Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”
The gravity of these words resonate especially with the men and women who wear the U.S. Army tape on their chest, since their work directly influences the geopolitical direction of the world.
From the beginning of time, people have passed down stories by word of mouth from generation to generation. Late last week, Iron Soldiers with the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment met with Veterans who had also stood in their ranks during the Vietnam War to listen to their stories.
“A meeting such as this has many purposes, but the greatest of them is having present day Soldiers understand their legacy and they are apart of something way bigger then themselves,” said Capt. Brendan Duke, assistant operations officer at the squadron. “Knowing that these men went to great lengths to ensure that I can stand where I am today gives me a sense of peace to know that what I am doing will help pave paths for those who will eventually stand even further than where I am today.”
Each Veteran was given a moment to tell their stories- the good and the bad- and when they did, it seemed as if they took a time machine and flew right back into those moments.
One gentlemen said, “I took a helicopter, and I landed in hell,” as his eyes glossed over to a moment that no one in that room could begin to imagine, besides the men who walked those red dirt roads alongside him.
These men cried when asked how it felt to come back home because, for many of them, home was so far away and not even thought of as possible.
“The greatest of my accomplishments was bringing home as many men as I could,” said Maj. Walter Reed (RET), who was once the troop commander of Troop Bravo “Bandits” in Vietnam. “I wish I could of done many things different like moving my men ten meters to the left or letting that Soldier stay back on this one mission. Maybe he would have came home if I did that.”
“To live with all of these people in my mind who had faces, personalities, stories of their own and to know that they can’t stand here and tell them in their own words leaves my heart in a bad place,” said another Vietnam Veteran. “We get through it, though. We live with it, but we understand some parts of it. I didn’t understand the point of the war besides having a mission and knowing it was my duty to fulfill it.”
In the end, every Soldier who served in the war regardless of the bad moments said, “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if I had to.”
They expressed deep concern for Soldiers who suffered from mental illnesses today, and one of the Veterans said he, “hopes that they know this is just one small part of a life that has so many folds. It is hard to get over at first, and sometimes it doesn’t get easy; but, most of the time, it is easier because we have our brothers who we can talk it through and who will understand.”
The purpose of the visit to the Iron Brigade’s headquarters was two fold: the first being to hold a reunion for these men and their Families to get together, and the second to receive a painting that the late Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Boggs painted of his time in Vietnam.
His wife, Tyra Dean, wanted to give this memento to the regiment because it represents history of great men who did something beyond themselves.
She went on to express that because we have the men and women who fight and sacrifice all over the world, we don’t have other countries entering our lands and making us feel unsafe.
“It was an honor to meet everyone of these men and their Families,” said Duke. “More events like this need to happen to remind us of how great we are as a country and, even more, how great we are as a team of brothers and sisters standing besides each other for one cause.”