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Beeman Buffalo Jack, ’64, writes with his customary panache:
Back a million nights ago, plebes would be tasked with a presentation at meals, the success of which would determine how much they might eat. Kind of like these fund drive messages. This message is directed specifically for those who have not donated in the past, but might do so now.
I’m an Old Grad, 1964. The horses were gone by ’46, but the library was still that depicted on the Engineer branch brass. At graduation, the Vietnam war was just beginning. This week, I was at Arlington, with surviving members of B/2-503 173rd ABN. There were fewer than ten of us for the memorial services: Roy Lombardo was the CO who brought the company over from Okinawa; Bob Warfield was CO when I got my first purple heart; and Les Brownlee, later acting Sec Army for three years, when I got my second purple heart. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but about 220 came in country in May ’65, and 17 walked on the plane a year later. That didn’t include me since I arrived in as a replacement once they were already in country. By that time Ron Zinn ’62 had been killed, and the base camp I reported into was Camp Zinn.
It’s about 300 miles from Buffalo Mountain to Arlington, but my wife, Sam, and I, have made this trip numerous times for Veterans Day. The gathering focuses only on one company from the 173rd ABN, and for the first year of the Vietnam deployment. But, we invite all members of the company from modern deployments as well.
We started at Section 60 where recent 173rd KIAs have been buried, then to where MG Williamson and his wife are buried. He brought the brigade over from Okinawa. Roy stayed in touch with them for years, and told stories about how he went from playing the trombone to Brigade CG. Next was a walk over to the Brigade Memorial at the foot of the hill where Robert E Lee’s mansion sits. The memorial is small, just off the side of the path.
Spouses, friends, children, grand-children, gathered around the flowered tripod with the foam backing and flowers. Small American flags were passed out, and as the names of our KIA were read, we all pushed the flags into the ground around the memorial, and into the foam backing. It looked like a butterfly convention at a watering hole. When 2 Jan 66 came, I placed my flag.
Afterwards, we reported to Roy’s favorite restaurant down on the old town Alexandria waterfront to decompress and catch up on each other’s lives.
When Sam and I returned home there was a voice mail from Kris Keggi. Every Veterans Day, it happens. Kris was a young Latvian boy in the backwash of WWII when he escaped from a train bound for a concentration camp. He ended up in post war Paris, then America, where he entered Yale at 16. I was shot on 2 Jan 66, and we met when he was the Brigade orthopaedic surgeon at the MASH hospital where our Dust Offs landed. I was looking up at the nurse who had a name tag “Crist” and he was looking down at a shattered left arm. Christ? And a WOMAN? Boy! Is THIS confusing! About that time, Kris is explaining Plan A and B. “A” was take the arm off below the elbow, and save the elbow. “B” was try to save arm, maybe lose elbow. Make a decision, Lt!
Those of you who have been hugged, or shaken hands with me, know we went with Plan B and it was successful. Kris has been a life-long friend, and has spent the last decades as the Elihu Professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Yale University School of Medicine. I tell him the only reason he rose to such prominence is that he had all those young paratroopers to practice on. He does admit that it was much easier working on those skinny troopers with just muscle, sinew, and bones, than today’s more portly patients.
So what is the purpose of this story? It is to remind you of the importance of relationships across the span of half a century. These relationships are fragile, and can wither away if not nurtured. WP-ORG has provided the structure to maintain these for over twenty years now. We need your donations to continue to provide service. You need the service for your own good measure.
Reach out to a classmate, join one of our many forums, donate!
Checks: WP-ORG INC 3800 Buffalo Mountain RD SW, Willis VA 24380
“Beeman Buffalo Jack” Price ’64 CFO WP-ORG INC on Buffalo Mountain