Vietnam veterans reminisce, talk story during Tropic Lightning reunion

| April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Tim Meyer
25th Infantry Division Public Affairs

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — A group of Vietnam veterans who served in the 50th Infantry Long Range Patrol, Company F, 75th Infantry (Ranger) Regiment, gathered on Oahu for a “cathartic” reunion, recently, reminiscing about their days in hostile territory and the lessons learned that could be beneficial to both today’s and yesterday’s Soldiers.

Tim Walsh (right) gives a brief oral history of some of his experiences in Vietnam to Master Sgt. Michael Wetzel, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs, at the Tropic Lightning Museum, Schofield Barracks, April 21. Walsh served with Company F, 50th Inf. Long Range Patrol, 75th Inf. (Ranger) Regiment, which was attached to the 25th ID in Vietnam.Collin Hall was among the nine veterans who, as part of their reunion, visited the installation, here, as well as Wheeler Army Airfield and other bases during a driving tour, April 21. Several active duty Soldiers accompanied the veterans on the tour.

A platoon sergeant in Vietnam, Hall was in charge of lower-enlisted Soldiers who, as he recalled, “were gung-ho, and rah-rah, and wanted to run through the woods and kill people.”

“My greatest challenge was holding them back,” said Hall, a Soldier in the 25th Infantry Division during his second tour in Vietnam. “I had young, highly motivated individuals. The hardest thing was getting them to understand that, ‘hey, accomplish your mission, but don’t take any chances you don’t have to.’” 

Hall, who was based in Cu Chi during his tour, noted that the main thing about the Vietnamese village was its tunnels.

Veteran Thomas Gurrobat, affectionately known to his buddies as “Pineapple,” was very familiar with these passageways, and served as a “tunnel rat,” or the first Soldier to enter these openings found on patrols, with nothing but “a .45 and a flashlight.”

“A Soldier’s greatest attitude to have when he’s in a combat situation is, ‘This is what you do, and this is what you’ve always done, and this is what you always will do,” said Hall, in summing up his wartime experiences. “There’s no yesterdays; there’s no tomorrows. This is today.”

The veterans recognized the issues that former and current Soldiers face today. They confirmed that the struggle many veterans face is learning to come home (mentally) from combat.

“One of the reasons I started coming to reunions is because it’s cathartic; it really is healing to talk about that kind of stuff,” said Tim Walsh, a team leader during his Vietnam tour, which extended from January 1970 to March 1971.

As for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, his advice is simple: “Get involved in a veteran’s organization as quickly as you can,” said Walsh, who went through the Special Forces Recondo School in the jungle of Nha Trang. 

“There have been national studies done, and on average, it takes 18 years for a veteran to get back into some kind of veteran’s organization, to start talking about his or her feelings,” Walsh  said. “I would recommend doing it a lot sooner. It’s really been helpful to me.”

Following the driving tour, the veterans and their wives visited the 25th ID Memorial at division headquarters, observed Soldiers participating in the division’s Best Warrior Competition, and toured the Tropic Lightning Museum.

Kathleen Ramsden, the museum’s curator, spoke about the history of Schofield Barracks, while Adam Elia, the division historian, explained the division’s campaigns and history to present day. 

Elia didn’t go into much detail on Vietnam because, as he told the veterans, “you lived it.”

At the end of the tour, Walsh expressed his appreciation for today’s Soldiers.

“I’d like to thank all current Soldiers for their service. That’s a true sacrifice,” he said. “You don’t really know what it is until you’ve done that, and I really appreciate everything everybody’s done.” 

Category: News

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