In August, the Mt. Juliet City Commission proclaimed Aug. 8 as “44th Medical Brigade, 66th Medical Group, 1st Medical Co. Day“ at a recent commission meeting, because members of the company from around the United States will meet Sept. 15-17 at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Juliet.
They will come at the behest of Vietnam War veteran and medic M.C. Richmond who is the father of Debbie McVey and father-in-law of Jim McVey, owners of Primary Mortgage in Mt. Juliet.
Richmond will gather his fellow combat caregivers in Mt. Juliet soon, something he does every year, but it was a long time in the making. He and other medics were stationed at Pleiku, a city in central Vietnam in the country’s central highland region and the capital of the Gia Lai Province.
Still, it was Debbie McVey back in Mt. Juliet who was the impetus for the first gathering.
“My daughter started it,” Richmond said. “She had bought me a Vietnam T-shirt and a cap, and I told her to put it in the closet. I never wore it because of the way we were treated when we got home. One day she got on me about not wearing them.”
Richmond said that got him mulling about the friends he had made during the war.
“I got to thinking that I had a lot of good friends over there and maybe I would try to round some of them up,” Richmond said. “Thanks to my wife getting on the internet, I made 100,000 phone calls, and I tracked down several people, and the first reunion we had was at my house here in Mount Washington, Ky.”
During the first reunion, four veterans attended. The following year, Richmond said they had a reunion in Virginia and made the trek to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
“That was a very moving experience,” Richmond said. “Then the next reunion we had was in Columbus, [Ohio]. Each time, we get a few more people involved. We have people coming from across the United States, so Columbus was a pretty convenient place for everyone.”
Because Richmond was a medic, that is how he and his wife, Karen Richmond, began searching. However, the veteran said anyone who served is like family.
“Anybody who served over there is basically a brother, whether it’s a clerk or whatever,” he said. “We were over there; we were in the midst of it. When I see a guy at Walmart with a Vietnam cap on, I thank him for his service.”
Richmond served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He came back with his health intact for which he is grateful.
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said.
At the Columbus reunion, there were 19 vets who showed up. At the Mt. Juliet reunion there will be 18. Richmond said they have several events planned.
“A lot of them are coming in on Thursday, so we don’t have any big plans other than probably just sitting around shooting the bull,” he said.
On Friday, a meet and greet is scheduled. On Saturday, the group will gather to share pictures and some fellowship; that evening, they are going to the Grand Ole Opry. On Sunday, everyone will depart back to Virginia, Michigan, Florida, Minnesota, Louisiana, Georgia, just a few of the states from where the veterans travelled.
M.C. Richmond won’t let himself indulge in any touchy-feely sentiment, but his wife Karen Richmond believes there’s some healing that happens during these annual reunions. The couple celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary this past April.
“I am glad that they can get together. When they walk in the room and they see each other after 50 years and they reconnect, it’s really neat … I think the proclamation is going to be really great,” Karen said referring to the proclamation that will be presented by a member of the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners on Saturday.
Karen Richmond said when she started researching, she came across an old typed list of medics that military administration had put together before the group left to go overseas.
“He had that list all these years,” she said. “That’s what we started with, and we thought what are the chances of them being in the same town, and surprisingly a lot of them were. Then, depending on their names, and how common they were, some of them we found right off the bat and other ones we spent a lot of time looking for.”
Not all were medics in the field she said. Some worked in the motor pool associated with the medics.
“I have put together an album for all of them, so they can go through that. I hope they like it,” said Karen. “I think they will.”