Reader Laura Armstrong has kindly forwarded us this account of the reunion commemorating the battle of the Ia Drang Valley this past weekend:
NOV. 14 – The 39th anniversary and reunion of the famed Battle of the Ia Drang Valley warriors was marked Nov. 13-14 by a gathering of over 500 heroes, family members and distinguished guests in Washington, D.C. Sometimes described as the “first real battle” of the Vietnam war, many people are familiar with the story as portrayed in Lee Wallace’s movie, “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson. The movie was based on the book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by retired Gen. Hal Moore and award-winning correspondent Joe Galloway (still reporting for Knight-Ridder news service).
The formal dinner of the weekend opened with the traditional First Cavalry color guard posting of the colors and bagpiper playing “Garry Owen.” Veterans of the intense engagement introduced themselves simply in a moving tribute around the large ballroom, and surviving relatives of the fallen were recognized also. Other services were represented. Among the many distinguished-looking First Cav hats were the service uniforms of Navy, Marines and Air Force — proof that the ideals of service are often passed down from one generation to the next (as most of the active duty attendees were related to the vets).
A very emotional sunrise memorial was held the next morning at the Vietnam Wall.
Laura Armstrong attended the reunion with her brother, a former USMC aviator, and her friend, an active duty Marine. Her father, the late Lt. Col. Roger “Black Bart” Bartholomew, was an aerial rocket artillary pilot and one of the many, many heroes of the battle. She met for the first time some of the men who flew with her father, as well as infantrymen on the ground who knew and admired him. It was emotional for all who attended, yet, according to Gen. Moore, a re-affirmation of the ideals of service, the sacred trust among brothers in arms, and most of all, a dedication to those who fell — that they will never be forgotten.
Armstrong was also a speaker at the Sept. 12 “Kerry Lied” Rally on Capitol Hill, which was organized by the Vietnam Veterans for the Truth in association with Swift Boat Vets and POWs for the Truth.
Below: Vietnam helicopter pilot Chip Parker, wife Vicki , Armstrong, author and famed war correspondent Joe Galloway – at a casual gathering prior to the formal dinner.
Below: Helicopter pilot Bruce “Snake” Crandall (played in the movie by Greg Kinnear) with Armstrong, whose dad was “Black Bart” Bartholomew. He was later KIA on his second tour in 1968.
Below: Laura Armstrong and her friend, who served with Central Command in ’02-’03.
Below: Gen. Hal Moore enjoyed meeting one of today’s active duty Marine warriors.
See also our salute to Ia Drang Valley warrior and 9/11 hero Rick Rescorla: “A day to be proud…”