Just like I figured, a few errors did come to light in some of my accounts in “See the Dragon”. The book is now available only as 2nd edition and it includes several added chapters and the few minor mistakes corrected. Sue and I did attend the reunion in Lexington Ky in late August of 2007 that I wrote about in the first edition of See the Dragon. The few corrections were needed due to that meeting and the many conversations with my buddies of late. Nearly all of the additions to the 2nd edition follow.
The following will be a few of the stories that weren't available for the book at the time of publishing.
I love to hear short stories of goofy things that happen, especially in the Army. While visiting again with Bill Franklin I got a little more information about his second tour. If you read my book "See the Dragon", you know how much I always admired Bill. He was certainly a soldier's soldier for sure. This is one of the stories he told me that I didn't enter in my book.
In his second tour, Bill was a door gunner on a Huey Slick working with ¾ Cav. This is still a part of the mighty 25th Division. On one particular mission, after taking a lot of fire and returning the same, Bill's communication suddenly stopped. Bill checked to make sure his coiled mic cable was still plugged in above him and it was, so they continued the mission without talking. When the got back to base, the pilot told him that something was really wrong with his helmet. He took it off and saw that a round had passed right above his head and went through the back of his helmet severing his commo cord leaving a tail of it about 10 inches long. The enemy round had passed only about 1/2 inch by his head. Bill put the helmet away to keep for a souvenir of course. When his rotation date finally came around, he grabbed up all of his junk including his "near miss" helmet and reported to the airfield to depart. He was on the tarmac about to board the plane when the last man to approve his departure stopped him. This Second Lt jerk says to him "You got papers for that helmet?" "No" Bill says, "It's junk as you can see. The whole back of it was shot away. It is my souvenir." Lt jerk told him he ain't taking it without papers cause it's government property. "Furthermore", he says "you ain't boarding with it", After some argument Bill turned around and threw the helmet as hard as he could across the tarmac and told LT that if he needed it so bad to go after it. Bill got on the plane and left to travel home. Bill told me the last thing he saw in Vietnam was that helmet rolling across the tarmac with that piece of cord flopping around every turn.
I asked Bill if he would like to run into that guy someday. He thought he might enjoy that.
The 2007 Wolfhound reunion in Lexington Ky
See The Dragon was published just before the reunion in Lexington, Ky had taken place. I was very excited about that upcoming event and it turned out to be more than I had hoped for. This is "The rest of the story", sort of the next chapter of my book.
Sue and I left for the reunion a couple of days early to spend a day and night with the Shea's at their invitation. They were indeed going to the reunion, but would meet up with us three days later. They live outside of Junction, IL on a large farm. One of the chapters in my book is titled, "John Shea and basic training".
One thing I soon learned is that there were more than just the two of us that trained in Ft Leonard Wood Missouri and was stationed together in Hawaii together than just John and I. I had forgotten about Dennis Burger. I wish I hadn't because he is a great guy. We just weren't together in Hawaii at all and I had forgotten about him. Also he was not allowed to ship to Vietnam with the rest of us due to an allergic reaction to some of the shots required. He remained in Hawaii during the war. Anyway, I learned that Dennis only lived a rocks throw from John and Alene's farm, so John and I drove over for a great visit then Dennis came over and had meal with us at the Shea's home. We had such a good time. John and Alene have had a wonderful life and own a beautiful farm in southern Illinois. John and I looked over his place and had long visits. The next morning Sue and I loaded up and continued our trek to Lexington.
It is so rewarding to me to have proof that those heroes I had known, worked with and loved were really the great guys I thought they were at the time instead of only thinking so and they not really being men of such fiber. It becomes more evident to me at each meeting that I was indeed privileged to be around men such as these. Every one of them I find and "hook up" with after all these decades are amazing men with fine values and all are possessing enormous drive to excel. Just good men, everyone.
This time in Lexington turned out to be the best reunion ever and not really because the attendance had grown in numbers again, but for the shear numbers of special meetings and reunions that happened within the reunion.
As soon as we arrived and checked in, we started meeting old friends from reunions in the past and the hugs started. John and Sherry Babbitt were our first hugs and he immediately said "where's the books?" I told him they were in the truck in the parking lot, so I made a run (OK, I walked slow with a limp) to get a few of them. I had taken about 60 or 70 at John's request. He had assured me that no one would take it as me taking advantage of the meeting just to hawk books. The wolfhounds in attendance bought nearly all my books and by the third day I was getting reviews back from them reading it. They made me feel so good with their positive comments.
