Soldiers from the past always have a special connection with their military service and enjoy telling their stories to the next generation of Soldiers.
Iron Soldiers assigned to the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team got the chance to meet a very special group of 1-1 CAV Vietnam War veterans and listen to their stories as part of a 1-1 CAV reunion March 8 at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The purpose of the visit to the Iron Brigade's headquarters was two-fold: the first was to hold a reunion for these veterans and their families to get together after years of not seeing each other. The second was to donate a painting from the late Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Boggs who served with the unit during the Vietnam conflict.
Boggs's wife, Tyra Dean, wanted to give this painting on behalf of her late husband to the unit because it represents a piece of the unit's linage, and the Soldiers who served in it.
The day-long event allowed the Iron Soldiers of the 1-1 CAV to hear the experiences from the Soldiers who came before them.
"A meeting such as this has many purposes, but the greatest of them is having present-day Soldiers understand their legacy knowing they are a part 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 because I know what I am doing today will help pave paths for those who will eventually follow me."
"It was an honor to meet everyone of these men and their families," Duke added. "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."
Each 1-1 CAV 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 back to those events.
"I took a helicopter, and I landed in hell," said one gentleman to the room full of Soldiers who couldn't even begin to imagine what he and his fellow veterans experienced walking those red dirt roads of Vietnam.
The men cried when asked how it felt to come back home following the war. For many of them, home was so far away especially knowing many of their fellow Soldiers did not make it back to their loved ones.
"The greatest of my accomplishments was bringing home as many men as I could," said Retired Maj. Walter Reed, who was once the troop commander of Bravo Troop "Bandits" in Vietnam. "I wish I could of done many things different like moving my men 10 meters to the left or letting that Soldier stay back on this one mission. Maybe he would have came home if I did that."
Other Vietnam veterans recounted on their experiences during their visit to Fort Bliss and reflected on those they served with.
"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 one of the 1-1 CAV 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."