Bravo Company held their annual reunion
at Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport , 2200 Centreville Road,
Herndon, VA 20170, APRIL 30 – MAY 4, 2014. This was our sixth reunion
and the absolute highlight
was our memorial ceremonies at The Wall and Arlington National Cemetery
to honor our fallen comrades.
1 May. Our first planned activity was a tour of Antietam National
Battlefield and our guide, Ray Bluhm,
had prepared a fantastic program for us and provided a wealth of
interesting details on the various
phases of the battle.
Everyone had a very healthy appetite by the time we arrived at Dr Jim
Rascher’s home for a BBQ and as in 2012,
we were warmly welcomed by our gracious host. Jim and his family had
prepared a fantastic BBQ feast and we all have
very fond memories of a wonderful afternoon.
2 May. The highlight of our reunion was our ceremony at The Wall to
honor our 36 fallen heroes, together with
three graveside ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Each memorial
was a humbling experience, a highly
emotional experience, and an experience that we will never forget and
For our morning ceremony at The Vietnam Memorial, troopers established a
horseshoe formation facing The Wall
and the ceremony started with an invocation by Pete Genecki. Thereafter
Jim Smith read Peter O’Sullivan’s prepared
speech and initiated the reading of the names of our fallen heroes.
All the Vietnam veterans present and two family members of Bryan Kay
participated in reading the names of
our 36 fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives during our tour of duty
from July 1967 to August 1968.
Our wreath was very special because it was a replica of our Bravo
Company guidon in red and white flowers.
So that everyone participated in the wreath ceremony, the wreath was
passed from trooper to trooper and
then positioned in front of The Wall by Steve Gordon and Jim Miles.
Thereafter, Jim Smith gave the order
for a salute and a military bugler played Taps causing many damp eyes.
Finally everyone received a carnation for placing in front of the panel
of the fallen hero on their name card
and another carnation for the panel of a buddy. The wives also received
a carnation for placing at a name of their choosing.
The afternoon was spent at Arlington National Cemetery where we
conducted a mini ceremony at the graves
of our three fallen heroes buried there - David Decker, Jimmy Hairston
and Peter Angle. These were very moving
ceremonies which included the laying of a bouquet, honoring our fallen
hero with a salute while Taps was played,
and there were many remarks by troopers who knew them.
The tour of Mount Vernon was a great success which everyone enjoyed.
George Washington’s estate is
beautiful situated on a hilltop overlooking the Potomac River. We
stopped at Old Alexandria on the return trip,
where folks had plenty of time for a leisurely lunch and a walking tour
of the town.
Gathering together every evening at our Hospitality Suite was a very
important and enjoyable reunion activity.
With its well-stocked bar and delicious snacks, many happy hours were
spent fostering those special relationships
which were formed during our combat service with Bravo Company. It was
also the place for the retelling of
“war stories” and some of the wives are firmly convinced that these
stories get better and better with the passage of time.
Farewell Activities. We all met at our Hospitality Room for a delicious
Saturday night supper prepared by the ladies.
Next we conducted a mini-memorial ceremony to honor and remember our
Bravo Company friends who had passed away since 1968. Once again, we
distributed name cards of those who had passed away and followed the
same procedure as our ceremony at The Wall. There was an invocation by
Pete Genecki, remarks by Jim Smith and Steve Gordon recited two verses
of Fiddler’s Green. This was followed by the reading of the names by all
the troopers and a salute while Taps was played. We all agreed to
conduct this ceremony at our future reunions.
The final event was the group photos, one with the ladies and another
with the troopers, and then it was the sad time for the goodbyes and see
y’all next June at Fort Hood, Texas.
Byron Steinacher, Gerry Larson Mark Thielen, Kelly Fagan, Steve
Gordon, Gary Stine, Steve Bird, Ray Bono,
Council Robinson, Jim Smith, Pete Genecki, Jim Beck.
Mike Brincheck, Jim Miles, Fred Fish, Gary Happel, Bill Sherwood,
Jim Ford, Henry Nylan, Bob Patterson, Ralph Mercado
Remarks at Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Prepared by Peter O’Sullivan and delivered by Jim Smith.
Ladies , gentlemen and troopers of Bravo Company.
We are gathered here at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor and
remember our fallen heroes and also the families they left behind. On
the last point, we are very honored to have members of Bryan Kay’s
family with us today, thank you for joining us.
