A memorial service at College of the Ozarks Friday honored U.S. Army veterans who served in what is considered the first major conflict of the Vietnam War.
Members of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, which was under the command of the late Lt. Col. Hal Moore, along with friends and family, gathered at the college to memorialize the Battle of Ia Drang and those who have died.
The event, also known as the Battle of Landing Zone X-Ray is also known for its depiction in the 2002 film, “We Were Soldiers,” itself an adaptation of the book “We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young,” which was written by Moore.
Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, president of the National Rifle Association, was the featured speaker at Friday’s event. North, who spent 22 years as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, said those who served in the U.S. military are the real heroes.
“The classical definition of a hero is a person who puts themselves at risk for the benefit of others,” North said. “That’s what 1st Battalion 7th (Cavalry) did in the Ia Drang Valley November of 1965.”
Jerry Davis, president of College of the Ozarks, said North reflects values of the veterans in attendance.
“Courage, loyalty, honor, sacrifice,” Davis said. “These traditional values that make America great.”
More than 40 veterans, along with family members, were in attendance Friday. Veterans who served in the battalion and fought in the battle said there is an intense, genuine camaraderie between them.
“God wanted me to be here so I could honor everybody,” said Edward Times, a veteran who led the invocation during Friday’s service. “Honor the dead, my brothers and all of us that survived. We’re a band of brothers for real, ‘you watch my back and I’ll watch your back and we both might come out of this battle.’”
According to Times, over the course of the three-day Battle of Landing Zone X-Ray, 79 U.S. soldiers were killed and 121 were injured.
Saying their reception coming home was less than warm, veterans said knowing the memorial is standing today is a good feeling.
“There is some degree of personal satisfaction to know this memorial lives and will live well past my time,” said Ramon “Tony” Nadal, who laid a wreath during the ceremony. “I think history will remember those of us in 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, we’re a true band of brothers.”