Written by Staff Sgt. Jesse Anderla
1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Fort Campbell, KY – “How do you recognize those that don’t get to pick up a rifle anymore or possibly never did, yet still want to be a part of the team?” said 1st Bn. 506th Inf. Regt. Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Buddy Ferris. “This ceremony is a great opportunity to do that.”
The annual event gives veterans an opportunity to come back to Fort Campbell, rekindle friendships and talk about their shared experiences with the regiment.
“The veterans have told me that something was missing in their life,” said Ferris, “It’s usually that shared set of friendships and experiences they had from when they were younger.”The veterans also took this opportunity to speak with some of the current Soldiers in the battalion that fill the ranks they once did.
“I think for the young guys, initially they are a little hesitant,” said Ferris. “They have the opportunity to meet the guys that have gone before them and share in those experiences, ask questions and build a bond with their past legacy.”
These legacies are memorialized at the Currahee monument where the ceremony was held.
“The monument isn’t just a stone,” said Ferris. “It has a story and that story can be told by our veterans.”
One of these stories was about a small memorial dedicated to Alpha Company, 1st Bn. 506th Inf. Regt. This is the only memorial dedicated to a single company that currently stands on Fort Campbell, which has a history dating back to 1971.
“There were three of us who were involved in physically making this memorial, myself, the company clerk who did the research and a gentleman by the name of Sgt. Barr who physically built the memorial,” said Alfred May, a former first lieutenant of 1st Bn. 506th Inf. Regt.
With limited resources, the memorial was put together using nothing more than items they could scrape together.
“Sgt. Barr used scrap plywood and a couple of bags of cement that were hard as a rock and sat on a dirt street with a hammer and spent the entire day pounding these hard concrete bags that had been wet back into powder,” said May. “He found some rebar, took some used motor oil as a releasing agent for the form that he made out of the plywood and built the memorial.”
“The three people that created the original monument constructed a reproduction by using pictures,” said May.
They used the three by one inch Combat Infantry Badge at the top of the memorial to draw a set of blueprints to make a replica of its counterpart in Vietnam.
“What we decided to do was recreate the original, but pay homage to all of those that were killed,” said May. “In total 76 names from a company that probably had a field strength of 75 to 100.”
The idea to recreate the memorial proved to be much more difficult than building the original.
“It took approximately two weeks to get this memorial thought about, built, planted and dedicated in Vietnam,” said May. “It took me two years to do the same thing in the United States.”
The monument now stands as a testament to the dedication of these men to their fallen comrades in Vietnam.
“They put an incredible amount of work, years, time and money that they devoted to recreating this monument those men made in Camp Evans, Vietnam,” said Alpha Company commander, Capt. Colin Jones. “It probably only scratches the surface of the connection they felt towards the men on that monument.”
Jones says to see the five veterans here at the reunion, laying a wreath at the monument with tears in their eyes, and all of the current soldiers standing around watching, was extremely powerful.
“I think the lower the level that you go down, the more impact it has on the everyday Soldier,” said Jones. “The private first class feels more of a connection to the company, battalion or brigade; so to have a memorial that is only for our company is really special and it really helps the Soldiers internalize it even more.”
“It’s really unique to have the storytellers that have lived through the story themselves,” said
The Red Currahee plan to continue to host these types of events in order to bring the men and women who have served and currently serve in the battalion together to ensure the rich history of the 506th Inf. Regt. and its Soldiers is never forgotten.