Vietnam ‘band of brothers’ gather for reunion in Chatfield

Vietnam veterans gathered this past week for a reunion. In front, from left, are Larry McDermott, Don Tisdale and Gary Molnau. In back are Ken Schodron, Patrick Sweet and Clyde Sogla. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

Larry McDermott, Clyde Sogla and Patrick Sweet catch up on the years between their time in Vietnam and their retirements. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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“This is a really fantastic experience. We’re totally lost as individuals, until we come together like this. If you watch the movie ‘Band of Brothers,’ there’s a feeling we remember…those who didn’t come home, and we rejoice with our brothers who did about the experiences we’ve had together,” recounted Patrick Sweet, of Huntsville, Ark.

Sweet was one of six men, gathered in Clyde Sogla’s garage last Wednesday morning, as the rumble of conversation and the aroma of home-cooking wafted around them.

Sweet continued, citing that he had been in the military for some time when he was sent to Vietnam and that it was there that he met the five men surrounding him — Don Tisdale of Goodlettsville, Tenn., Gary Molnau of Plymouth, Minn., Larry E. McDermott of Washta, Iowa, Ken Schodron of West Bend, Wis., and Chatfield resident Sogla.

“I had done a tour of the U.S. and tours of Germany, and when I went there, I had already made sergeant, but most of these guys were made sergeant after me,” he said. “There was a ton of responsibility dropped in their laps, and they did a good job. I retired out of the military because of these guys…I stayed in and made it my mission in life to train these young guys so they could survive this.”

The veterans gathered at Clyde and Judy Sogla’s home at the beginning of what would be a three-day reunion held years after returning home to the United States, having fought in the Vietnam War and then separated by circumstance. They pursued marriage, family and retirement in different corners of the U.S.

Judy Sogla determined that it was an event that needed to take place after watching her husband search for his front-line comrades.

She related, “A few years ago, my husband started looking up the people he fought with in the front lines of the Vietnam War. He said, ‘I need to find these guys and get together with them.’ I thought, ‘Well, we have to make this happen.’ I had just retired, so that made it easier to put more time into planning this. It’s such an honor for me to put this on for these veterans. Two of them like to watch movies on the war – Clyde is one of them – but some of them don’t, but I’m furnishing all the meals…I had fun planning that.”

She outlined the reunion’s itinerary, including a tour of the veterans cemetery in Preston, the Maust tractor museum, shopping in Lanesboro, antiquing in Harmony, a visit to the barn at Berwood Hill Inn, and the Spam Museum in Austin.

“My husband gave them all new ‘Vietnam veteran’ hats, and the community is backing this 100 percent,” Judy said. “Everyone I’ve told has been very happy. We’re very proud…here in Chatfield, we have an awesome Boy Scout group that put flags up when we needed them, and the next couple of days, we’ll have flags along our street in their honor.”

A table filled with memorabilia garnered plenty of attention as the veterans flipped pages in photo albums, chatted about how their lives had changed since they were first thrown together to defend Vietnam’s jungles and how they looked forward to the rest of their shared time which afforded them the opportunity to talk about things that only veterans could understand.

Clyde Sogla observed that he was very glad to host his fellow veterans. He commented, “I think it’s wonderful. Three of these guys, I haven’t seen since I was in Vietnam. That’s what’s so nice about this. I think we sent out the first e-mail about this the end of January, and it seemed like forever until the 19th of June, but it did come.”

His wife, pleased to meet the wives of the men who had come to their home for the reunion, stood back and watched as the veterans told stories they’d been waiting to tell for decades.

She reiterated, “It is such an honor for me to put this on for these veterans. These guys are so happy to be together, and I have friends here that I never knew before, and through these guys, we’ve met and become very close here today. I, along with these ladies, am very proud of our husbands. They went through a lot. If you’ve ever watched the series ‘Vietnam,’ you might be able to guess, but I can’t imagine what they went through…we’re very proud.”