From Chaplain, Don Neely
Part of me is home and yet a significant part remains in Branson, MO. "How can this
be?" I ask myself. The 108th FA Group was only a tiny sliver of time in our lives. We were not together
very long and we ARE so different from one another. How could we have picked right up where we left each other forty-two years
We were extremely diverse in geography, culture, ethnic origin, race, religion, politics, education, rank and military
experience We could not have intentionally put this group together in our wildest imaginations. Yet, the 108th
FA Group became "a group"... A group that was like no other group... A group, whose members admit that they were
not the same after they returned from Vietnam...A small group of people ..."one of a kind" to the rest of the world.
suppose all military units feel the same about their uniqueness. So I asked myself, "What brings such diversity
together as one, with such intense feelings, even after a long period of time?" The answer is obvious. We became a "group"
because a common experience transcended differences and welded us into one. That common experience was combat.
taught us many lessons. It leveled the playing field. In spite of rank or position, we shared the same fears, frustrations,
loneliness, pain and uncertainties. We also shared common dreams about what we would do when we returned home to loved ones,
interests and jobs. It profoundly taught us how dependant we were on each other, even for our very lives. No, we were never
the same after Vietnam. It just wasn't to be. We had experienced the most intense year of our lives, and could never completely
return to the past.
So why did it take so long to come together? There are many reasons. Many were so glad to get out
of uniform and home, that a reunion would not have been successful. Many wanted to forget the experiences and hoped they would
just "go away" A reunion would only intensify the pain. Most of us wanted to get on with our lives and raise our
families and enjoy our loved ones. Before we knew it, time had slipped away. As we began to look for each other, we realized
the task would not be easy. Thank goodness for Google and other ways of communication.
Ty asked me to share some of
my thoughts, not only about the reunion, but about our Vietnam experiences as well. As many of you know, I kept a diary while
we were in country. Some have asked that I share excerpts from that writing. I do so with some reservation.
was written through the eyes and mind of a Chaplain. I was not a line officer, commander or tactician. My work took me to
the religious and counseling side of our combat experience.
My journey also took me to the side of the wounded,
dead, or grieving. Some of my experiences won't be included, even though they were profound and I wrote about my feelings
at the time. I will soften the words as best I can in the instances that I do refer to them. I don't want to bore you,
but I am who I am. You can always ask Ty to "unsubscribe' you from the writings if you wish.
It is hoped that the
diary will serve as a chronological record of our journey from Ft. Riley to the middle of June 1968 (When I transferred to
the 48thTransportation Group.) It is also hoped that some of the humorous moments will be remembered as well. The
diary does document the days of incoming and could serve as a reference to substantiate events and dates. It does list KIAs
(We might not include names if the group does not want that) The writings were "on the spot" feelings and must be
viewed in that perspective. I have changed my views on some issues.
At any rate, I will bounce this off to Ty and see
if he wants to send it on to you. If it is published, I will send excerpts to Ty as time permits. I hope it will be of interest
and information to you.
It was great to see many of you at Branson. I had some reservation about opening up my feelings,
even after so long a time. Those who were there, allowed me to heal and enjoy the ones who shared a most significant part
of my life.
There is an old saying about people who walk different trails for long periods of time, but are never
far apart. My Vietnam comrades have never been far from me. I have thought about this group every day since I returned to
the States. I was glad to see the different trails merge. I hope we can meet again next year.
WELCOME HOME BROTHERS.