Viet Nam gave me the opportunity to make new friends make more enemies and discover unknown relatives. I had the opportunity to experience all of the above, but the meeting of a relative you never knew existed really blew my mind. The day that I found my long lost cousin is a day that will never be forgotten by me.
The day started as any other day while in the republic of Viet Nam, HOT. My company was performing recon in force in the war zone C area, and we made some contact with the enemy and found some catches of weapons and food stuffs. While we were taking a break from our duties, I began to read my mail that had just been dropped off to us.
We as combat infantry have a tendency to share everything, this includes letters from home. While looking at and reading my mail, a photo fell out of the envelope and on to my jungle fatigue pants leg. I picked up the photo and was looking at it when a voice said, where did you get my aunts picture? I answered the question by saying this aunt is from buffalo man. That is my aunt magg who lives on East Utica Street in buffalo.
The look on my face had to be priceless when I heard those words from Doc Taylor. I still could not believe this, so I sent a letter to my father so that I could get to the bottom of this and pull the draws off this family imposter.
I kind of kept my distance from Doc while I waited for conformation to come through the mail about our family connection. The wait was short in duration because I received an answer in the mail with a yes that is your cousin by marriage from your auntís side of the family. Aunt Magg was the wife of my uncle ToT, or Charley Jones my uncle from my fatherís side of the family.
Through question and answers, I found out my fathers family was originally from down south, the Birmingham Alabama area. During the war parts of the family moved north to work in the factories and coal mines of West Virginia. This migration to find employment split my family members and closed the close nit commutations that had been enjoyed.
Man what a shock finding a relative in a combat zone, in the same division, same battalion, same company, same platoon and same warrior circles. The sudden appearance of Barry or Doc Taylor my new found cousin brought about a new found relationship in my platoon. No longer just battle buddies, but battle cousinsí, and a feeling of utter frustration knowing there was nothing you could do to protect your family.
Doc was a medic he was part of head quarters company and put on loan to the different companies when in the bush. At times while out looking for Victor Charlie, Barryís and my path would cross and a HAYĒ whatís happening Cussís could be heard through the company AO. The times that he is with B Company I put out an extra vigil so as to keep my family safe.
I donít know when it happened but it was soon after the knowledge of kinship between Barry and me that a transfer notice came for doc, and he moved north to camp Carroll and our lives were split.
During my time down south, constant contact with the enemy gave me little time to wonder what happened to my new jack cousin. After months of combat in three of the four Corps in South Vietnam, the word came down that the third brigade of the 101 was to move north and become part of the whole division and our base camp would be Camp Carroll located just south of the DMZ.
I can not remember who told me that doc was at camp Carroll but I made it a point to find my cus and I set out to do exactly that. The new AO had us sleeping in platoon type tents. The area was very muddy and the footing was slippery at best. The sight of the base camp reminded me of an old ww2 movie.
I had the opportunity to meet the commanding General of the 101 while making way to my tent. General Zias was making an impromptu tour of the 3rd Bde sleeping area. I was approached by the general and his entourage and asked about my living quarters and other accommodations of the camp. My reply was that it is a lot better than sleeping in the jungle. I saluted the big boss and the general and I split company.
To think about it what would have happened if I had said something like this. I have for the last 2 months been sleeping in mud up to my ass and to come here and still be sleeping in mud up to my ass give me a break. Shit my ass would be doing time in LBJ military prison. I kept my mouth SHUT. My big mouth got me in the republic of Vietnam from the start. Bull Shit speak? Smart move.
I continued my search for my cousin by visiting the different aid stations in camp. One of the medics who knew Barry gave me directions to his aid station bunker. I took off like a shot when given of the ware bouts of my relative.
The aid bunker was not far from my bivouac area so the walk in the mud was short in duration. I reached the bunker pulled back the blackout tarp, descended down the earthen walk way and asked the first medic I saw if Barry was located at this aid station. The medic nodded and said doc someone here to see you.
A curtain swung open and there stood my cus. We grasped each other and held on tight. I t was good to see that Barry was alive and kicking. A small celebration began when a bottle of vodka was produced and I got plastered.
I slept that night in the medics bunker complete with all the comforts of home, food, shelter, and family. What a night the next day I said my goodbyes and headed back to the company area and a combat assault into the Ashau valley.
Barry and I lost contact for years, but through the efforts of battalion members and reunions of the 3/187 67-68 we have been reunited and to this day Barry and myself remain close.
War, WHAT a Trip
The story continues.
WM Roland Hayes.