They carry the memory of Vietnam with them everywhere they go,
through their days and into the long nights.
Sometimes, when they lay down at night, their minds drift back more than 30 years
and they think of the men who didn't return.

They think of the ones who died in the jungles a world away.
They think of the ones who are forever young, frozen in time,
while the survivors grow older with each passing year.

It's a heavy load to carry. And when you carry it on your heart,
like George does, it's a very heavy load.

For George, 70, who served with Fort Campbell's 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
and then retired to his home in Hopkinsville, the memories have always
centered around heroes like Sgt. Clifford Sims.

George came home from Vietnam and built a life in the civilian world with his family.
Clifford did not.

George and Clifford met at Fort Campbell in the fall of 1967.
They were both sergeants, training with D Company, 2nd Battalion, of the 501st Infantry.
When they deployed to Vietnam on Dec. 13, 1967, they had earned the nickname "Delta Raiders,"
a mischievous nod to some of their unconventional methods for securing equipment from other units at Fort Campbell.

Two months later, George and Clifford were thrown into a battle near Hue in the Republic of Vietnam.

It was Feb. 21, 1968.

George was leading a platoon of about 40 men when they encountered a heavy storm of gunfire
from the North Vietnamese.
He eventually charged across a stream and overran a line of enemy bunkers,
tossing hand grenades at the enemy troops.
George sustained shrapnel wounds in his legs that day and later was awarded
the Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

During the same battle, Clifford was leading a squad through dense woods
when he heard the sound of a booby trap being triggered in front of his men.
Clifford yelled to others to get out and then threw his body on the exploding device.

He died the next day.

The Army posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor.

Back in the United States, Clifford's wife, Mary,
prepared for her life without her mate.

George's wife, Mattie, waited for her husband to come home.
He returned later that year and became a drill sergeant at Fort Campbell.
Two years later he retired.

Mattie died in 2000, and George thought he would spend the rest of his life alone.
But this is where the story turns and then comes full circle for George.
And for the woman who lost Clifford to a war.

Earlier this year, George heard that Clifford's widow was searching
for some of the men who served with her husband in Vietnam.
She wanted to hear their stories.
She wanted to connect with someone who never forgot.

Through Mary and Clifford's daughter, Gina Townsend, who resides in Georgia,
George learned about Mary's quest for some connection.
Gina posted a message on the "Delta Raiders" Web page and said she and her mother
wanted to meet some of the men who knew her father.

George saw the message and responded.
Later, he called Mary, 59, at her home in Fayetteville, N.C.

"George called me at home before my daughter even told me
that she had given out my phone number," Mary said.

One telephone call turned into another. And another.
And eventually George's phone bill was getting out of hand.
In one month, he spent $281 on long distance charges.

George and Mary agreed to meet. During the Fourth of July holiday,
he drove to Fayetteville and took pictures of Clifford to show Mary.

"He had pictures that we had never seen," Mary said.
After he returned to Hopkinsville, George kept calling Mary.
And she called him.
Every morning, ever day at lunch when she took a break from the hairdresser's shop in her home,
every evening before he went into work as a night security guard.

And they fell in love.

In August, George asked Mary to marry him.

"He asked me on the phone, and I held my breath for a minute,
and then I said I would have to think about and pray about it," Mary said.
George says it's hard to explain a long distance romance.
"I just know something hit me and I asked her to marry me," he said.
Mary eventually said yes, and George drove to North Carolina.

On Oct. 18, their wedding day, George gave Mary a dozen fuschia roses.
She carried one to the courthouse for the wedding.
She wore a yellow suit. He wore a blue suit.
Mary became George's bride and returned to Hopkinsville with him.

Now, George is adjusting to life with his new wife.
He's been rearranging the pictures and framed Army medals he keeps on his den wall.
He needs to make room for the
Medal of Honor that Clifford earned after he died in Vietnam.

Because men like George never forget.

This article appeared November 11, 2002
in the Kentucky New Era newspaper, Hopkinsville, KY
and was written

On that day, Feb. 21, 1968
Sgt. Sims won the Congressional Medal of Honor
Sgt. Hooper won the Congressional Medal of Honor
SFC. Parker won the Silver Star
Sgt. Mount, yours truly, and others, won the Bronze Star

It was an honor to fight side by side with these brave men.

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