Sergeant Wes Selby blows smoke from his nose at a camp in Vietnam, carrying the Savage 12-gauge shotgun that got him through the War.
THE MEN OF CHARLIE COMPANY STILL FIGHT MEMORIES AND THE LINGERING EFFECTS OF AGENT ORANGE EXPOSURE
One hot day in Texas, a badge flapper parked his Rambler with black sidewalls and strolled up the walkway to Jim and Judy Lanning’s home. It was the 1970s. For America, the civil war in Vietnam was over.
“I remember to this day when the Criminal Investigation Detachment from Fort Hood drove up in front of my house,” Jim said. “This guy got out of the car in smooth-toed shoes. I knew right away I was next. I looked down on the paper, and it said, ‘Investigation of Vietnam murder,’ and so forth.
“Judy asked if he had eaten yet. She fed the guy.”
Across the United States, investigative agents shoveled up difficult memories for Charlie Company. Lanning kept a list of the names these men interviewed, which he brought with him to their 2017 reunion in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The agents called on all of the men in the conference room of that Holiday Inn. They came for Jim Phillips of Tennessee, Bill Stoner from Alabama, and Larry Prater and Buster Hopper of Georgia. May 30, 2017, 09:07
Reluctantly filling the forward observer role after the previous FO was killed in action, all Allerton farmer Wes Selby needed was a shotgun, grenades and a cigarette in the field during Vietnam. Photo by Jim Phillips
ALLERTON NATIVE AND FARMER WES SELBY RETURNS IN SPIRIT AND ON VOICE RECORDER TO HIS PLATOON IN TENNESSEE
In Knoxville, Tenn., on a cold, windy, rainy night in early May, Vietnam veteran Jim Phillips waits in the airport for a familiar face to appear in baggage pickup. It has been 50 years since he has seen that man illuminated by gunfire or a cigarette lighter.
But since his war buddy died of cancer the previous October, I stand in for my father, Wes Selby.
Phillips referred to my mother and me as the guests of honor. He said I represented all of their children, which was an overwhelming idea. Like any gift or initiation, it would have been rude to say no.
Despite his absence, my father’s voice was still present, the result of an ill-timed interview I conducted with him just before Halloween of 2010. In 2017, he traveled across the country on an RCA voice recorder aboard a Delta jet. May 22, 2017, 12:35