Alan Ryan, Vietnam veteran
Wesley Chapel, Florida, USA
Vietnam has been a part of my life for 30 years, as a memory and a dream. It has most recently been brought vividly back into my life by my almost accidental reunion with the surviving members of my small, USMC Combined Action Group Team.
There were never been more than ten people in that team, nine marines and one navy corpsman. At the time, 1970, we were all highly motivated young men, all infantry, all volunteers, all trained in Vietnamese language and culture. Our mission was to "go out there and stay out there" and integrate ourselves into the most rural and primitive Vietnamese villages; to befriend them, to gain their trust, and to live in the villages by day...and to go out and aggressively patrol and hunt the Vietcong at night..which we did with notable success.
A few of our teammates were killed. All of us were wounded at one time or another, some of us twice, some three times...the only one who didn't get a scratch was our Navy corpsman or combat paramedic, who was probably exposed to more enemy fire then anyone, as he treated the wounded.
A year ago my company installed internet-capable computers in our office. One day, on a lark, I did a random search for the 2nd Combined Action Group (our parent unit in Vietnam), not because I thought I'd find anything, but more as a challenge to this strange new device. Imagine my surprise then, when my own Marine company designation appeared. I clicked on it...and in seconds was watching in awe as a photograph materialized and I was seeing the young faces of my friends appear out of the past.
This chance encounter--this emotional and at first disturbing encounter--has led to e-mail reunions and a wonderful renewal of friendships with a half-dozen people who at one time were the closest people in my life, who risked their lives for me and for whom I risked mine. Together we have been able to retrace steps, relive the bad times and reshare the good, to put to rest once and for all the demons of that war.