Around a dozen retired members of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army gathered in Rome on Friday where they were treated to a tour of Rome’s Clocktower and a small procession down Broad Street, and they taken to visit the Exchange Club of Rome’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Vietnam veterans were a part of Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord, the last major confrontation between ground forces and the Northern Vietnam Army. Retired Lt. Col. Sheldon “Barney” Wintermutte recalled the event where U.S. troops stuck to their guns despite heavy fire from advancing forces.
Wintermutte, who traveled from Las Vegas for the reunion, was a battery supervisor and took artillery from base to base during the battle. This was his first reunion as well as the first time he had seen some of his fellow veterans in 48 years, he said.
“They did their job,” said Wintermutte about his fellow soldiers. “I’m thankful they came home.”
The group of veterans met on Clocktower Hill at around 1 p.m. Friday for a tour of the Rome landmark led by local historian Selena Tilly. They were then escorted by Floyd County police and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office to Myrtle Hill, where they got to see the replica of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The group also saw the Tomb of the Known Soldier which holds Rome native Charlie Graves, who was killed in battle during World War I.
They departed from Veterans Plaza on Myrtle Hill and headed for an early dinner at Provino’s Italian Restaurant. Members of the 101st Airborne Division were hosted by the American Legion Shanklin-Attaway Post No. 5 Friday night.
Sandra Bratcher, wife of David Bratcher who served with the division, said this particular group has been getting together for the past four years in various places.
This year the Bratchers’ hosted the men — and their wives in some cases — for the reunion.
Bratcher said members of the 101st Airborne Division came from all over the United States for the weekend. The farthest member to travel was from Washington state, she said, but others hailed from Texas, Virginia, Ohio and Nevada.