War journalists returning to their Vietnam combat zones

The Boys of '67 with a former Viet Cong fighter who fought aginst us on on June 19 1967. He was presented him a minature Purple Heart for wounds he received. Photo courtesy of John Riedy.

It was March 2016, when I received an e-mail out of the clear blue from The Greatest Generations Foundation’s (TGGF) founder, Timothy Davis. He introduced himself on that e-mail explaining that his foundation had been taking WWII Veterans back to their respective war zones over the last 15 years, but was now transitioning to returning Vietnam Veterans back to Vietnam.

Timothy wrote that he had just watched National Geographic’s documentary “Brothers in War,” about my Vietnam combat unit, which inspired him to reach out. He asked me if I would like to return to Vietnam on TGGF’s inaugural program for 10-days with all expenses paid.

From left: Steve Hopper, The Greatest Generations Foundation founder Timothy Davis, Gary “Doc” Maibach, Larry Lilley and Bill Reynolds at Khe Sanh, Vietnam in April 2016. Photo Courtesy of John Riedy

My eyes nearly popped out of my head and my heart raced as I swiftly replied, “Yes! We must talk on the phone in the morning.” Early the next morning, we spoke on the phone and began to get to know each other.

It turns out, Timothy hails from Melbourne, Australia and I explained that my Father, a U.S. Army soldier, met my Mother in Sydney during WWII and they married at the war’s end in July 1945. My Mom came to America in 1946 aboard a “Brides Ship” pregnant with me.

I think that’s when Timothy and I began forming a close friendship.

Six weeks later, Timothy Davis and three of his excellent staff personnel escorted me and three of my ole Charlie Company buddies back to Vietnam where we retraced our footsteps in the Mekong Delta.

The Boy’s of ’67 The Greatest Generations Foundation staff at the iconic Caravelle Saigon hotel in April 2016_courtesy photo

At times, it was highly emotional but mostly it was downright enjoyable. Though I had returned to Vietnam in 2007 with a group of 17 Veterans and family members, this visit was tremendous as we four ole Veterans and those four TGGF men hit it off as though we had known each other forever.

In November, 2016 Timothy phoned again to ask if I would be interested in helping escort a group of Pearl Harbor survivors to Oahu for a series of 75th Pearl Harbor Anniversary Commemorations. I jumped at the opportunity.

A memorial cross placed in memory of the casualties Boys of ’67 Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam at Toi San Island known as VC Island. Photo courtesy of John Riedy

It was such an honor to be in the presence of so many great Americans and it brought fond memories of my own dear ole Dad who had passed away so many years ago. I loved hearing their amazing stories as some were simply bone-chilling.

Last month, I heard from Timothy once again and he asked if I would be interested in assisting his foundation in another Vietnam Program to return a group of war journalists back to their war zones Feb. 16 to Feb. 26. Naturally, I jumped at this opportunity.

I’m very proud to report that Timothy Davis now considers me a Senior Vietnam Veteran TGGF Team Member. We are currently planning a June 2017 Vietnam Program that will focus on my ole combat unit’s 50th Anniversary of our Battalion’s June 19th Battle Near Ap Bac Village where we lost 47 brave troopers that one day.

Timothy had me recruit 20 soldiers from our Battalion for what I think will be one outstanding, emotionally charged occasion while walking that hallowed ground and honoring our fallen brothers.

We never forget our fallen warriors.

Editor’s Note: At age 25, Timothy Davis was inspired by his WWII Grandfather’s honorable Australian Navy service attached to U.S. Marines in South Pacific campaigns, hence he established The Greatest Generations Foundation to pay homage to all Veterans. Timothy’s uncles also served with the Royal Australian Army and Navy. To date, TGGF has conducted 113 programs since 2002 while visiting 29 battlefields with 4,300 WWII Veterans. And, Timothy Davis is not done by a long shot.

Bill Reynolds is one of the “Boys of ‘67,” Charlie Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division and director of veterans affairs for The Signal.

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