John Babbitt, Dave Hunt and Merrill Sellers had a mini reunion with the mother and sister of one of their friends that had gotten killed in Nam.
I had hoped that a least 6 of the men I had wrote about, my friends/brothers would be there, but there were only three of us. Bill Franklin called me and said they had to cancel at the last moment because he was taking his wife to the hospital. (She is fine now) Still that was a big deal. Deacon Brown, John Shea and I, all with our wives met and anticipated the arrival of Charlie Crowe's sister and her husband. The next day they arrived and we greeted Charlie Crowe's sister, Patsy Clayton. She and her husband, Earl, had driven to the reunion to meet the close friends of her brothers. Much crying of joy as we all hugged, but that was not the end of it. The word spread throughout ranks of the 140 Wolfhounds and they all wanted to express their love for Charlie even though they didn't know him. Charlie was their brother too. I asked Patsy how many hugs she had got and she said she had lost count. A few weeks after the reunion, I spoke to Patsy. She told me how much she and Earl enjoyed the meeting and tried to explain what a healing time it was for her to visit with Charlie's friends.
The banquet, two very special moments
Friday evening was the Wolfhound banquet and I believe all that attended the reunion were there. The mini reunions all sat together at their own tables just as at our table sat Sue and I, John and Alene Shea, Deacon and Diane Brown and Earl and Patsy Clayton. At one table sat John and Sherry Babbitt, Merril and Rebecca Sellers and Dave and Brenda Hunt.
After the meal they started the annual auction held to keep a treasury for reunions, scholarships and such. The President of our Assoc, Gary Huber, became the auctioneer and the first thing he held up was a See the Dragon book. He said "Well you all know what this is. It is the book that was donated and past around for every one of you Wolfhounds to sign,". So this book brought a lot of money. I didn't know who bought it.
One of the most memorable moments of the 6 day event was when they held up an 18 inch long shinny black replica of the Vietnam Wall. It was bringing a lot of money and Larry Deacon Brown, sitting at our table, was bidding every other time. The bidding was finally over and Deacon had bought the "Wall" for many times what it was worth. Deacon walked up and paid, took it from Gary and returned to our table. But instead of sitting down, he first walked to Charlie Crowe's sister Patsy and handed the memento it to her. That was very emotional for every one who witnessed it.
After the evening was over and everyone was done with the group photos, I worked my way toward the hall to go to my room. I heard someone yell for me and it was Dave Hunt. I went over and he held up a Dragon book and said this is yours. I told him that it wasn't mine cause I was out of books. He insisted and handed it to me. When I looked at it, it was the one that all the Wolfhounds had signed. Dave was the one that had bought it at Auction and he told me that it was my book, and then all those around him said that no one should have it but me. I couldn't believe it. I had a death grip on it as I said that I couldn't accept it. I read every name in it after I got to my room. They were all there. I read one signature that said "Charlie Crowe, by Sister Patsy Clayton" Wow! That was big. Then I saw that General Robert Foley had signed it "Robert Foley". Not Medal of Honor winner Robert Foley, not General Robert Foley…..no, just his name. He was a Capt and company Commander in November of 1966 during an operation where his company was attempting to rescue another company that was in deep trouble. His actions and the actions of Sgt Baker earned them both the M.O.H. What amazing men!
So, I have that book in my office with my most prized possessions. Certainly not because it is a "See the Dragon" book, but because it has over 100 heroes, brothers, and friends signatures in it.
There was a very sad time too
There were two 12th Evac nurses attended the Lexington reunion. They served at the Cu Chi base camp at the MASH unit during Vietnam. I thought it was great that they were with us in Lexington. They were bubbly and laughing and crying with all the emotions one would expect. Ann Cunningham was one of the two Nurses and of course I had to have a turn at hugging her and thanking her for her sacrifice. She was at the hospitality room with all of the Wolfhounds and of course attended the Wolfhound banquet on Friday evening. Saturday she was running around visiting and having a great time. At the 25th Division banquet Saturday evening she didn't attend. Like everyone else, I wondered why she wasn't there. Sue and I left Lexington at 4:30 the next morning so we didn't know until we got home and looked on the relay that she had had a stroke and died just before the banquet Saturday evening. Such a great lady. In Hawaii during the 25th Division's reunion in 2006, she had given me a hat pin depicting the nurse's monument in DC that stands close the Vietnam Wall. I keep it on my VFW hat and think of her sacrifice every time I see it.
