Walker Jones' Saber Article
September/October 2000


Hello Folks! I'll be your new correspondent for a little while. I consider it a great honor to have been asked to take over this column. I’ll be bringing you some history lessons each issue, and touch on topics that should interest you. Please feel free to contact me.

Firstly, Col. Pete BOOTH has asked me to convey the following: “On behalf of the 9th Cavalry, I want to thank Kregg JORGENSON for writing our Flying Point article for the “SABER” for the past two years. Kregg was a superb trooper during his service in 1969-70 with H Company, 75th Rangers and the Apache Blues. During his year of service, he earned the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, w/V, ARCOM w/V and three Purple Hearts. During his time with Apache Blues, he walked point most of the time. We all know the responsibility and danger for the point man. Altogether, a jam-packed, thrill-a-minute year. Kregg is the author of three books (“Acceptable Loss”, “MIA Rescue”, and “Ghost of the Highlands”). Kregg now works for the U.S. Customs Service in Seattle and at times TDY to the Montana/Utah area. We can sleep well. Any terrorist trying to infiltrate our country in Kregg’s territory is in for a serious “butt kicking”. Thanks, Kregg. Good job. I would also like to express my appreciation to Walker JONES for taking over the column for the next couple of years. Walker flew with C Troop in 1970/71 He was a distinguished scout and gun ship pilot, splitting his time in Vietnam between the two. Walker has been there and understands the experience, trauma and pride all of us take in a tough job well done. Thanks, Walker.”

And thank you Col. BOOTH in more ways than I can say. Kregg JORGENSON, thank you for doing a great job for us. Since I have read Kregg’s books, I took the liberty of tapping into a popular online bookstore, and found they are being offered at the great price of $6.29 apiece. Kregg will most certainly cringe at the thought of me plugging his books, as he does this as a hobby, not to make any money. But what he wrote is our history, plus reading what happened to real people in our war is somehow satisfying for many of us who served with the 1-9th, particularly those who experienced combat situations almost every day, as many of us did. The NVA and VC didn’t even go out every single day looking for trouble! Kregg tells me he’s now working on an entirely different kind of book project. He needs the R&R!

Speaking of important reading, if you served with the 1-9th and have not read Matt Brennan’s books, go right now and do so. They are “Brennan’s War: Vietnam 1965-1969“, “Headhunters: Stories from the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, in Vietnam 1965-1971”, and “Hunter-Killer Squadron: Aero-Weapons, Aero-Scouts, Aero-Rifles; Vietnam 1965-1972”. The latter two are stories/chapters written by gunners, crewchiefs, pilots, Blues, FOs, etc. from all eras. Hell, if we all contributed similarly, there would be an encyclopedia-sized series, right?

Since nobody has had an opportunity to correspond with me before my first turn at this column, I am going to take advantage and discuss two related phenomena that appears to be happening to many of us who served honorably in Vietnam. There seems to be a recent flood of Vietnam Vets coming out from under their rocks, and with it, the accompanying realization that we are not all screwed up as the media had made even us believe all these years. Both of these facts are leading to a general interest in getting back in touch with our old buds, and the concurrent discovery of the pride and honor that came with our service in an special, elite Unit. Until fairly recently, relatively few former Vietnam era 9th Cav veterans have made an effort to get back in touch with their old mates from their tours. Now, it seems lots of us are coming out of the woodwork these days. I’m not certain what is stimulating this behavior. Maybe it’s just “time”, or that the public in general feels better support for the military (if not our Congress). After my own “awakening” less than four years ago, I attended my first Vietnam Helicopter Pilots’ Asso. (VHPA) reunion. I hadn’t even known the organization had existed. I was dismayed to discover that there was not a single person in attendance from either my flight school classes or from my days in C Troop. In a dramatic turnaround, this year’s VHPA reunion in July saw 60 former C Troopers coming to Washington, DC, not including the many in attendance that served in other 1-9th Troops. Most brought family members, as I made sure to do. And it certainly wasn’t just former pilots. Among the attendees were former doorgunners, crewchiefs, Blues, maintenance and avionics specialists, Fos, etc. All eras were represented, from guys who went over on the ship in 1965, to those that accompanied the colors home in 1971. Four former C Troop COs were also present. No war stories, no BS. For the guys from each era, it was just great to be in each other’s presence once again. This is for many, a special validation. These reunions will continue.

Although C Troop took the lead in getting their guys tracked down, folks who served in Alpha, Bravo, Delta, Echo and Fox Trps are now actively seeking each other. In fact, at the July VHPA event, there had to be two separate banquets and associated programs organized to accommodate all us Stetson-wearers! C Troop’s events began with a special wreath-laying ceremony on the morning of July 1 at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, to honor those in the Troop that sacrificed their lives. We gathered under the trees, facing the “Wall” as former Scout pilot and Buddhist monk, Joseph “Kap” KAPPEL <pabakaro@erols.com> gave a moving tribute to the group, made up of former Troopers, our own families, and the families of those of ours who have a name etched on the black granite. A bagpiper strolled out from among the trees as Kap finished, and then led a small group of KIA family members and escorts across the wet morning grass to the Wall, where a wreath was placed. A bugler played Taps. It was something.

