But for members of the Army unit that fought alongside Spc. Michael Glenn, a Smyrna resident, between 1969 and 1970, memories of the war are still fresh in their minds.
“I can see his face as if it was yesterday,” retired Sgt. Bob Suttle, a fellow member of 2nd platoon, said of Glenn. “After all this time, still, I can see his face.”
Today, lawmakers, veterans and community members will gather on city hall’s lawn to dedicate a marble bench to the fallen Smyrna native in a morning ceremony.
Glenn was killed in action on February 11, 1970, after he was struck by a stray helicopter bullet while assigned to an observation post.
His job at the time, according to retired Staff Sgt. Paul Watkins, who also served in the 2nd platoon, was to stand guard while members of his unit were extracted from a hostile area. The chopper lifting Glenn’s platoon mates from the zone took intense enemy fire during the withdrawal, and Glenn died in the exchange.
“He was quiet, shy, very nice, humble, laid back Southern boy, did his job, was a good soldier, carried his weight,” recalled Sgt. Ben Boisseau, another member of the 2nd platoon. “Everybody like him.”
Boisseau, who served 11 months total in Vietnam, moved from Glenn’s platoon to a position as a radio operator not long after Glenn arrived in the country.
He remembers hearing the incident that took Glenn’s life and injured several others over the radio phone, which he described as “traumatic.”
Suttle says he was undergoing treatment in the hospital at the time of Glenn’s death. He sustained the injury that put him there just six days before the incident.
“He was a soft-spoken, easy-going Southerner whose smile could make you feel that everything is going to be fine,” said Suttle, who served nine months in Vietnam.
Although Watkins explained members of the same platoon don’t always serve side by side, he says he still has fond memories of his comrade.
“What I remember of him, he was very laid-back, competent, friendly, capable,” Watkins, who served 14 months in Vietnam, said of Glenn. “If you want somebody with you, Mike was one of those people you’d want to have with you.”
When members of the platoon traveled to Smyrna last year to visit a stone memorial put in place in 2004 by the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association in honor of Glenn, Suttle says they noticed a problem.
“When we were here last year with the family, we had nowhere to sit,” he said. “And so we said, lets get a bench, so when the family comes to visit they’ll have a place to sit.”
Suttle estimates a dozen or so members of his platoon contributed to purchasing the stone bench, which Smyrna administrator Tammi Saddler said the city installed for free.
Smyrna Councilman Wade Lnenicka, an Army veteran himself, said he is excited to dedicate the engraved bench.
“I think it’s great,” Lnenicka said. “I support veterans. That’s part of my role on the council.”
Lnenicka said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon will be joining him at today’s ceremony, despite a recent bout of illness.
In the 44 years since Glenn’s death, those who served with the Campbell High School graduate have become scattered around the county.
But many of the veterans remain close friends.
“It wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to me in my life, but it was definitely the most changing thing in my life,” Boisseau said. “The power that we have in our friendship and the things we shared is just very, very strong. And we love each other. Tremendously. Unconditionally. We have a passion.”
Suttle agrees the ties he feels to the men of the 2nd platoon have endured time, distance and even death, in Glenn’s case.
“It is very emotional and very healing at the same time, when we first came to that memorial and saw it, and now that we can remember Mike this way,” he said of commemorating his friend with the two memorials.
“Because when all of you don’t come home, none of you really fully come home. This means a lot to us. We’re coming home.”