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Fayetteville Vietnam vets recall fearing they would die

Posted November 9, 2011
Updated March 28, 2012

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— 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. 

Return to Vietnam for flim helps vet heal Return to Vietnam for film helps vet heal

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. 

Terry Wren Full interview: Veteran Terry Wren

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.

Ray Schrump Full interview: Vietnam POW Ray Schrump

"(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.

12 Comments

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  • Xscout577 Mar 29, 2012

    No, comments still open

    THANK YOU TO ALL OUR VETERANS.

  • Turd Peanut Mar 29, 2012

    comments closed?

  • jdo823 Mar 29, 2012

    Mr. Wren, Thank you for your service and God Bless!

  • piene2 Mar 29, 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.

    Mr Wren must not have been the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. When he enlisted what did he think was going to happen? Did he think his romantic ideas about heroism would have occurred for him as a clerk at Fort Dix or something like that? There was a war going on. He enlisted, he went to Vietnam. That should not have been a great surprise to him.

  • josephlawrence43 Nov 10, 2011

    love2dostuff: Semper Fi---from a Vietnam Marine...

  • love2dostuff Nov 10, 2011

    Yes hpr641 today is the birth date of the U.S. Marine Corps, and tomorrow is Veterans Day. Celebrations here by all of the civilians and they all have off work tomorrow and neigh one of them is a Veteran. Every Marine here at Camp Pendleton is working both today and tomorrow. Sleep sound because we are proud, privilaged and happy to do it.

  • hpr641 Nov 10, 2011

    God Bless them, indeed ... and all those who have put their lives on the line.

    Also, today is the 236th birthday of the US Marine Corps, and tomorrow is Veterans Day. Historical note: Veterans Day evolved out of Armistice Day, which was the date that World War I ended ("at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month").

  • Tax Man Nov 10, 2011

    I served two 11 month tours in 1969 and 1970 - thanks for all of the Veterans who honorably served to protect our freedom and our way of life! God Bless you all and have a great Veteran's Day tomorrow!

  • love2dostuff Nov 10, 2011

    It will show here (Camp Pendleton, Oceanside California) beginning on Monday. Yes, that's where I am now. It was long before my time but there's no statute of limitations for service to your country. Semper Fi

  • RomneyRyan2012 Nov 10, 2011

    I remember when my brother got the call to report. He didn't have to go because of health reasons, but I remember the fear he and his new wife felt. My neighbor is a Viet Nam vet and I still hear the pain in his voice. But he loves this country. He is perfectly clear on that! God Bless America!!!

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