'Chopper Blues' reunites platoon in Nacogdoches

NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th U-S Marine Corps went away to war as young boys experiencing one of the worst combat episodes in Vietnam's history. This weekend they are in Nacogdoches for an annual reunion and to celebrate with "the storyteller" of the group.

Artist-poet Charles Jones sought refuge from the atrocities of the Vietnam War by compiling "Chopper Blues", a  multi-media book available through the SFA Press.

The former platoon leader gives all the credit to a bunch of wide eyed 19 to 20 year olds who enlisted in the Marines back in the '60's.

"High stepping boys with visions of cheers hidden away," read SFA art professor Charles Jones from a poem in his book.

But what was hidden was an enemy ambush during Operation Indiana which killed the dreams of more than 60 combat soldiers and good friends. The platoon's other half survived.

"So here you have maybe 60 with just there hands who over came," said Jones with emotion.

But barely. Former hospital corpsman Bobby Shelly became wheelchair bound.

"I was hit and the wounded man I was pulling, another round, sorry to say, went through his skull and it exploded. So....kind of hard to talk about," said Shelly.

The boys, forced gruesomely into manhood, began missing home.

"They're going to be so proud. I'm as good as you dad. Just wait until I get back," continued Jones' prose.

But no heroes welcome met these heroes.

"Marines were going into the rest rooms and taking off their uniforms and leaving them on the floor and putting on civilian clothes," recalled former platoon commander David Harvey. "So they wouldn't get harassed so they could get through the airport, get on the airplane and get home."

Wives were the saving grace for many.

"They had witnessed the sleepless nights and short tempers and the bursts of anger that we all displayed," said Jim Fulderson, a retired platoon commander.

The men didn't reconnect until 1995. Now annual reunions continue to this day.

"I think that timing between gave us a life span we really needed to get through our own thoughts," said Mac Ferrick, a retired squad leader. "Otherwise,this would have never pulled off the way it did."

The former combat soldiers have returned to Vietnam where they've erected memorials and built schools. For them a celebration for veterans is observed everyday.

"Chopper Blues" is a collection of Vietnam remembrances and poetry. It is an art and military history book compiling the individual recollections of those who fought in Operation Indiana, March 28-29, 1966, the final mission of Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. The book comes with a DVD with art work, poetry readings, music and some raw footage and news repots from that battle that have never been aired. The book is available through SFA Press ( www.sfapress.sfasu.edu) ,Texas A&M press, and online.

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