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Honoring his brothers on the battlefield

Posted: September 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Vietnam veteran Bill Reynolds shows two of his medals - a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart - at his home in Valencia.

 

Hanging in the hall of Vietnam veteran William “Bill” Reynolds’ Valencia home is a silver plaque engraved with the names of 47 men, all of whom died on June 19, 1967, while fighting in Vietnam as members of the 9th Infantry Division Charlie Company. 

Those are the names of men who served with Reynolds, who lived, slept, and fought with Reynolds. Those names are also found on panel 22E of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and on the traveling Vietnam War Memorial Wall that goes on display in Santa Clarita on Thursday.

“When you’re drafted into a situation like we were, you got guys from all walks of life, from Alaska to Florida and New York to Southern California, all thrown into a melting pot,” Reynolds said during a recent interview at his home. “You got all religions and all races, everybody coming together. We were all together and we knew we were being trained for combat and we had to learn to do our job.”

Most draftees in Vietnam were “just dropped in” place, filling empty slots in companies that had lost men in battle, Reynolds said. But that wasn’t the case with Reynolds’ company; theytrained together and served together – and often died together.

“We were tight, we were friends and because of our reunions, we’re still friends today,” he said.

Reynolds has been instrumental in ensuring the company’s survivors hold regular, often solemn reunions. He designed and regulates a website dedicated to the 9th Infantry Division Charlie Company.

The book “The Boys of ‘67” was written about their friendship, and a documentary based on the book and narrated by Charlie Sheen - who Reynolds said will be donating all payment for the narration to the USO - is airing Nov. 3 on the National Geographic channel.

“Honestly, none of us wanted to be there but in my case, and in most cases, our dads fought in World War II and it felt like our duty.”

Charlie Company lost 47 soldiers on the day Reynolds earned his Purple Heart: June 19, 1967.

“I was walking ‘point’ for Charlie Company. We’re going across this big open area, and all of a sudden, the bullets started flying and everyone scrambled for cover.”

Reynolds fingers the Purple Heart as he tells of that summer afternoon.

“Right out of the gate, guys were hit left and right and there was a sniper back behind us that started picking off guys right down the line; our platoon leader’s radio operator was hit then our machine gunner was hit. A bullet blasted through my rifle barrel.

“Bill Geier (Panel 22E, Row 12), our medic, was tending to those guys that were wounded and then he got mortally wounded and I tried to bandage him up and save his life but he was — it was not to be and he lay there and died. He passed away right there.”

“I just knew that was going to be my last day. After everything else thathappened, with guys getting shot up and killed, I just thought that was going to be my last day on Earth.”

Reynolds suffered a wound to the hand later in that battle and woke up the next morning with the Purple Heart on his bedside table.

Scenarios similar to the one that claimed 47 of the “boys of ‘67” played out around Vietnam for more than a decade. Reynolds recalled another platoon attack while walking another rice paddy and returning to the scene the next day to search for survivors, but there were only bodies.

“The platoon sergeant told me and several other guys to put them on the chopper and I couldn’t do it. Phil Ferro (Panel 23E, Row 51) was this guy I went to high school with and I just, I just couldn’t do it.”

Reynolds has visited the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., several times and has also seen the traveling wall, but he says he never passes up a chance to see the names of his friends another time.

“I’m gratified to live in this community where there is such an interest and support to military people. … Having the wall here is a big deal,” he said.

“It’s always an emotional thing (seeing the wall) because you realize that your name could easily be on that wall. My name could be on that wall.”

The AVTT Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall goes on display at the Westfield Valencia Town Center mall on Thursday. Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m. The wall will remain on display 24 hours a day until closing ceremonies at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.

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