That unforgettable day is approaching. No, it isn’t a milestone birthday or a wedding anniversary. It isn’t the birthday of a first-born child. It’s that other day. The day Jack Jeter arrived in Vietnam fifty-four years ago in late September 1968. He’s leaving on a jet plane, flying from Dallas to Chicago to spend a few days with guys he served with in his squad, his platoon. They were in a rifle company. They were grunts. He’s going to spend a few days with guys who were and still are family albeit a different type of family. He, like the others at this mini-reunion, was assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (B2-7).
Circumstances dictated that they become family. These warriors were together 24/7. They spent their days together walking in the heat and humidity of the jungles, they ate combat rations, they dug holes together at night, and they bathed together if the opportunity presented itself after days or weeks without doing so. And, when necessary, they fought together to keep each other alive. They bandaged each other’s wounds. They carried each other to medivac helicopters.
When their tours of duty were done, whether because of wounds that required an early exit from the war zone or the end of the year-long tour of duty, they scattered around the United States. The years immediately after discharge were about work and new, young families. Most wanted to forget the war and the public’s reaction to the war, and its warriors were not conducive to talking about their part in the war.
Jack and several others began reuniting occasionally forty years ago. As the years passed, these reunions became annual events. Those that started the mini-reunions began hunting down their brothers in arms. Eventually, computers and the internet made the search easier.
The annual summer get-togethers were rudely interrupted by the Covid pandemic. Since the suspension of reunions, the company-size reunion and the annual summer mini-reunions have been suspended.
Getting together in 2022 is special. There’s an understated urgency to meeting face-to-face. The list of surviving men of B2-7 who fought together during the latter half of 1968 and into 1969 has decreased. The combination of age and ill-health are beginning to take their toll. All who have passed away are special to these B2-7 troopers. Those who have passed away include Jack “Squirt” Miller, in December 2019. Squirt was blinded by his wounds in March 1969, and for the rest of his life, his body expelled hundreds of pieces of shrapnel. April 2020 saw the passing of the company’s First Sergeant who, despite being the oldest member of the company, was often along side his young troops in the jungle.
The hats worn represent pride of service and sacrifice. This is a special family with special bonds and with the passage of time. Each year’s reunion becomes ever more precious. And, as the years pass, it becomes even more important to see more of the surviving B2-7 troopers attend.
Though I did not serve in Vietnam with these warriors, it is a privilege to be able to spend time with these B2-7 soldiers. They contributed mightily to my father’s survival and return home from his second combat tour of duty in Vietnam. Every opportunity to be here with them and other B2-7 troopers is a gift.
More Pictures from the Reunion
Timothy Trainer did not serve in Vietnam with those pictured. He served in the Army from July 1972-July 1975. He authored The Fortunate Son: Top, Through the Eyes of Others, published in 2017 (Joshua Tree Publishing). His father fought in Korea and was wounded in January 1951 and continued his Army career, serving two combat tours in Vietnam.