Thanks to the help of the internet and a very close-knit group, members of the Charlie Company have been able to locate their fallen brothers, reunite and hold memorials for the ones they’ve lost.
“We began because we found something at the first grave we visited, SFC Domenic Smigliani, that we hadn’t expected, we found peace after 45 years. Something that needed to be shared with other Charlie Company men,” said Gary Gilliam, Charlie Company Memorial coordinator. “After we met one family after another, we found they could find peace in knowing their loved ones had never been forgotten and we were able to answer questions they had never received when their loved one died in 1970 and ‘71.”
On Nov. 10 at 10 a.m., Charlie Company will be holding a memorial at the Vietnam Memorial at College of the Ozarks for the family of SSG Guy Shannon.
“Guy Shannon became part of the prestigious Charlie Company 2nd Battalion 506th Infantry Regiment 101st Airborne Division on Nov. 14, 1970 and became close to those in which he honorably served. He was a brave young soldier who died serving the country he loved,” said Gilliam’s press release.
Starting in 2015 the Charlie Company memorial team began visiting their brother’s gravesites, and they have been able to honor 18 fallen in 12 states.
“On Sept. 7, 2015, five of us decided to visit the grave site of one of our platoon leaders, SFC Domenic Smigliani, (who was) buried in Augusta, Georgia. Smig was more of a father figure to us, he was 38 years old when he died on July 27, 1971,” said Gilliam. “We struggled with the decision of visiting his grave, with so many years of trying to run away from the memories of the war and now to go through the pain of seeing his grave was an emotional roller coaster.
“The first several minutes we – Frank Matsko, Glenn Shuman, Bob Lister, Dave Simonds and myself – held on to each other and wept like babies. After several minutes, we composed and then began sharing special memories of our brother. We sat at his grave for a couple hours, and during that time we realized that we had found some peace and started talking about this being overdue and how we had others that we should visit.”
Charlie Company 2nd 506th Inf 101st Airborne is part of the Band of Brothers legacy from WWII Easy Company 2nd 506th Inf 101st Airborne.
Charlie Company was an infantry company that worked in the jungle mountains of the northernmost part of South Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. From the Battle of Ripcord in July 1970 to the Battle of Lam Son 719 in March 1971 the Charlie Company lost a total of 26 men during that time, according to Gilliam. With the help of the internet and the determination to bring a memorial to the families of their fallen brothers, Charlie Company memorial team has been able to visit and honor the ones they lost.
“We began researching locations of our brothers. I found an internet site, Coffeltdatebase.org, that opened many doors to locating the grave sites of our brothers. We began to make plans,” said Gilliam. “We reached out to see who would like to form a Charlie Company Memorial Team and begin visiting our brothers. We have currently visited 18 gravesites in 12 states and are planning two more next spring in Mississippi and Alabama.“
Now with 31 men making up Charlie Company, they will have six more memorials to hold for their fallen brothers, with one of their brothers, Stephen Harber, listed as missing in action.