Bravo company of 101st Airborne Division reunites for first time in 40 years
Thu, 19 Sep 2013 15:40:25 GMT —
For the first time in more than four decades, members of an infantry platoon that served in Vietnam are reuniting in Myrtle Beach.
Randy Shaner of Murrells Inlet organized the reunion of his brothers from Bravo Company, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
They're men who Shaner says he shared a special connection with during the jungle warfare of Vietnam.
"When you defend your life and another's life and they do the same for you, it builds a bond that's eternal. It's great," Shaner said.
Shaner says he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder when he got out, as did many of his fellow grunts who saw intense combat in Vietnam.
James "Butch" Watkins of Annapolis, Maryland is seeing these brothers from Bravo Company for the first time in 43 years.
They're sharing their friendship, he says, while saying thank you and praise to God they were able to make it back alive.
"When I first got out, I tried not to think about it because it brought on some bad days, bad memories, but I grew and with my church and my family's support, I did well," Watkins said.
For many of the veterans, the reunion marks a welcome home that only someone who served in Vietnam can truly understand.
"When we came back, we weren't welcomed home, we were scorned, some spit on," Shaner said. "So if we weren't welcomed home by others, we'd do it ourself."
There are 24 men from at least 13 states attending the reunion. Shaner says many of them are suffering from wounds that can't be seen, but they all share a bond forged in war that will last a lifetime.
"You felt good that they had your back and you had theirs. It was great to see these guys," said Watkins.
Shaner says he still relives the nightmares of Vietnam a lifetime later, but since coming back from war, life has been good.
"Even though it was terrible, I wouldn't take a minute back, because it changes you forever, for the better."