.C. In August 2011, five soldiers who had served with me in Vietnam visited me in Islesboro.
I didn’t remember many of my soldiers of 44 years ago very specifically, but we all remembered shared experiences. We heard, some of us for the first time, details of how the others lived and fought. We realized that each of us had been totally absorbed in doing our own jobs, and that doing our jobs was what kept us all alive.
Health and age prevented me from attending the Washington reunion. However, a man from Oregon called to tell me he had been a radio operator in 7/13th in Vietnam, and he could set me up to talk to the gathering using Skype. I did, and it was a great experience.
At the Vietnam Wall, our group found the names of our dead. Another visitor and his 11-year-old daughter thanked the men for their service. A Marine in a wheelchair, missing both legs and an arm, saluted left-handed. Three of my men tried to read aloud our names on the wall, but couldn’t. Their guide read the names.
On a happier note, we enjoyed the successes we had had. One cannoneer who remembers being totally unfocused and unmotivated after high school credits the Army with leading him to his present job as a senior financial advisor. Another, who computer artillery firing data in Vietnam, used the GI Bill — over six years — to reach his goal of becoming an attorney.
Reunions of old soldiers bring back very emotional thoughts, both good and bad. But my recent reunions with old comrades have been a highlight of my year. I urge all veterans to find and maintain relationships with those who have served; we will all benefit!
Philo Hutcheson and his wife life on Islesboro.