Delta Company 1/20
Delta Company, 1st Of The 20th, 11th Light Infantry Brigade
DIARY OF KEN QUALE
I meet with Jan Winters, Richard Culver, Duke Davis and Joe Lupo in Washington, D.C. in the first days of June, for the 36th anniversary of Larry Fanella's death (June 3, 1969). We also met with Larry's cousin Tom Fanella and his partner Susan Hayes. Tom grew up with Larry and they were more like brothers than cousins. Susan was in Quang Ngai province Vietnam recently, and was surfing the web and found Delta Company's website, told Tom, they contacted people from our website, and our meeting soon came together. We nervously all met. I haven't seen Jan or Richard for 36 years. Duke, Joe and I met the previous summer at Duke's famed Ponderosa Ranch just north of Philly Pa. for a couple of days. We had a great reunion with both their families.
After the five of us talked and had lunch we met with Tom and Susan. We went to a bar/restaurant. The owner gave us a private room. Tom bought us the first round of drinks and also bought us a great dinner. He took out a tape recorder, and asked us to talk about what we remembered about Larry. He wanted compile this information, put it into written form, and give it to Larry's father who is now 86 years old. He is just now willing to talk of Larry's death, as is Larry's Mom.
Well we talked and ate into the small hours of the night. Tom's love for Larry was obvious. Susan's kindness and interest was amazing. We thanked them for their generosity, as they did us, for opening up to them, and sharing our stories with them. Because of them we were able to talk in depth and reconnect with each other, in an amazing way. Tears, laughter, remembrance, and a new bonding of old friends and new friends, Larry was with us.
The next morning Tom and Susan went to the WWII monument. The five of us went to the Vietnam Memorial. It was an intense feeling being there, especially with four other guys you fought with. My strongest feelings came when the five of us posed for a picture in front of the statue they have of three grunts together. It was a proud moment to be there with my brothers who gave so much. It amazes me what these four guys have done with their lives and the men they have become after all these years.
We got a few rubbings from the wall, one of which was Blair Two Crow. When the volunteer was doing Blair's rubbing a crow landed on the panel, right above Two Crow's name, and started crowing and looked at us. We looked at each other and got chills, Richard got a picture of the crow. We said our goodbyes. We may meet again in the fall with more of us maybe in the Pocono Mts. of Pa.
Over this past winter, on public television, they did a half hour special on Native American Indians who died in the war. I watched to see if anything was said about Blair. About half way through, they showed a monument in South Dakota (later I learned it was in Pierre S.D.). They were zooming in close and I strained to see his name. Some years before I had written a poem to Blair and drew a picture of him sitting in the helicopter, like he wasn't there. Well, just as I was able to read a name, the camera pulled back, widened the scene, it became quiet, and an Indian walked up to the monument with a feather in his hand. He reached out and put it on the monument as he said "This is for my brother Two Crow". At that moment I broke down, releasing some of the memories of the war.
After our reunion in Washington with the Fanella's and my Nam buddies, I decided to take a summer-long trip in my Dad's car. Dad had just died a month earlier. My intention was to find that monument, take a picture of it and get it on our website. No one seemed to know where it was, however Alan Conger was able to find that Blair Two Crow was from Kyle S.D. and got me a phone number of a "Two Crow" in Kyle. From Wisconsin I called and talked to a man who said Kyle was a very small town in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and if I asked around I would meet with Blair's relations. Because of the good experience we had with Tom and Susan, it gave me the confidence I needed to travel on. For 36 years I put off doing this with Larry's family who only live about 150 miles from me. I wanted to talk with them and give them pictures of Larry. But I had a lot of guilt, that I had made it and Larry didn't. I thought they would be angry, and maybe they would have, but maybe Larry's Dad would not have had to wait 36 years before he could talk about it.
Well, after driving through the Badlands, taking a series of back roads, a few wrong turns, and over 750 miles from the Wisconsin Dell's, I pulled into Kyle S.D. at about 6:30 p.m. I must have been the only white man in 50 miles. It is a remote, poor town to say the least. Pine Ridge is where Bigfoot and his people were slaughtered at Wounded Knee. Some years earlier I read the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I also read Black Elk Speaks. Black Elk fought at the Little Big Horn, when he was 12 years old. This is the heart of the Sioux nation. Our brother Two Crow was born and raised here.
I awkwardly started asking where I might find the Two Crow family. First to young people, who didn't know. Then I asked an Indian, about my age, after explaining why I wanted to see them. He guided me to where I would find some older men at the edge of town. Sure enough by an old community building on a dirt road by an old trailer, sat four elderly Indian men. As I drove up they stared at me peculiarly, I must have looked like an alien in my Dad's 2004 Toyota Camry. All of the cars and trailers were old or abandoned. As I walked up to them I explained who I was, that I served with Blair Two Crow in Vietnam. They were very helpful and pointed out a certain trailer amongst many others. I drove up on rutted dirt roads to it. Got out, took a deep breath, knocked, and out came an Indian man and I explained my reason for being there, he told me to wait and closed the door. A minute later a woman in her 60's came out and asked me what I wanted, her name was Sherline. I explained I was with Blair the day he was wounded. She walked down the stairs, her arms outstretched, grabbed my hands and just shook as she cried. We hugged, exchanged some words and she invited me in.
