A Trip Back to Vietnam
The following continues the
series of emails written and shared by Doug Grier, brother of the late Don Grier, beloved former Chapter 377 president. Thanks, Ceil!
Subject: Eagle follows up Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2006
A few other thoughts. It's a long story, can't tell it all, but here's what you need to know. Chien, our guide,
also worked with another American named Charlie, who is from NH and has been here working with veterans’ groups on building
projects. Funny thing, he lives about 15 miles from where Trina lived in Franconia before we got married and she moved to Colorado, and they have mutual friends! So we emailed him and one thing led to another,
and Charlie is sending us suggestions on what to see and where to eat in Hue. On his suggestion, we went to the Hien restaurant with Chien and our driver Tian.
Great food, and a great place, as the owner and chef Huong not only can cook but also is a great hostess! In between
her cooking, she would come and spend time chatting with us. It was really like a family gathering with good food, good
beer, and great laughter. We're going there for breakfast tomorrow, and she promises us tomorrow night she will cook
us "real Hue food.” If
real food can be better than what we had tonight, I'll have to see it to believe it. She is 45, and I was teasing her
that she was probably one of the children I waved to and tossed C-rations to when I came through Hue on a truck. Funny thing is it could be true!!
Upon arriving here in Hue, we checked into our hotel, and I don't know for sure,
but maybe Chien arranged it this way - to have Trina and I in room number 101 !! (For those of you who don't remember,
I was in the 101st
Chien tells me he will take me to Firebases Birmingham and Bastogne and, of course, about a hundred other places. We shall see. "But life
doesn't get any better than this!"
PS I am topping off the evening with a great Cuban cigar!!
Subject: Eagle flies high Dateline: Hue - morning 9 Sept.
Today we went on what I remember as Highway
#5, that back then went to the north of the A Shau Valley near Firebase Blaze. First we stopped at a war museum in Hue and saw a movie with real footage of the war around
Because this film was shot
by the North Vietnamese, we had a glimpse of how they saw the war. Outside the museum was an actual 175 artillery gun,
tank, APCs, etc. which had been captured after the departure of the US from the war…. On the way to the mouth of the A Shau Valley,
we stopped at a minority school teacher's home at the bottom of FB Bastogne. He was very gracious as he invited my family
into his family's home for tea and talk. Amongst other things, he told us his father was VC and fought in this AO.
Certificates from the government hung proudly on the wall. More about Bastogne later. We continued on QL 49 (new # for Hwy. 5) until the bottom of the mountain
where FB Blaze was located. After some discussion with Mr. Chien, he reluctantly allowed Kris and me to attempt to make
it to the top.
Dateline: FB Blaze, late morning, 9 Sept.
With Kris on point, he led me
up the treacherous mountainside. I was relieved that Trina did not have proper footwear or clothing for the climb.
The fact is, and I gave it a thought for a brief moment, that there may
still be live mines or bombs. After conferring
with Kris of the risk, he still was gung-ho, and off we went. Around 3/4 of the way up, we started to find remains of
the war. Here's a list of the items we collected from that point on, including the firebase itself: Part of M
79 styrofoam holder, M79 shell, M16 shell, an authentic HCM sandal, pieces of VC uniform, fragments and remains of a Claymore
and mortar rounds, Us medicine vial, laundry bag, part of a GI raincoat, pieces of sandbags, and more. Because Kris
is a great point man, finding these things, both his hands and pockets were soon full, and we could carry no more. So
here 3/4 of the way up, I decided to have a cigar and told Kris to be careful and scout out the final climb. A
minutes later, up and above the call of duty, my here and new true friend Mr. Chien comes along. Instead of
waiting for Kris to come back, we started ascending to the top of the Mt. Of course, now I have Mr. Chien's pockets
and hands, and more importantly, his eyes, to gather more souvenirs. We climbed to the top, and there we were on
FB Blaze. Just like when I was there before, the view was breathtaking and like nothing you
could imagine. For you that remember Blaze, you could see A Shau Valley and the mountain range where Hamburger Hill
is located. Believe it or not, we found an unexploded, therefore live, bomb. So we all took turns posing before
it. After another cigar, it was time to descend the mountain holding the ghosts of FB Blaze. One small shock -
neither Mr. Chien nor Kris noticed a hole, which I stepped in, about waist deep. All I could do was praise the Lord
that this was not an old booby trap!! On the way down, Mr. Chien was so very happy, as he knew that I was the happiest
guy in this world that day. By the way, Mr. Chien and his brother Mr. Tian are not only the most wonderful people but
also the most knowledgeable of the Central Highlands, as well as I Corps. Without them, I doubt many could find
FB Blaze. Mr. Chien asked me why I smiled so big, and I told him beau coup sweat felt good and that this old man can
still hump the mountains, even though without the weight!!
JEROME B. KELLEY MEMORIAL MUSEUM
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501 Willow Ave
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Headquarters for Sydney Camp #41 Sons of Union Veterans
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