From June 6-9, Delta is hosting the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. This 80-percent replica of the Vietnam Wall is 360 feet long and includes every name found on the permanent wall in Washington, D.C. It will be displayed in Confluence Park and will be free to the public 24 hours a day while it's here.
My father, Jerry Anderson, served 21 years in the Army. He served a tour in Vietnam from February 1968 to February 1969. When he returned, typical of those who have served during combat, he didn't share much about his time there. Quips like, "I didn't leave anything over there, so there's nothing to talk about," were about all we could get out of him.
In 2009 the Vietnam Moving Wall came to Montrose. I was then an advertising representative for the Montrose Press. We opened up the opportunity for local Vietnam vets to send in their stories and photos. I was very excited thinking this would be my opportunity to finally hear my dad's story.
I asked dad if he would be open to having one of our reporters come speak with him and having his story published. Well, that could not have gone any worse. He wanted nothing to do with it.
Dad could sense my disappointment and called the next day to ask if I would come see him that evening. I was still not over what I believed would be a lost opportunity.
When I arrived, he asked me to pick up a book on his dining room table. It was a yearbook of sorts from his time in Vietnam.
"Find the names circled toward the back," he called out. The two names he circled were Albert Dahl and Michael Juneau.
"Those two boys did everything together," he said. "They were good kids. Kept their noses clean and were good soldiers. I think they stayed glued at the hip because they looked out for each other."
Dad was a 28-year-old staff sergeant in his 10th year of service. He would retire in 1978 as a first sergeant.
My dad's unit, the 125th Signal Battalion, was stationed at the top of Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain. They were attached to the 25th Infantry Division. Among other units represented on the mountain were the Fifth special forces group. It was a key communications site that the North Vietnamese wanted to control. Each night there was a battle at the top of the mountain. Mostly there were fire fights but imagine having to be on edge every night.
On May 13, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched an aggressive attack on some 140 American soldiers that night. The attack began at 9:45 p.m. As the attack happened, some men fought back while others who were already bedded down for the night began to panic and run down the mountain hiding behind nearby rocks.
This was after the enemy had attacked with mortar and RPG fire, then proceeded to attack the bunkers with satchel charges and hand grenades.
"I don't judge those guys. We were under intense fire and most of them were still in their shorts. They did what they had to do to survive," my dad said.
Poor visibility, disorientation, downed communications and the fact the Vietnamese were setting booby traps on the bodies of the soldiers killed from both sides made the situation dire for the Americans. Finally, the situation was communicated to support. A couple hours after the attack started, mini-gunships and troop reinforcements arrived for the Americans. Who would keep control of the valuable real estate.
The final toll on Americans that night was 24 killed, 35 wounded including my dad and two missing in action.
That morning on a trail from the bunkers -- where the men lived -- to the helipad -- where the attack began -- my dad and others found the bodies of Juneau and Dahl. They were killed in the battle and found where the thickest fighting had taken place. The conditions of the two men's bodies as he described them to me was very graphic.
Maybe my dad didn't leave anything in Vietnam, but he did carry these two men for over 40 years. Dad passed away on April 30, 2013.
Albert Eugene Dahl, Aurora, Illinois, is honored on panel 59E, line 18.
Michael Joseph Juneau, Hessmer, Louisiana, is honored on panel 59E, line 25.