Fayetteville Vietnam vets recall fearing they would die
Posted November 9, 2011
Updated March 28, 2012
Fayetteville, N.C. — Terry Wren was just a 19-year-old boy from small-town Illinois when he enlisted in the Army in 1967, full of romantic ideas about heroism and a thirst for the adventure of jumping out of airplanes, plunging toward the earth.
But he knew he didn't want to go to Vietnam.
"They asked everyone if they would volunteer for Vietnam, and out of the whole class, I was the only one that said, 'No,'" Wren recalled Wednesday while visiting the Moving Wall tribute to Vietnam veterans at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville.
That sealed his fate. He was deployed immediately, right out of jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia, and assigned to a reconnaissance mission.
The Moving Wall bears a stunning 58,195 names. Wren feared he could have been one of them.
His unit was ambushed. Wren watched his comrades die, and then, all alone, braced for the worst.
"I pretty much was the only one left in that reconnaissance platoon," he said. "I figured I would be bayonnetted. The enemy was behind me, they were in front of me."
He was rescued. Now, at the age of 63, he struggles with the memories.
"I thought I had them pretty well under control until I went back to Vietnam and ended up in that rice paddy again," Wren said.
He returned with four other veterans in 2009 to tell their stories for "Killing Memories," a documentary produced by Wren's former company commander, Pete Pepper.
Though it forced him to face the jungle he had longed to forget, Wren said the documentary helped him heal by purging the memories of combat.
For veteran Ray Schrump, it was faith that got him through.
"Faith in my God, faith in my country, faith in my fellow man. I don't know of a prisoner that would ever tell you any different," said Schrump, who was captured by the Viet Cong in 1968 and held as a prisoner of war for five years. "Spiritual strength turned to physical strength."
He endured years of beatings and torture, was tried as a war criminal and sentenced to death.
"(I was) taken into the jungle, put on my knees, pistol put to my head, and it fell on an empty chamber, just to prove to you that they could take your life any time they wanted to," Schrump said.
Four decades later, Schrump said he and his fellow veterans needed the 10-day Heroes Homecoming event in Fayetteville.
"My homecoming was much different than the normal soldier's. (We) were just treated disrespectfully and, you know, it caused a lot of problems and pain and feelings of betrayal," he said. "I think it's all been made up now."
"Killing Memories" will be screened Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Cameo Theater in downtown Fayetteville.