Former Army Capt. Joseph Perino’s recollections center on the people he knew there:
“You see Charlie Brown, I’ll never forget him, the night we were getting ready to go on a mission, and he, a good-looking kid, good-looking kid, you know, a farm kid. And he told me, he said, ‘Sir,’ he says, ‘my daddy said when I left, I’d be home to work on the farm.’ Well, the next day, he lost both legs on this hill we were going up. Put him on the chopper, and he got to go home, but, you know, you never get to see ’em again.
Memories from Vietnam, memories of your people, you’re like a family together, you share together, you become one in your thinking and taking care of each other ... and you go through periods there where you change, you become something other than what you were when you’re in that situation.
I had an interpreter, named Nak My, who had been a (Viet Cong) and had gotten burned very badly in a napalm strike and came over to the other side. We were very close, Nak My and I. You know he had a price on his head because of that. When things ended, I wondered what happened to him.”
Where were you when Saigon fell?
“As things started to happen and the (North Vietnamese Army) came across the A Sâu Valley, they went through country we had operated in, we had fought on, we had secured, we had left, they came back, we went back, we re-secured it. They came through places, and I saw places where we had been, where I had fought, just falling, falling, one after another, these (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) just running away, leaving the equipment, leaving everything, and so they marched all through that country we had fought for down until they got to the end, in Saigon.
And I watched it and I just sat there and just shook my head, shook my head, because our people that we lost, and the people that I know that are on the Wall (Vietnam War Memorial), one being my roommate from (Officer Candidate School). When Jerry was killed, I heard the chatter on the radio that night that said he was operating up in that area. Your mind goes to them, it goes to them that are on the Wall or those like Sgt. Brown who had no legs now, and so it was pretty sad day to me, a very sad day.
It leaves you, but it never leaves you.”