|Enemies No More
By Keith Pollari
Alpha Battery 1967-1968
I returned to Vietnam in 1996 with my son who was a senior in high school at the time. I wanted him to see where I had been and share my return visit with him. We went to all the 8/4 firebases on the DMZ. The day we went to Con Thien we continued north about 2 kilometers to a military cemetery in the DMZ. It was almost more than I could bear looking at row after row of grave markers in Arlingtonesque geometry. When I saw a date of death in the fall of 1967 or spring of 1968, I wondered how many of these graves were the result of Alpha Battery's 175mm guns. They didn't seem like adversaries anymore. The cemetery was several acres and had thirty or forty thousand buried there. No ARVN, just NVA.
As we returned to our vehicle, a 1963 Peugeot, the only POV in Dong Ha, we noticed a van pull in to the parking area. Our guide could tell from the license plate that it was from an area close to Hanoi. Ten men, all 50 to 60 years old, jumped out of the van with all their gear and started heading in our general direction. I didn't know what the hell to do next. My son and I both had our 35-mm Canon's fully loaded with 36 round magazines. We had plenty of em too, black & white, color, and slides. No heavy stuff though. The NVA squad still didn't see us in the December drizzle and the mist as they climbed the steps to a memorial and began to light incense. My son stayed under cover as I cautiously approached, walking silently up the steps as they offered prayers to their fallen comrades. I reached the top and they turned and we just looked at each other from about five feet. The silence intense and for what seemed to be an hour the only sound was the rain in the trees and on the roof over this sheltered memorial. We all seemed paralyzed with fear and curiosity. I broke the silence and stepped forward and extended my hand and said "enemies no more". The place exploded with smiles and handshakes, as everyone wanted to have their picture taken with me.