The Memorial Service on July 22, 2000
Article by Skip Fahel
Photos by Michelle Kuelbs
The memorial service was scheduled to start at 1500 hours. A group of us were sitting in the lobby of the Hyatt waiting until it was time to leave. At around 1400 hours, we agreed to share a cab and went outside to have the doorman hale a cab for us.
* * * * * * *
We were dropped off near the memorial, and we made our way towards the Women in Vietnam Memorial. There were several other members and families milling around the area. At that time, no one seemed to know where to go. We just stood around and talked, and then I made my way down to the statue of the "Three Soldiers". As I walked that way, I passed several others that were wandering around. At the statue, I took a picture of "The Wall," and then headed back to the Women's statue.
By the time I got back the number had grown, one of the men pointed out to the grassy knoll east of "The Wall" and told us that that was where he thought the group was to form. Some of those standing there started to head out to the knoll east of "The Wall," while others just stood around talking. Then someone pointed out that Tom Petty was coming across the field with the Battalion Guidon and was heading to the high point on the knoll. That was the signal for everyone to head to the
knoll. We gathered there, greeting and talking with those that were not at the reunion the evening before. The number of men from the Battalion was growing. We milled about, taking pictures, talking, and taking more pictures. We were all in good spirits. Someone pointed out that there were five former Company Commanders from Bravo Company, and we got together for a picture. Tom Petty, John Kuelbs, Willie Wilson, Skip Fahel (me), and Ed Dyer stood there for this group photo.
The Color Guard from Bravo Company, 3rd Infantry, "The Old Guard" was seen walking towards us on the walkway leading from the Lincoln Memorial. They got off the walkway, stopped in the trees at the base of the knoll, and began to uncase the Colors. Once the Colors were uncased, the Color Guard formed up waiting for the order to move out. Tom Petty then asked us to gather together, facing him and "The Wall." Once we came together, Tom told us that he had asked Patrick Gauthier to hold the Battalion Guidon. Les Stottle then gave the command "to present the Colors." The Color Guard began their march to the Battalion.
The sun was hidden behind the clouds as the Color Guard marched to the Battalion. Individuals that were visiting "The Wall" turned their attention to what was happening on the grassy knoll. The Color Guard marched and centered itself on the Battalion Guidon, turned and presented the Colors.
Les Stottle turned on the music. "Amazing Grace" echoed across the knoll. Bagpipes, an instrument that was design to create fear in a foe, was now bringing tears to the comrades. I looked around and saw through my tears that I was not the only one effected by this haunting instrument and tune. I stood straight and returned my sight to "The Wall."
Chaplain Ron Benzing, the Battalion Chaplain from 1968-69 introduced himself and led us in an invocation. He then asked John Walker to read from a passage from the Old Testament (Psalm 90: 4-12). As John made his way to the front of the formation and began reading, the sun broke out from behind the clouds, and would continue to shine on us for the rest of the service.
Ed Dyer then made his way to the front to read from the New Testament (John 15: 12-17). Ed was fighting his emotions. He began to read, and then a jet raced overhead. Ed stopped reading, waiting for the noise to fade away. As the noise faded, Ed began reading again and with great emotion finished reading his passage.
Chaplain Benzing then spoke. His words were strong and were with great meaning. The words made a great impact because of him being there with us as our Battalion Chaplain. He told us of the instructions that George Ellis had given him, "that he (Col. Ellis) would tell the men how to stay alive, but he (Chaplain Benzing) would have to prepare the men to die." He told us of the chapel at Duc Pho, with plaque with the names of the men to gave their all, of going to the field and conducting services, of the two songs that the men requested, "Amazing Grace" and "What a Friend We Have In Jesus." At one point, Chaplain Benzing had to pause to control his emotions as he spoke of some of the men. His words were one of hope, that what they, and what we did was not in vain, that the names on "The Wall" behind him will live on through us and their families. We are here today to honor our comrades and their love ones.
As we bowed our heads in silent tribute and prayer, each one of us said a prayer, each in our own way, remembering our fallen comrades, asking for strength to carry on, and that we may continue to bring honor to our fallen brothers. Our prayers ended, the sound of "Taps" had us standing tall in the bright sunlight and fighting back the tears. Chaplain Benzing closed with the Benediction.
The Color Guard then retired off the grassy knoll. As the Color Guard departed, there was a calm quite on the knoll, each of us still held captive in our thoughts of the music and the words that were spoken here today. The sun then began to duck behind the clouds again. A line started to form, each man going up to the Chaplain, shaking his hand, and saying a few word of appreciation and thanks for the words that he was guided to say this day. Then we each moved off the knoll, many to "The Wall," some to the statue of the "Three Soldiers," and others off on their own.
We would remember this afternoon, the Color Guard, the music, the Chaplain's message of life and hope, and those who gave their all some 30 years ago.
Chaplain Benzing's complete Memorial Service Message.
* * * * * * *
Comrades in the Spotlight
Retired Army General Colin L. Powell was recently named Secretary of State by President-Elect George W. Bush. In 1968, General Powell was a Major in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry.
3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment
What's New at Fire Support Base Hill 4-11?
Did you know that the names of 162 KIAs and deaths in the Area of Operations for the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry have been identified on the Memorial page? Unfortunately, the Memorial is incomplete. If you know of a comrade we have not identified, please use the Memorial Form, and tell us.
If you or your comrades are not listed on one of the Rosters, please use the Roster Form to register.
Contact the webmaster if you would like to submit pictures, poems, personal refections, stories, or anything that would add to the historical account of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment during the Vietnam era.
Would you like to join the Hill 4-11 Association?
Submit your news stories for publication on this newsletter.