Last Thursday evening, May 22, 2008, I attended an event honoring Vietnam veterans at the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco. The event had over 350 attendees, about 100 were Vietnam veterans. General Anthony Zinni, USMC (retired) and Joe Galloway (reporter and author – “We Were Soldiers Once…and Young”) were the guest speakers. It was the first time that I had ever attended any event honoring Vietnam veterans.
Seating was not assigned – you could sit anywhere you wanted. Arriving early, I saw a Vietnam veteran whom my wife and I had met a couple hours earlier in the lobby of the hotel. His name is Bill Waldrop - he served with Hotel 2/9 in 1967. I claimed two seats at the table and within a very short time two more people arrived and chose to sit at our table. They were brothers and both were Vietnam veterans. Their names are Vince and Frank Rios – Vince lost both legs and his right arm when he stepped on a mine during his second tour. During his first tour, Vince served with Echo 2/9 and rotated back to the states in June 1966 – six months before my arrival in December 1966. His brother Frank served with 3/26 and was in-country during the same time (1967) as Bill and I. About 10 minutes later, a former Chief of Department for the San Francisco Fire Department arrived and asked to sit with us – he is a Navy veteran and served with the Marines and participated in the landing at Chosin Resevoir during the Korean War. The last two spots at our table were taken shortly after the event began by two Marine veterans, a Vietnam vet and his father-in-law, an Iwo Jima veteran. The Vietnam veteran’s name is Scott Jacobs and he served with Fox 2/9 in 1967.
Four Vietnam veterans from 2/9, three of whom served during the same time, and who - by chance - sat at the same table. Is that amazing or what?
The only other 9th Marine Regiment veteran we knew of that evening was General Zinni – he was the regimental CO of the 9th Marines from 1987 to 1989.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you on this Memorial Day weekend as we remember and honor our brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
God Bless America - Semper Fi.