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Vietnam War buddies bring reunion to their old Army boss - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Vietnam War buddies bring reunion to their old Army boss

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BOSSIER CITY, La -

George Gray hasn't been able to travel to reunions with the engineering battalion he led in Vietnam the last couple of years. Health reasons keep the retired Army colonel close to home in Shreveport. So his men brought the reunion to him this year.

"Well, I feel like a granddaddy," Gray laughed as he sat at the head of a table outside a Bossier City hotel, along with the men now in their 60's that he says were his "teenagers" in Vietnam.

They came to this reunion from homes far away, including the Los Angeles area, Chicago, and from Michigan came Mike Miller.

"I can't go a year without getting my fix of seeing my buddies to make sure they're okay," Miller says. "And all of that is due to George Gray and his vision."

Miller wrote a book about that vision, titled "A Terrible Beauty, the story of Task Force Builder. Col. Gray's vision followed some sage military advice.

"If you want to make war in a strange country you've got to make friends with the people that live there," Gray says.

Since the French had destroyed schools during the first Indochina war, Gray and his men set out to rebuild them. It was a risky mission as they worked and convoyed through war zones.

"I fought the Viet Cong as hard as I had to. But I still knew we should not be there, Gray says of the war. "And getting those guys down there and building those schools gave me a reason to be in Vietnam. And to this day I'm proud that we did it."

The mission of building schools not only improved the lives of the children of Vietnam, it also built a brotherhood among Gray and his men.

With tears welling in the former soldier's eyes, Miller says, "As we struggled to survive and learned to count on each other, our brotherly love developed into a love that most people will never experience."

That's why they re-connected after 40 years and began holding annual reunions with their old boss, Col. Gray.

"And the reason we're here after all of these years is because of his influence on us," Miller says.

Miller also says a Google Earth search shows that all 18 schools they built are still there, southwest of Saigon. One of them was named for one of their brothers they lost in battle.

George Gray is also a veteran of World War II and Korea.

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