WISNER – 50 years ago Jack Denker, Marvin Eschliman, Gary Truman, Bob Duncan and Dale Reese set off from Wisner to Vietnam.
In 1968 the five, as teenagers, enrolled in The Marines.
“We loved the uniforms,” said Duncan. “They were nice outfits.”
The five friends, inextricably linked by their experience, were honored in an event in Wisner on Saturday.
“It’s special,” said event organizer Tara Lantz. “It’s been a really amazing experience. You realize that there are so many good people and so many veterans and so many sacrifices. You’re not alone.”
The five were split up when they reached Vietnam, suffering multiple injuries. Truman was shot down from the sky in his helicopter on three different occasions.
But they survived and remained friends throughout.
“It’s stayed the same,” Truman said. “We all like each other. We always have.”
Now, 50 years later, the five are getting the welcome home they didn’t get when they first returned to America.
“We were called baby-killers,” said Reese. “We didn’t! I don’t ever remember killing any kids when I was over there.”
They started out as five self-described trouble-makers, who got a steak dinner from the town cop when he found out they were leaving.
“It was a nice steak!” said Denker. “He said ‘I’m glad you’re leaving for a while!”
Now, they’re heroes. And although none of them live in Wisner anymore, it’s still a place to which they’re happy to be welcomed home.
Saturday’s celebration was also a fundraiser, with the money going to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families.