Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tears Recalled for Those We Left Behind

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tears Recalled for Those We Left Behind

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

BRUNSWICK, GA. | "December 7, 1941," President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "a date which will live in infamy ..."

Here's another one for you: April 30, 1975.

Asked how he felt about the day, Mike Browning said, "What a waste, really. What a waste."

That's basically what Chuck Davis said.

April 30, 1975, was when the last Americans were airlifted from the embassy in Saigon, and the city fell to the North Vietnamese Army. In the days before, the U.S. had evacuated as many South Vietnamese as possible, fearing they faced death or hard labor. The ruthless North Vietnamese communists backed up those fears mostly by working thousands to death.

Browning was an infantry sergeant in Vietnam with the 11th Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division, better known as the Americal. I was there later as a buck sergeant with Alpha Co., 3/ 21 Infantry Regiment of 23rd's 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Davis was a spec 4 with the 4th Division out of Fort Hood.

Unlike Davis and Browning, I didn't see any of my comrades die. I had one man, Pfc. Richard Graham, who was wounded on Charlie Ridge around Christmas.

Davis was with the troops that President Richard Nixon ordered into Cambodia in 1970 to strike the communist sanctuaries and supply bases. Cambodia was hard, Davis said, but he had worse days around Pleiku and Dak To.

Davis said he hadn't watched the PBS documentary that aired this week on Saigon's final days, including footage of that last chopper landing on the embassy roof.

"I hate to see that helicopter land on that building," he said.

Davis said he had a tough family life and had quit school and joined the Army at 17.

"They wouldn't send a 17-year-old to Vietnam. As soon as I turned 18, I got orders," he said.

He stayed in the Army three years and then got out. He and I talked at Bamboo Garden, a restaurant owned by a nice Vietnamese couple.

Davis spent 30 years on the same job and retired. Browning is also retired, but still works hard as a Glynn County commissioner and with veterans groups.

"I'll always honor those who went and fought and didn't come back," Browning said, "or gave up limbs or part of their minds. …

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