Sherline was proud of her air conditioner that her nephew found and got working. She invited me to sit in her small kitchen at a little table with two chairs. On the table was the book Black Elk Speaks. I felt as though I was in a dream, my past coming up to greet me. I asked her if she knew how Blair was killed. She said that all the Army said was that he was killed in action. They sent his body home in a casket weeks after he died. His Mom and Dad who are now dead were shattered. Her father broke some kind of glass in the casket, to hold his son one more time, as he did blood ran from his nose. The ground was frozen solid as it was late December when they dug his grave. They buried him outside town in their Indian burial grounds. Sherline wanted to know if Blair spoke out any of their names before he died. I told her I didn't know, but he was very calm and peaceful and that he seemed to not be in Vietnam, but back with his people. She said there is a belief among Indians, that four days before you die, you are already gone from here.
We talked, laughed and cried for awhile. I told her how Blair won 300 dollars playing poker with Duke Davis, she got a good laugh at that, and how Richard Culver set a tourniquet on Blair's leg. I gave her the rubbing of Blair's name from the Memorial Wall and told her about the crow that landed over his name. She took the rubbing kissed it and cried some more.
Then she asked me if I would like to go to a Pow Wow that they have once a year outside of town, and that her sister would be there. A half hour later we were there and found her sister. Sherline introduced me to her and the sister had the same reaction as Sherline. We then ran into her niece, nephew, and grandchild. We then went into the outdoor arena, where they drummed, danced, and sang, young and old alike. The Indians were dressed in the most beautiful, authentic dress. Full head feathers, beaded colorful artistic dress, buckskin and fabric. Blair's cousin was leading the Pow Wow. He carried a staff decorated with different military patches from units that served in Vietnam. I don't think he had the Americal patch. I will try and get him one. Sherline told me he was in Vietnam just three miles from us when Two Crow was killed. When he found out about Blair's death he went wild, went AWOL, and the Army gave him a discharge. He and Two Crow were like brothers. I then realized he was the Indian I saw on TV, putting the feather on the monument. After the Pow Wow was over, Sherline called to him and explained who I was. He looked like someone out of the 1800's all decorated in his Indian garb. We shook hands looked each other in the eye, and at the same time, said we were glad the other made it home, then laughed.
Sherline and I then left as the light of day was slipping fast, and I needed to find my way out. I asked her where the monument was, and she said it was a hundred miles from here, but she would take me to Blair's burial site. I told her that would be greater than seeing the monument. So we went back through town, then out the other side on a dirt grassy, rutted road that twisted up a grassy hill. At the top was their Indian burial ground. The sun just went down and I asked her if I could take some pictures to put on our website. She said yes and I snapped of a few as darkness fell, with a red sky as the sun set.
We took a slow ride back to her home, I thanked her for all she had given me, and was sorry if I caused her too much pain, opening up old wounds. She said her Mom and Dad never recovered from his death, and his girlfriend committed suicide two weeks after he died. Even though Sherline was older than Blair, as kids they were the closest, and her heart was still broken, but that by my coming, through me, she got her brother back, that I was now her brother. As we neared her home she told me she just had cataract surgery, and for her to get a checkup she had to save up seventy dollars in order to get someone to drive her, as gas is so expensive and so few cars, and the great distance. She didn't even have a phone. I gave her twenty dollars, she said someday she was going to save and send me a present. I told her she already gave me the greatest gift she could give, and I felt like I took too much already. I promised to write, send her any pictures I could find from his Army brothers. She invited me in, but I needed to move on as it was dark and I was uncertain where I was. I drove about ten miles and pulled off on a dirt road. I climbed in the back seat, tried to sleep as heat lighting flashed and the wind blew all night, as the memories and visions flooded my mind. My heart was open to my new found friend and sister. Thank you Blair Two Crow for showing me your life.
Thank you God for love.
My trip continued on for another nine thousand miles. Through the Canadian Rockies, and then down to California. Where once again I was able to meet up with Tom and Susan and their two great friends from Boston. We were on Pelican Bay outside of Watsonville Ca. They once again treated me like gold, fed me a great dinner, put me up for the night, shared stories and laughter, and Tom let me read the beautiful letter he sent to his uncle and aunt. They were both glad Larry was surrounded by loved ones his last days on earth and that we still keep his memory alive.
I also got to see Jan Winters and his wife Jill and their beautiful seven year old daughter outside of Los Angeles in their beautiful home. They also wanted me to stay but I needed to move on. They loaded me up with food to help me make the night drive through the desert. Maybe I will see them this winter.
One thing I learned from this trip is that the war not only affected us soldiers but everyone who knew us for generations to come. We have a great responsibility in how we treat each other because it has a ripple effect and does come back to us.
Sleep and live well my brothers;