Veterans leave lasting impression
September 22, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- This past weekend, several of us had the honor and privilege of attending a reunion of Vietnam veterans from Company C, 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, also known as the "Charging Charlies." The fact that we are currently members of the same company more than 40 years later and share similar combat experiences was an added and humbling bonus.
We arrived at a Myrtle Beach hotel with our families and a mission to learn the history and lineage of our storied organization. To be successful, we were to engage the veterans, be great listeners and carry on a piece of history. Initially, we were somewhat unsure of how to engage these men and their wives, as their experiences were indeed incredible, to say the least. Many of these veterans have been attending their company's reunion for years, and as our first, we had our work cut out for us.
We expected our presence to be welcomed, but feared it might be an intrusion to the men as they reconnected and talked of events of which we have little knowledge. Instead we were met with enthusiasm, graciousness and open arms. Not only did we feel welcomed, we were thanked for our continued service and our families were heartily accepted into their inner circle as well. As current members of the company, discussion often diverged from the Veteran's war stories to what is going on in the River Raider Battalion today.
Some of the stories were moving. One Soldier, at the direction of the company first sergeant, was ordered to identify the body of Specialist 4 Howard Beagle, a medic in the company. Beagle was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions by providing aid to wounded Soldiers while under intense enemy fire. Beagle was mortally wounded, but his heroism saved lives, and his legacy and presence continues today both in the memories of his comrades and at the training site within the battalion that today bears his name.
Some stories, conversely, were just plain hilarious. One such story was of one Soldier's method of returning to Vietnam from R&R leave. He told us he would report on the day he was to sign in, but would wait until the transport vehicle was full. In effect, he prolonged his vacation from one week to nearly three. This, of course, was after a two-month stay in the hospital after being hit by an enemy bullet.
We found the spouses who attended the function to be equally remarkable. These women have endured much in supporting the men who came home without the support structure we currently have in place. We cannot overstate the amount of joy and support the women of the association brought to the event. To make the event truly memorable for all involved, both our wives and children forged a special bond with these remarkable women which will truly last a lifetime.
Unlike the volunteer force of today, these men and their families were called to duty and performed as heroes in a difficult time. To hear firsthand accounts of these Warriors who forged a brotherhood borne out of fire, both joyous and painful, was surreal and humbling. It has helped us to refocus our efforts on the important mission we have here at Fort Jackson in creating the next generation of Warriors and heroes.
Editor's note: 2nd Lt. Eric Bauer is the executive officer for Company C, 3-60th. 1st Sgt. Jeffery Kane is the company's first sergeant.