The vast array of names engraved on this memorial is a heartbreaking
reminder of the many, many thousands who sacrificed their lives in
Vietnam. The enormity of our losses in Vietnam is unmistakable when
compared with our casualties in recent conflicts. The combined figure of
our losses in Iraq and Afghanistan is close to 7,000, while we lost over
58,000 in Vietnam.
This memorial is a tribute to those who served and those who died in the
Vietnam War. Another original objective for this memorial was to help in
healing the many wounds caused by the most divisive conflict since the
Civil War. As a healer and unifier, this highly venerated memorial
exceeded all expectations and we should proudly remember that it was
Vietnam veterans who launched this memorial project in the late 1970s,
that Vietnam veterans played a central role in promoting national
healing, and that it was Vietnam veterans who coined the “Welcome Home”
greeting and made sure that our combat troops returning from Iraq and
Afghanistan were “Welcomed Home” by a grateful nation.
The Wall and Three Soldiers Statue is a memorial to all of you who
fought in Vietnam and at a dedication ceremony at this location in 1984,
President Reagan honored you with this very special tribute: “Today we
pay homage not only to those who gave their lives but to their comrades
present today and all across the country. You didn't forget. You kept
the faith. You walked from the litter, wiped away your tears, and
returned to the battle. You fought on, sustained by one another and deaf
to the voices of those who didn't comprehend. You performed with a
steadfastness and valor that veterans of other wars salute, and you are
forever in the ranks of that special number of Americans in every
generation that the Nation records as true patriots”.
This memorial is a venerated place where we the survivors and relatives
of those killed in action can grieve over and commemorate our fallen
heroes. We are here today to honor the sacrifice of thirty-six
courageous young men of Bravo Company - our fallen friends, our brothers
- who were killed in action while serving with us in Vietnam. We are
here today because of the special bonds that bind us all together, both
the living and the dead, these lifelong bonds that were forged on the
battlefields in Vietnam. This bonding is the reason why these fallen
troopers are our brothers, why they occupy a special place in our hearts,
and why we will never forget them.
Like you they answered the call to serve and they selflessly sacrificed
their lives while doing their duty and some while rescuing, protecting
or aiding their buddies. You witnessed their courage during numerous
bloody battles. You witnessed many of their heroic actions that went
unrecorded. Some of you witnessed their death, treated their mortal
wounds, held them in your arms during their final moments, consoled them
as they died, listened to their last message, carried their bodies
through the jungle to distant evacuation points, and experienced great
pain over the tragic loss of a friend and a brother. And you also
thought about their loved ones back home and in some cases their
children. One of our fallen heroes had two small boys and the youngest
celebrated his second birthday on the day his father was killed in
action. For all of us each death was a profound experience of extreme
hardship and part of the reason why we bear so many burdensome scars.
Even with the passage of so many years, we remain obsessed with the
memories of our fallen brothers.
The historical records clearly show that our combat service with Bravo
Company in 1967-68 was during the peak of the Vietnam War, the period of
the bloodiest battles and the highest casualties of the war. Of all the
major units in Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry Division sustained the largest
number of casualties. This was because of our special airmobile
capabilities, coupled with the fact that our division was the designated
rapid deployment force for the northern provinces. Consequently, we
deployed frequently to other regions to combat large-scale enemy units
and we fought in all the major battles in the northern provinces. Many
of us associate the deaths of our 36 fallen heroes with one of these
deployment place names and when we hear or think of these place names,
we are automatically reminded of one or more of our fallen heroes who
was killed there. These place names are forever embedded in our memories
and they are: Bong Son, Dak To, Quang Tri, A Shau Valley, and Landing
This Wall is a place of homage and a place of healing. When you lay your
carnations at a panel with the name of one of our brothers, remember
that this is a place where you can grieve, say hello or goodbye, shed a
few tears, say a prayer, whisper a message or just think about your
young friend who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Let me close with this message from all of us to our 36 fallen brothers
and this is based on a note that President Reagan left at this wall
twenty-six years ago: "Our young friends -- yes, young friends, for in
our hearts you will always be young, full of the love that is youth,
love of life, love of joy, love of country -- you fought for your
country and for its safety and for the freedom of others with strength
and courage. We love you for it, we honor you and we have faith that, as
he does all his sacred children, the lord will bless you and keep you,
and give you peace, now and forever more."
And now we begin the honor roll of our 36 heroes, our 36 brothers