I got a call from a friend of mine, an old Wolfhound by the name of William "Easy" Smith. He advised me to get in contact with a group known as "The Military Writers Society of America" because of my book. He knew an author that was involved with them and that they were a good group of about 800 authors. I guess he talked me into it, because I did and it has been a good experience.
Anyway, about 2 weeks after I sent in my info to join the group, I got this call from a guy named Tony Lazzarini. He said he was the president of MRSA and he normally didn't review books any more as he had a staff of writers handle that, but he had reviewed it. He said he wanted to do that because on the front cover I had written "Wolfhound". He knew the Wolfhounds well he said, and then he went into detail. He was based at Cu Chi the same time I was and had been in Hawaii the same as I. He did extend for six months, which turned into nine after I left however. So he did 21 months in Nam. His unit, the 25th Aviation, was the taxi service for the Wolfhounds along the other units of the 25th Division. Sort of a coincidence there. Tony was a door gunner in one of the "Little Bear" slicks (Huey). He said he was going to write a positive review on the web site about my book and for me to take a look at it.
Tony then told me I should consider bringing some books to Branson to the MWSA annual convention the first week in November and sign some books. I did drive down there and had a wonderful time. I met and made many new friends and got well acquainted with Tony Lazzarini. He (really his wife Alene) was in charge of the convention so he was a pretty busy fellow.
Tony's and my dates of service mirrored so, even though we had different jobs, we had much in common. I have read one of his three books that he authored, "Highest Traditions" and I tell everyone that it is one of the best I've ever read. It is a very easy to read, non offensive and informative book for anyone wanting to get inside of a door gunner's head for a moment. You don't want to stay there very long however.
The next story involves Tony or is because of him at least.
Because of the book
I have had several phone calls and meetings with amazing individuals as a result of the "Dragon" book. I have been privileged to meet many authors at signings, which led to other acquaintances that I now value greatly. None are more amazing than the following story.
I arrived in Branson, Mo to attend the Veterans reunion and also the Gathering of the Military Writers Society as their president, Tony Lazzarini, suggested I do. The second day there about mid day I heard this crazy man yelling from down the hall "Hey Arndt, look what I've found for you". It was Tony again, only this time through he had a man with his wife following behind him. Tony tells me that he's found another Wolfhound and the guy had not seen or talked to another Hound since Nam. So this new guy and I were introduced and then we proceeded to have a great visit. A side note, this couple lived in Osceola, Mo which is only about 1 ½ hours south. They are Arthur "Butch" and Vicki Allen and it was really fun sharing with them stories of past reunions that he didn't even know was happening. He was excited to find that there was an organization and news letters and wanted to join. I think his wife was more excited to hear about reunions than Butch was.
This is sort of a three part coincidence thing. I'll try to un-confuse it as best as I can.
The Wolfhounds have what they call a relay on the net that is used for updates and goings on within the old Hounds. When I got home from Branson, I got on this relay and asked the Secretary send a Wolfhound newsletter to Butch (the new guy) so he could join and get started. Of course all members of the relay get the messages. Almost immediately I got a reply from Paul "Gabby" Gaither, one of the relay members. The message read like it was an emergency. Gabby wrote that he had been trying to find this guy Allen for nearly 40 years. He said that in Nam, Arthur's nick name was "Coyote". They were best friends in Nam and he needed Arthur's phone number if I had gotten it at Branson from him. I sent the number right back to him. That evening I talked to Butch (or coyote) on the phone and he told me that Paul had called him and they were making plans to "hook up" very soon. Paul lives in North Carolina so it will be quite a drive for them, but wouldn't it be a site to witness that reunion?
Sergeant Cary Clark
My old Sergeant from Nam lives in a town close to Little Rock. He called me Christmas Eve of 2007 to tell me he had read the Dragon and really enjoyed it. I said that I was ready and for him to let me have it with the mistakes he had found in the book. He told me that he thought it was "right on" and thanked me for it. I have talked to him three or four times now and I am always impressed with how his memory is so sharp after 40 some years. I guess I didn't realize that our cadre were people too and really knew "their" people and cared. I think what amazes me the most is the details and names of men that were under him that he recalls. We talked about my friend Charlie Crowe for a while and he said one of the main reasons he was so sad that he had to miss the Lexington reunion was that he missed meeting some of Charlie's family there.
I have started on another book to follow the "Dragon". I am not sure at this point if it will come to anything yet. We'll see what it looks like.