While Osage was hosting its high school’s homecoming festivities in late September, which provided opportunities for former classmates to reunite, another reunion was being held at the home of Chuck and Shirley Hackenmiller, in Osage.
The Hackenmillers hosted Vietnam vets for a weekend who served in the First Air Cavalry, Air Mobile, First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry Regiment, Bravo Company. The event brought 12 vets and their wives from 10 states, including Washington, Texas, Georgia, Missouri and New York.
The movie, “We Were Soldiers,” is based on the highly-decorated unit.
The vets and their wives gathered at the Hackenmillers for a social time on Friday afternoon. On Saturday evening, the vets and other guests, gathered to remember those who have passed. The Osage American Legion provided the Color Guard for the event. Mike Nicholson opened the ceremony with an invocation, Brandon Parcel, Merrill Johnson and Bob Onken, participated in the gun salute. Ed Souder then played taps. Sharon Sharp, of Mississippi, read the names of those who had died during the war or who have since passed away. Later, the vets and guests enjoyed supper together.
“In 2004, we had our first reunion in Illinois, then the next two or three years we met in Michigan and from then on we have had our reunions all over the country,” Dick (LT) Eggers, of New York said. “We had it in Yosemite one year and it was absolutely mind boggling. Whoever puts their hand up gets to have the next reunion.”
Eggers said every vet attending the reunion had served with the same unit, but not at the same time during the Vietnam War.
“We were all infantry air mobile,” Otis Rittman, from Concordia, Missouri, said. “We all flew into combat in a helicopter and then they made us walk out or at least we had to walk back a long ways before they picked us up.”
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Bill Moore, who now lives in Albany, Oregon, served with Hackenmiller for nine months during the war. “I was in the same squad with Chuck. Chuck and I were close to each other. You didn’t get close to many guys. The best thing that happened to me in Vietnam was knowing Chuck,” Moore said.
“We were all brothers,” said Rittman, who also served alongside Hackenmiller. “Most of us were only 19 or 20 years old, except for Pop who was 26. The war helped us to grow up quick. More than half of us were wounded.”
The reunion provided more than a time for reminiscing.
“We all have Vietnam illnesses, some still carry shrapnel, have cancer, diabetes and most of us have PTSD whether we like it or not,” Eggers said.
“Our guys are in various seasons of health,” Rittman said. “We have lost a bunch of guys over the past 15 years and some couldn’t handle it because of the PTSD. We all have PTSD and this reunion is a healing session, because we are all brothers.” He add veterans’ wives play a very important role in helping their husbands deal with the condition.
“Through these reunions, I have learned a lot about working with the VA,” Hackenmiller said. He is presently suffering from a war-related illness.
Hackenmiller said he felt blessed to have been reunited with fellow soldiers, with whom he had once served.