Vietnam veterans reconnect after 52 years
Story by Shannon Taylor Senior Investigative Reporter
52 years after meeting in Vietnam, two men who were stationed together were reconnected.
Gleason resident, George Crawford and Minnesota resident Tom Roesch were stationed together in Vietnam 52 years ago. They served together in E Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Infantry in 1970. In their squad was about 5-6 guys who all slept in the same bunker, which was around a 10×12 space, about the size of an area rug.
Crawford was born and raised in Martin and has always lived in Weakley County. He graduated from Martin High School’s class of 1968. Crawford now resides in Gleason with his wife, Peggy Crawford.
About four years ago, Crawford was sent a Christmas card with a picture in it from Vietnam and then on Veteran’s Day Crawford received a call from Minnesota. “I don’t know anyone from Minnesota. When I answered the phone, it was a comrade under me when I served in Vietnam. He said he wanted to meet me after not having seen him over 40 years because I was his squad leader.” Crawford stated that they talked several times and that he gets a call every Veteran’s Day from him. They have still never had the chance to meet up, but he told Crawford that “I just want to see my squad leader one more time.” Crawford stated that he was the squad leader for eight months and when he left, he turned the leadership over to him. That man’s name was Roesch, and after 52 years, they finally decided to get together again.
Roesch was born and raised in Minnesota. He went to vocational school after high school for electrical technician. He started looking at the Army and at that time, they were drafting Marines and Roesch said that he didn’t want to be in the Marines. At that time the Army had a program where you could enlist for two years. “So, I enlisted, and I figured with my electrical training that I would, of course be put into electronics.”
Roesch said that he didn’t do much with electrical over there, “but apparently they thought I was smart enough like George and put us in mortars.”
Crawford received his letter from the United States military to report to Memphis June 23, 1969. He was only 19 years old when he was drafted into the Army. After arriving in Vietnam, he was assigned to his unit, Company E 4th Battalion 3rd Infantry Americal Division. They went from Cam Ramh Bay to Chu Lai and then to Duc Pho and then on to his fire base in Sam Djuan Hill where he worked combat missions for one year. Crawford served eight months as 100 Platoon Squad Leader. He stated that “We were the best unit in our time in South Vietnam. We were the best. We had a name-we created a name-we had confirmed kills.”
Crawford said, “We were 20 years old and in a bunker thinking that there are people here that want to kill me. So how do you deal with that? We’re still dealing with it today. And some of them can deal with it and some of them can’t. We always knew, in our squad especially, that we had one another’s back.”
Roesch said that the fire base, San Djuan Hill, could only be gotten to by helicopter or walking. “There were no roads”, said Roesch. “When we first got over there to San Djuan Hill, we have four guns in the platoon and every fourth night one of the squads of the would pull gun duty overnight. Their main job was that every hour they would pop off four rounds and it didn’t have to be done at any particular time and they’d go up (because you couldn’t see anything outside the perimeter) and this way you could see it. I wanted one of those parachutes real bad-when you put them in the tube, they went off seven seconds later before the illumination round came out. I got lucky that night and popped it into the breeze and luckily it came back close by. Those rounds were a million candlepower, and they light up a square kilometer. Roesch brought that parachute back to Crawford who plans to put it in a shadowbox of memorabilia from the war.
Roesch and Crawford’s reconnection was very emotional. After many phone calls the past four years, Roesch traveled 800 miles and showed up at Crawford’s door for a visit. Roesch broke down crying when he spoke about seeing Crawford for the first time after 52 years saying, “When I got out of my car, and I was coming to the door I got goosebumps.”
We were together 8 months in Vietnam. Crawford said, “I don’t think me or him either one has talked about Vietnam very much, but Crawford said, “It’s 52 years, we’ve told stories this morning and he could fill in the blanks where I couldn’t anymore because you kind of forget. It’s been a very good day. I was just glad to see him.”
Crawford and Roesch plan on continuing their visits every year and to continue piecing their memories of Vietnam together.
I’m so glad that George and Tom were able to re-,connect after all these years. You develop bonds while serving that are as tight, if not tighter, than family. This story warms my soul.