Bond between paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division

http://www.gazetteextra.com/book081306.asp
2006-08-14

They fought shoulder-to-shoulder against a tenacious enemy thousands of miles from home.

The paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division fighting in the Vietnam War were among some of America's best-trained soldiers.

For Jarrett Goodman, a 55-year-old Milton resident, it was an honor to be a member of the tight-knit group called the Currahees.

His tour of duty in Vietnam ended in 1971 after losing a leg from a landmine explosion. Goodman returned home, but 152 of his comrades died while serving their country.

As a tribute to them, Goodman helped research a book written by Jerald "Jerry" Berry of Libby, Mont.

Goodman gathered life stories about the fallen heroes from their surviving family members and searched records for obituaries and gravesites.

In "My Gift To You," Berry offers a glimpse of the young men's lives, tells of the families left behind and about the circumstances surrounding Currahee deaths in Viet nam.

Berry, too, served with the unit and was wounded in 1968 at the beginning of the Communist Tet Offensive.

While in Vietnam, Berry worked as a combat reporter and photographer.

"I took a lot of the last pictures of these guys," Berry said.

He brought home photos that tell unspoken stories of combat experiences and showcase personalities.

Although he always planned on giving the photos to surviving family members, the everyday demands of a job and family kept him busy.

"We didn't have the Internet then," Berry said.

Decades passed, but Berry didn't forgot a promise made to himself to tell his fallen comrades' stories.

After completing his tour of duty in Vietnam, Berry worked 30 years with the U.S. Forest Service, retiring in 1997 as a staff wildlife biologist.

Berry said writing the book became a mission.

"Even our guys who came home need their stories told," Berry said in a recent telephone interview from his Montana home. "We hear about the Wall in Washington, D.C., and the numbers killed in the Vietnam War. But they are just statistics. Each one had a life and families. We were a very patriotic and proud unit."

For Goodman, helping with the research was a joy.

"I'm pretty good at finding people," Goodman said.

For many families, the book has helped close a chapter in their lives.

"So many families never knew how their loved ones died," Goodman said.

Like Berry, Goodman had time to devote to the project after retiring from his job with the Milton Post Office in 2004.

In his book, Berry acknowledges Goodman's "devotion and assistance" and "tireless efforts in the many hours of research, letter writing and personal contacts with family members."

The most difficult part of the task was the initial contacts with families, Goodman said.

"I never knew how families were going to respond," Goodman said.

One question that families often asked Goodman was, "Why after 37 years are you getting a hold of us now?"

The answer, he said, is because of a promise, vision and mission.


Vietnam War News