Soldiers and airmen known as Red Hats and Red Markers reunited here Saturday with surviving paratroopers of the Vietnamese Airborne Division for the unveiling of a new monument at the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center.
The veterans, members of the Airborne Advisory Team 162, helped train and fought alongside the elite Vietnamese unit from 1962 to 1973.
"The monument is the brotherhood of Team 162," said retired 1st Sgt. William D. Block, a 2010 inductee into the Ranger Hall of Fame. "We lost a lot of people, but the brotherhood lives on."
The ceremony, held amid the veterans' biennial reunion, attracted a large crowd to the Memorial Walk of Honor, including officers such as retired Lt. Gen. John LeMoyne, the former commanding general of Fort Benning. Retired Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Kinzer, who is president of the Society of the United States Red Hats, said the monument, two years in the making, "stands as a symbol of our service to our country when our nation called us to support a special group of airborne soldiers, the Vietnamese Airborne Division.
"To be sure, we dedicate this monument to all of them, and to all who soldiered in support of freedom in South Vietnam," Kinzer said, "but especially to those Red Hats and Red Markers and those Vietnamese troopers who were lost on the field of battle and could not be with us today."
The guest speaker, retired Brig. Gen. Herbert J. Lloyd, a two-time Silver Star recipient, touted the gathering as "the only like this in the world."
"We were privileged to serve and to be there and to be involved in probably the most heavy fighting that any of the Vietnamese divisions ever saw," said Lloyd, a member of the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame. "We were committed against hard intelligence. We didn't go anywhere where it was maybe; we went there because they were there, and we went to fight them, and, in every sense of the word, we gave our very best."
The veterans ate lunch after the ceremony and toured the museum. Cyndy Cerbin, director of communications for the National Infantry Foundation, said the museum has on temporary display a North Vietnamese flag captured by the Red Hats in 1968.
The flag was donated to the museum by retired Lt. Col. Wayne Andrews of Columbus, she said, and is on display near an exhibit that tells the story of Vietnam-era advisers.