We were camping on the Guadalope River, about 35 miles Southwest of Austin in August, 2016.. My son-in-law, Ben and I traveled up and down the river looking for good fishing places, finding several.
When we returned to camp, I decided to continue my research about what my father did in WWII. Going from one military site to another, I came across an email addressed to me sitting on the 1/35th Infantry Regiment’s web page. It read:
“I am looking for Lt Burr, 3d Plt, B Co, 1/35th Infantry. He saved my life on Jan 20, 1967. (he added other details). Anyone who knows where he is, please contact me.” Signed, Pace Caldwell. He provided a phone number and email address.
What are the odds of such a thing? It had been placed there 16 years earlier.
Having served in 1/35th Infantry for two years in South Vietnam, I hurriedly read the note. I didn’t recognize the author, Pace, but I did remembered the battle he spoke of. The day was January 20, 1967, five months short of 50 years ago. We lost 3 men. PFC Julian Martinez Alvarez, PFC Henery Earl Robbins and PFC George William McGhee gave their lives. All Brave men, worthy of being remembered.
I was a lieutenant leading a Reconnaissance patrol. Along with 14 men, we were dropped off in a landing zone (LZ) just before dark. Our orders were to find an observation point and report enemy activity to headquarters. Only one problem. The helicopter pilots dropped us in the wrong landing zone. The next morning we found that we were in big trouble.
We did not know where we were, but we were deep in enemy territory without air support or supporting artillery fires. No one knew our location. Not even me.
We were on our own, greatly outnumbered and fighting a losing battle. Finally, I was able to use artillery smoke rounds to determine our location, which was about 8 kilometers from the intended LZ. I knew exactly where the enemy was and called for Artillery and lots of it, on target.
It turned the tide and we were able to stabilize our position and extricate our casualties.
A CH47 Chinook (similar to this one) Pilot heard my desperate call for medivac and responded.
He hovered over our position and pulled up four casualties.
Sergeant Pace had been severely wounded, but the medic said he could make it and I released the medevac pilots with our other casualties and two KIA’s aboard.
Some of the description above was in Pace’s email. He added this account of that ill fated day, “As the helicopter was leaving our position, I looked at the Lt and told him I wouldn’t make it off this mountain. He got on the horn and pleaded with the pilot to return and pick me up. And he did“
The pilot returned and Pace was fasten into a stretcher and pulled up just as the others before him.
Burr on left, I don’t remember his name, on right
Without Phyllis’ perceptive and compassionate help, I never would have conquered PTSD, researched my father’s history, would never have seen Pace’s email and all that followed.
How this metamorphosis came about is easily explained but was difficult to achieve. My wife suggested that I write about my experiences and she helped me deal with the past to do so. And it let to this. Such coincidence.
After reading the email, I called Pace. Phyllis knew this conversation was going to be special and asked if she could invite our family, camping next door to listen. Of course, I said yes.
It was a gripping and emotionally charged conversation. We talked for about an hour but we were silent at times because we could not cut through the emotion that bound us together.
During the conversation, Phyllis and I arranged to meet Pace and his wife, Dot , at a 1/35 Infantry Regiment conference to be held in a few weeks.
In all of this, I owe my wellness to my loving and compassionate wife, Phyllis who understood my dilemma and helped me overcome the tentacles of PTSD holding me in its grip.
God guided people, so that He might bless them. Pace gave Him full credit for this miracle. He talked frequently about God working our lives. Pace passed away in November, 2018 due to complications from Agent Orange, a toxic chemical used to defoliate forested areas.