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Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Vietnam Veteran Went Back To Find Buddy, Found Forgiveness
Veteran returns to Vietnam in search for soldier left behind
Cape Cod Times Adam Lucente August 15, 2017
Michael Cunningham says loss has weighed on him for 49 years.
HARWICH — An expended M16 round, bomb fragments and helicopter scraps sit in Michael Cunningham’s Harwich home. They constitute small pieces of his memories fighting in Vietnam — memories that are with him today.
Cunningham, 67, served as a rifleman in the Army’s 1st Battalion, 46th Regiment, 198th Light Infantry Brigade in 1968 during the Vietnam War. On July 29 of that year, his unit was on a mission in the Que Son Valley when a helicopter arrived with supplies. Wanting to be “first in the chow line,” he went up the hill so he could unload the helicopter and get some hot food.
What happened next would haunt him for decades.
“The enemy planted a 500-pound bomb on the hill,” said Cunningham, and the bomb exploded. “It brought down the chopper and buried alive a whole bunch of guys.”
Three men were killed and a dozen wounded in the explosion, according to Cunningham. But 24-year-old Staff Sgt. Jerry Auxier, of West Virginia, was unaccounted for.
“We looked all night long. The colonel ordered that we had to leave someone behind. It’s not the most pleasant thing,” he said. “It’s been on my mind the past 49 years.”
Two men among the witnesses were in the militia responsible for the bomb, including the man who detonated it. Cunningham walked right up to them. He gave the man who set off the bomb his 198th Light Infantry Brigade hat. The man put it on and gave Cunningham his hat.
“They thought I was gonna punch the guy, but it was the total opposite. He was taken advantage of just like me,” Cunningham said. “There were no hard feelings. And I could see in his eyes he felt the same.”read more here