Grady Myers, whose Vietnam Army comrades knew him as Hoss, was ill by the time he knew about Charlie Company's annual November reunion in Branson, Mo. He died before he could attend. No doubt he'd have felt right at home there, telling tales and bragging about family with the best of them.
Grady was an M-60 gunner in Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. In his memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War," Grady explains, with amusement and chagrin, how Company C became known as Combustion Charlie. Its reputation for pyrotechnics began on Christmas Eve, 1968, just after Grady arrived at Fire Support Base 30. Holiday steam-letting got out of hand. Among other craziness, a guy calling himself Chicken Man took over the radio and broadcast some decidedly unofficial communications.
I was reminded of that hilltop party when I came across this veteran's tape recording from that same Christmas -- in the case of this sober radioman at forward Landing Zone Jake in III Corps.
Fourth Platoon's new lieutenant, writes Grady Myers in Boocoo Dinky Dow, "was a stocky Californian with a thick moustache that curled up on the ends. He told us how he used to live on the third floor of a warehouse in L.A." His name was George and he was "so mature, a natural officer."
George was also one of three men who were killed on March 5, 1969. That's when members of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, walked into an ambush near the Cambodian border. He is the only soldier lost that day who is mentioned by name in the book -- and then, only by his first name, because that is how Grady remembered the popular platoon leader. In the ambush chapter of the memoir, he recalls how the last words the lieutenant said may have been some good-natured ribbing that he gave Grady. And he recalls the impact of George's death.
The medic returned to bandage my arm, rewrap my leg wounds and tear open my bloody shirt to look for more damage. Then he moved on to another wounded man who was lying a couple of yards to the left. To my right was George’s body.
George’s death had devastated the radio operator, who had been his friend, assistant and roommate for nearly a month. I could hear the big RTO crying like a kid into the phone as he called in air strikes. His sobs were more easily understood than his directions. George was dead. The lieutenant was gone.
I'm grateful to Charlie Company veteran Bob Robbins for supplying George Callan's last name, as well as the name of that heartbroken radio operator: Dennis Harris. I'm grateful to DelShahn, the volunteer at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, who sent me an etching of Lt. Callan's name as it appears on the Wall in Washington, D.C.
Most especially this Memorial Day, I am deeply aware of the sacrifices George and the others who died in Vietnam, and of men like Grady, who suffered greatly because of the war but lived to share their stories.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.