After a bus tour of D.C. sites, C Troopers held a banquet that night. MC Randy ZAHN (Guns, ‘70/71), brought his family all the way from Scotland and was outfitted in those funny skirts; but he did bring us a taste of single malt. I guess Rudy RIBBECK (Guns ‘66/67) had a longer drive, joining us all the way from Singapore. We were all very privileged to have six family members of C Troopers who were KIA Vietnam: Nancy BUCHANAN (wife of WO John “Gary” BUCHANAN), Julie KINK (sister of WO David KINK), John McKIDDY (brother of Sgt Gary McKIDDY), Maj John THOMPSON (son of Cpt Robert “Bo” THOMPSON), and Scott ZYLSTRA (nephew of WO John ANDERSON). Also in attendance was Jim McDERBY, whose brother Eddie McDERBY was a C Troop Cobra pilot, killed after his tour. The participation and interest of these KIA family members in attending our reunion should serve to inspire all of us to continue to provide a format for honoring our legacy. Many KIA family members have contacted me but were unable or unwilling to attend the reunion. They all still suffer badly from their losses, and we are their only support group. I must acknowledge the contributions of the other reunion organizers. Bob TREDWAY (CO ‘69-70) did most of the work. Fred “Mother” JOLES (Lift Plt Ldr ‘70/71) worked miracles getting VHPA rate hotel rooms, esp. for the guys we "bootlegged" in. John POWELL (Guns ‘69/70) provided key logistics and VHPA liason, and Nate SHAFER (Scout gunner ’70) provided past experience and level heads. Bob BALES < TNCapShirt@aol.com> did a great job on our t-shirts (all 150 are gone!).

The next day, the VHPA sponsored a large ceremony at the Wall. It was awesome! The 1-9th guys in attendance were tapped by event organizer and former 1st CAV pilot, Mike SLONIKER <sloniker@erols.com> to wear our Stetsons and orgnanize everyone attending the VHPA "Wall" event Although Mike was never a 1-9th guy, he recogninizes our significance sacrifices that contributed to the success of the 1st Cav in Vietnam. Thanks, Mike.

The following night, another banquet was held for all former 1-9th folks attending the VHPA reunion. I regret that I didn’t log the attendees’ names. Gen. Jim SMITH was keynote speaker, and as former CO of the 1st Cav, he spoke about the special role of the 1-9th. It was quite an honor to be in attendance and listen to a man who epitomizes “Air Cavalry”.

I’m not sure what is stimulating this seemingly recent need to get back in touch with our past. But it is most clearly manifested in the proliferation of Unit reunions and Internet web sites devoted to the many Units. The 1st Cav Div Asso has always held an annual grand reunion. Yet last year’s events at Killeen seemed to have attracted vastly more guys seemed most prominent. There were three significant events took place at the 1st Cav reunion last year that honored former soldiers who distinguished themselves while serving in the 1-9th in Vietnam. The keynote speaker was a former 9th Cav surgeon and POW.

R. B. ALEXANDER sent me an After Actions report on -----Apache Trp mini-reunion 21-24 July. “We got together and had a blast. Gen. FUNK, Andy ANDERSON, Rick ROWE, and Joe BOWEN represented guns; Steve MILLARD, Hank SINGLEY represented Scouts. Dick BAUMER, DOGS, "The Ladd" VAUGHN and the spirit of Kit BEATTON, Lift, and R. B. representing Blue. High point of the evening came when Steve MILLARD was telling of the day he got shot down (got a .51 in the butt cheek) as he is going down in flames, the last thing he remembers is the high bird coming in, ejecting its weapons pods, landing the peter pilot getting out, opening the ammo bay doors, pulling out the ammo cans, and loading his crew, and flying away … saving his, and his crew’s life … next thing he knows, he’s in Japan. Come to find out it was Ricky ROWE who did the deed [piloted the Cobra]. After 30+ years Steve finds this out and gets to thank Ricky … Not a dry eye in the room! Those Alpha Troop guys really have class!!” Thanks R. B. Things will only continue to grow. FYI, Lad VAUGHN (A, HHT, '69/70) led the formation of the newest VHPA chapter.

The Bullwhip Squadron Asso (BWS) is having a giant reunion at Ozark/Ft. Rucker 6-8 October. About 30 B Troopers who were with the Unit at the time the famous “stamp photo” was taken, will be there. Also, a refurbished OH-13 with 1-9th crossed sabers will be flown in for the event.

OK, I see right away that the down side to being this columnist is hearing about and having to report the health problems and passing our Troopers. Irling SMITH, C Trp Red Plt Ldr (‘69-70) died August 26; he had just attended the D.C. reunion in July and will be badly missed by many. From his CO, Bob TREDWAY: “America has had no greater patriot and I have loved no man more. Thank you, Irling. Well Done. Be Thou at Peace.” A. J. WELCH alerted me that former Sqdn CO A. T. PUMPHREY <a.t.pumphrey@gte.net > is recuperating from surgery. Al DeFLERON ('65-66), former B Trp CO's crewchief is recovering from "plumbing" surgery but is busting a gut preparing for the BWS reunion in October.

The following are a sampling of Internet sites that you may wish to visit. As more Troopers get back in touch, these sites will proliferate.

Bullwhip Squadron Asso: <http://www.bullwhipsquadron.org/>; <9th Cav (historical) <http://www.metronet.com/~harryb/1st_team/9th_rgmt/>; Bill Frazer’s A Troop site: <http://www.angelfire.com/tx3/Vietnam/> Walker’s C Trp site: www.RealCav.org; Kurt Schatz C Trp site: <http://www.homestead.com/patz3er/WelcomeHome.html>; Vietnam Helicopter Crewmembers Asso: www.vhfcn.org; Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Asso.: www.vhpa.org; Heli-Vets: < http://rattlers.org/heli-vets/>;; Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network: <www.vhfcn.org/> Let me hear what's on your minds.