Rich Arnold

Rich Arnold (center) enjoys the company of his old Army buddies at their 50th reunion.

IDA, La. -- Officially, Rich Arnold and his Army unit were not in the Vietnam War. But indeed they were -- in a secret operation against the enemy.

Rich hosted seven veterans who served alongside him for a 50th reunion since their service in the war. They traveled in from all over the country.

"Because we're brothers," one said.

But 50 years ago they had to keep quiet.

"We served in silence," Rich says. "We couldn't tell anyone else what we were doing at that time."

Rich and his unit were part of the Army Security Agency. But in the Vietnam War, they worked under a cover name -- Radio Research -- in the classified operation of intercepting North Vietnamese Army communications.

"The United States couldn't dare let them know how much we were obtaining in intelligence through their communications," Rich explained.

From bases on the ground, or planes in the sky, they intercepted morse code communications from the NVA. Or with a linguist by their side, they transcribed verbal enemy radio communications.

"It was intense," Rich recalls. "We were motivated primarily by the fact that what we were doing would help those guys out in the jungle. By providing them intelligence, locations of North Vietnamese troops and all."

Rich and his buddies decided to continue their support of fellow servicemen and women during their reunion. They took time out to visit with others at the Northwest Louisiana Veterans Home in Bossier City.

"We're all disabled vets," said Rich, who has hearing loss from his war duty. Others have battled Agent Orange induced cancers.

"But we're more fortunate. We can walk. So I think we should go visit the guys who can't get out," Rich added.

Rich not only followed his father's footsteps in military service -- he was in the Navy in World War II -- there was also his grandfather -- who served in World War I.

And all three also served in law enforcement. Rich was with the Shreveport Police Department for 20 years.

"They never insisted that I serve. It was my choice," he says of his role models.

Rich also joined the Coast Guard Reserve for more than two decades. And his daughter, Teri, is a major in the Army Reserve. That makes four generations of service.

"I'm very proud of that," Rich said, choking back some emotion.

Rich has plans to help veterans at his big ranch near Ida, where he used to commercially raise crawfish and shrimp. He wants to host wounded warrior retreats there, as a place where war veterans can enjoy fishing and hunting.

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