A Proud Veteran: Time In Vietnam Creates A Bond; Local Man Heads Plaque Effort
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 5, 2012
By Ellen Newman
Special to the Enterprise
Terry Branch was 18 years old when he had to register for the mandatory military draft in 1966.
He’s half-joking when he says he still has splinters in his fingers from when they had to “drag him off the porch” when he was called to serve in Vietnam. He will also tell you the year he spent on “Hell’s Half Acre” changed his life forever. He turned 21 in Vietnam and “came back home a different man.”
Branch was in the 134th Assault Helicopter Company from 1969-1970. Their compound was on a brutal stretch of beach on the South China Sea. He never forgot the experience or the men he calls his “Brothers in Arms.”
“There’s a bond formed in the heat of the battle, you just don’t get over it. It’s closer than family.”
About seven years ago, Branch got a phone call out of the blue. It was one of his “brothers.”
A few of the men had gotten together and were trying to locate others. Branch was enthusiastic about meeting back up with his fellow soldiers after all that time. Since then they hold a reunion every year, meeting in different states.
“Getting together with the guys, talking about what we went through – it’s almost therapy, it’s a healing process.”
Back then, anti-war protesters were everywhere, heckling and spitting at anyone in uniform. “We’ll never forget how poorly we were treated,” he said, “but we’re thrilled to see the reception our troops get today.”
One of the reunions included a trip to Daleville, Ala., outside of Ft. Rucker, for the dedication of one of their Hueys. The mayor proclaimed May 7 as “134th Day.” They put their insignia and decals back on it, “the way it was in Nam.”
At the U.S. Army Aviation …