Like many soldiers returning from Vietnam I just put my duffle bag and uniform in the closet. I didn’t want to remember some of the terrible experiences so they were just pushed to the back of my mind. I returned to Southern California in July of 1968 just after the 4th of July.
One of my former roommates, before I left for the Army, called me up and wanted to go to a movie. In those days we had to go to Hollywood to see a first run movie since it took a couple months before the movie would play in the local theaters. We decided to go to a Sunday afternoon matinee. I think it was a James Bond film. He brought his girlfriend and I was solo. After the movie we were walking across Hollywood Blvd and a car drove by and either it backfired or someone tossed out a firecracker. When my friend looked around he could not find me. When he did I was on the other side of the street lying on the sidewalk behind a mailbox. He laughed but I didn’t think it was very funny.
For years I would have nightmares and wake up in a cold sweat from the dreams of Vietnam. It took about 20-25 years to stop having those dreams and not to duck when I heard loud noises or saw flashes of light.
I think it was sometime in 2007 when I received a phone call. I was asked if I served in Vietnam and was with Charlie Company 1/22. I replied yes and then he said “I am Bud Roach”. I remembered Bud as a medic with Charlie Company. He told me a group of buddies have been located and they held reunions every year and that the next one was going to be in Gilroy, California. He asked if I remembered Jack Chavez and I replied sure then Bud told me Jack and his wife Kathy were putting it together. Bud put me on his list and told me he would contact me in the future with other information and about future reunions.
I was thinking of attending since I could just drive to Gilroy but for some reason I did not attend. I probably did not want to relive some of those memories. The next year the reunion was planned for New Orleans and again I did not attend.
The 2010 reunion was planned for Branson, MO and after a few phone calls and emails from Bud I finally decided to attend. It is not easy to get to Branson from Los Angeles. You can’t get directly to Branson and you have to fly into Springfield, MO and then rent a car and drive.
I arrived in Branson and checked into the Hotel. The first person I saw walking toward our meeting room was Charlie Shyab. I looked at him and said…”Charlie?” and he said…”Fred?” Well I was feeling better already. I connected up with other Charlie Company buddies including Tim Dieffenbacher, David “Kentucky” Ratcliff, Ray Warner and many more. One interesting thing was that you really only knew those in your platoon or squad and not too many from other platoons.
I showed up with maybe about 10% knowledge of the pie or remembrance of our time together in Vietnam. By the time the reunion was over I had about 40% knowledge of the pie. When talking to the others it was just like continuing a conversation we had 40 years ago. I had never really shared or talked about my experiences in Vietnam before but with these great guys it was easy.
All-in-all I now feel better about myself. Charlie Company was the best therapy I could get…and I want more.
– Fred Childs