44 years later …
After 44 years, seven members from the U.S. Army 62nd Battalion Security Recon Patrol unit reunited at a Cape Coral home this week to share stories and catch up on each other’s lives.
Cape Coral resident Thomas Puralewski said the communication began to flow again after their sergeant, Doug Reed, contacted everyone through the Internet. He said from there everyone wanted to get together.
The first reunion was held last year in Texas with seven members from the original 19 guys who served on the 62nd Battalion Security Recon Patrol for the Army, which included Bill Pope.
Puralewski said this year he wanted to hold the reunion in Florida, so the guys could see where he lives in Cape Coral. He also wanted to continue the reunion this year because it is a good thing for everyone to get together.
The reunion, Puralewski said, is hard and emotional because of the memories they share.
“It stays with you,” he said about the memories of Vietnam.
Puralewski said one of them will start telling a story and another will fill in the pieces to the puzzle.
“They are a brotherhood that stays with you for a lifetime,” he said, because they protected each other for two years or more in Vietnam.
The volunteer unit served in the same platoon in Pleiku, Vietnam, in the central highlands. They went on more than 130 patrols and helped with civic action duty by taking medication to doctors and nurses. They were also security and guards for all the convoys.
Bill Goupil, who currently lives in Michigan, attended both the first and second reunion.
“It’s almost like we were never apart,” Goupil said about reuniting with his fellow veterans after 44 years. “It was great last year.”
He said it has been nice talking and sharing stories with the guys because it provided him with confirmation that what he sees in his dreams is exactly what he remembered happening while in Vietnam.
Since the unit arrived home one at a time from Vietnam instead of as a unit, he said the reunion has brought closure in a sense because now he knows they arrived home safely.
Puralewski said 44 years later the guys physical appearance may have changed, but their eyes are exactly the same.
Another member of the battalion traveled from Ohio to attend the reunion.
“It is one of the best experiences I ever had,” Curt Sheely said.
Sheely said the day he attended the reunion in Texas last year was like he had never walked away from the guys. He said the reunion is nice because he can share stories with them and receive responses from the guys who were there with him all those years ago.
Chuck Davidson, who is from Missouri, also attended the reunion last year and this year. He said the reunions have been therapeutic because he was the first to go home from the unit.
“You feel guilty almost when you leave your friends behind,” Davidson said. He said he has spent the last 40 years wondering who made it home and who did not.
The answer to his dreams came true when he reunited with guys from his unit last year and again this year because he found out who made it home.
“When you get together, it’s like being together in Vietnam,” Davidson said. “It’s good therapy to get together with these guys.”
Three new faces appeared at this year’s reunion, due to the group’s endless efforts to find everyone that served in the 62nd Battalion Security Recon Patrol unit.
Scott Wiley, who traveled from West Virginia for the reunion, said the guys found him through an ad in the newspaper. He said the guys were more than his family because he spent two years, 10 months and 22 days up in the mountains with them, covering each other’s backs.
“This is the best thing that happened since Vietnam,” he said about attending the reunion. He said now his heart is full.
Wiley said reuniting with the guys this week has helped him get things out in the open about when he served, which helped him greatly.
Dana Douglas attended the reunion for the first time this year from Washington. He said he began searching on the Veterans Locater website for members of his unit and found Puralewski.
“It’s good to see these old guys,” he said about the reunion. “It rekindles old friendships and it is good to see how everyone has changed.”
Although Ken Elliott got in touch with members from his unit last year, he said he was not able to attend the reunion because he had prior commitments. This year he made an effort to travel from California to attend the reunion.
“It is kind of neat,” he said. “I am glad I made this one.”
The guys hope to hold an annual reunion in a different location every year. They also hope to find another two or three members of the unit to attend as well to get all the guys together.
Anyone who was a member of the unit is encouraged to call Puralewski at 239-673-7533, so they can be invited to the annual reunions.