Last Fall I walked all over Fort Worth's Botanic Garden looking at the Fall Foliage which was being particularly colorful. Tucked away, way off the beaten path, I came upon a lonely, neglected memorial.
It being Memorial Day I thought I'd tell the story of this Fort Worth Memorial to Charlie Company.
Way back in August of 1967 an 18 year old soldier named James David "Shorty" Haas sent a letter home from where he and his group of fellow U.S. soldiers were hunkered down deep in the steaming jungles of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
The troops were war-weary, had suffered months of sleep deprivation and constant enemy fire. They were getting discouraged. The letter James Haas sent home asked for some sort of encouragement, some token of acknowledgment to raise the morale of his comrades.
Somehow the letter soon found its way to DeWitt McKinley, the mayor, at the time, of Fort Worth. He was touched by the simple humility of the hometown soldier caught in the throes of war, asking for nothing but a glimmer of hope.
The mayor and the people of Fort Worth responded. In September, Fort Worth's answer to the letter began to arrive in Vietnam. Duffle bags stuffed with cookies, cakes and letters of support arrived weekly. Among the many letters sent to the soldiers was one proclaiming that the City of Fort Worth had officially adopted the soldiers, formally known as Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
For the soldiers, this flood of reassurance came at a particularly difficult time. One soldier later commented, "You have no idea how that compassion turned us around."
Thirty-four years later, on July 6, 2001, 21 surviving members of Charlie Company met in Fort Worth's Botanic Garden to again say "Thank You" to the people of Fort Worth. Sadly, among the missing, was James David "Shorty" Haas, who's letter had touched so many.