JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The USO San Antonio Warrior and Family Support Center hosted the Charlie Company Remembrance Ceremony and reunion at the Freedom Park Amphitheater on Sept. 15.
“Today we remember the pain of loss, but we also cherish the camaraderie and the brotherhood that has stood the test of time,” said Lt. Col. Bernard Cornell, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston garrison chaplain. “To the families who have endured the greatest sacrifice, we extend our deepest condolences and gratitude. Your loved ones will always be remembered, honored and revered as heroes.”
Over 200 Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Division, Vietnam War veterans, their Families, friends and Gold Star Family members attended the ceremony, where they reunited and read the 95 names of unit members who were killed in action during the war.
A few years after the war ended, unit members formed a non-profit organization, The C/3/22 Infantry Association. They started holding reunions in 1988 aimed at honoring and memorializing the Soldiers who were killed in action and fostering unity and brotherhood among those who survived the war.
Members of the association and the unit spoke of the healing they have experienced since joining the group and attending the events held in different cities every other year.
Retired Maj. Donald Haramoto, Charlie Company commander from 1968-1969, said he didn’t want to join the association or participate in reunions because he tried to forget about the war and what he experienced. But he kept getting the newsletters and invites and changed his mind.
“I finally decided, some 40 years after getting back from Vietnam, to attend one of these, and it was the toughest four days with nothing but tears,” said Haramoto with tears in his eyes. “I always carried that guilt of having lost 11 guys in my company, but these guys helped me unload some of that baggage. I’m still carrying it on my back, but it's a lot lighter than it used to be.”
The association helps members unpack baggage but also helps fill the holes left in the hearts of the Gold Star Families who lost a loved one in the Vietnam War.
The Gold Star brother and sister of Charlie Company’s first Soldier killed in action, Pfc. George Fogarty, said they were cautious about what to expect from the group but couldn’t be happier with the group of caring individuals they joined.
“We had a hole in our hearts not knowing how he died or what happened,” said Roger Fogarty, Pfc. Fogarty’s brother. “These folks helped heal that hole, so we are very, very grateful for them.”
Pfc. Fogarty’s sister, Billie McGrane, agreed and added that they look at and care for fellow members of the organization as a family.
As the remarks drew to a close in preparation for honoring the names of the Charlie Company Soldiers killed in action, retired Lt. Col. Norman Sligar, Charlie Company commander from 1969-1970, recalled the men he served with stories of their character and closed with an impactful message.
“I’d like to leave you all with a poem that has been deep in my heart and soul for many years,” said Sligar, concluding the remembrance address. “Oh, do not forget me when the phenomenon of death visits me, for if you do, only then will I have surely died.”