||A LIFE WORTH REMEMBERING FOREVER
He was an average American male growing up in a small town caring for others and always respectful to his elders. He stood up for what he believed in and backed down from no one.
One of the things he loved to do as a young man was spend time in the woods and fields of Georgia hunting with his dogs, especially his coon dog named Red.
David joined the U. S. Army September 10, 1968 He arrived in Vietnam on April 02, 1969 where he was assigned to Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 17th Artillery Regiment. He became good friends with the men in gun section number 5 where he was assigned. Some of their names are Sgt Harry Fedsick, Doug Runice, Dan Reeves, and David Gentry. This is where he picked up the nickname Bry. By the end of his tour he had a desire to fly as door gunner on one of the helicopters. At the end of his 1-year tour in Vietnam, David signed up to serve six additional months in country. He was allowed to come back to the States on a 30-day leave before starting the additional 6 months.
He surprised everyone when he showed up back at home. It was a happy time for everyone knowing that he was now home and safe. He spent several days visiting family and friends and enjoying being home. I remember us hanging out and him telling me stories about things he did and saw in Vietnam.
After a few days, he announced he was returning to Vietnam. Everyone was somewhat stunned and could not understand why he would want to go back. David’s brother, Homer, took him outside to have a brother-to-brother talk and to examine his head to see if he had gone crazy. When Homer asked him what in the world he was thinking, David replied “someone has to do it, I’m not married and I don’t have any kids. Maybe I can take the place of someone who does.”
Well there were many things to do and people to see during this short 30-day period and David tried to make the best of it. There were happy times and sad times for David while he was back home in Georgia. The saddest things that happened to David and a topic of conversation today, was while hunting, his coon dog Red got hot on the trail of a raccoon. Most raccoons would have climb up a tree but this one didn’t, it stood it’s ground and attacked Red. When David got to them the raccoon was getting the best of Red and had his teeth buried in his neck and Red couldn’t get him off. David walked up, shot, killed the racoon, and didn’t think anything else about it, picked the raccoon up, took it home, skinned it and buried the rest. Later it was questioned why the raccoon acted the way it did and it was dug up and test and sure enough it had rabies. David had to dispose of his favorite hunting dog before leaving to go back to Vietnam. In addition to that, at the time David had an injury on his thumb that he gotten in Vietnam, which he got blood from the coon in and had to go thru 21 rabies shots in the stomach himself for most of his leave time. When he returned to Vietnam his friend Doug ask him how Red was doing and David said “Ahhh I shot the SOB.” He never said anything about going thru rabies shots.
One of the more cheerful times for David while he was home, he meet and fail in love with a girl name Dannie Mae. It was everyone’s belief that he was going to ask her to marry him when he got out of the army.
On David’s returning to Vietnam during his good byes he told my sister and a anut of ours that it would be the last time they seen him because this time he wasn’t coming back.
When he got back to Vietnam he expressed the desire to fly and on April 30,1970 David got his wish to fly as door gunner on a Huey when he was transferred to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile).
David had became good friends with Ray Arvid Bailey who was a gunner on a OH6A Scout helicopter. On Oct. 18, 1970 Ray Arvid Bailey, Douglas Frank Strait, and William Cahill were killed during a mission when their helicopter took ground fire and crashed. Information about this incident can be found at http://www.flyarmy.org/incident/70101818.HTM
On Oct. 19, 1970 David too was killed by small arms ground fire while flying as Observer at the same place his friend Rae Arvid Bailey had died. For 36 years I had searched for answers to what happen that day and thanks to the help of guys like Gary Pope, Larry Donaldson, Larry Parker and Jack Schwarz I now have the answers to the questions that I and so many others had over the years.
The following are accounts of what happened that day from the men that was there.
Larry Donaldson -- June 2006
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of Dave. When I read the messages from Schwarz and you today I bet that I sat here 10 - 15 minutes seeing that day, the faces, exactly what I was doing, the words said between Dave and myself, and what I did afterwords.(I could have been court-martialed but I had a good 1st Sergeant and C.O.) Every time that I go to the wall or the Moving Wall it is basically for Dave. I went back to Vietnam two more times into different units and was wounded both times. I lost more friends but Dave always had a close space in my heart. We were the only two people in the unit that ever held the rank of Corporal so that was our first bond and second I guess we were both just hill-billys, liked the same beer, music, and other things. I do know this that Dave died doing what he thought was right and for his friend. Dave was my first hero in that war for I knew then as I do now that he died trying to find and save his friend. The only other thing that I know was that he didn't suffer and death was instant. Always be proud of Dave for I am and will always be. Don't ever let his memory or what he did over there pass on into history. Dave's valor was but one incident that happened daily in that unit for that unit was the baddest of the bad and only very dedicated young men could take it day by day, not only their duty but dedicated to each and every person in C Troop. We all were...we still are...always will be. Keep in touch with me and let me know how you are doing. It was good to hear from you and thank you for the kind words. Until Fiddler's Green... God bless.
Gary Pope -- June 2006
Don, I remember the incident when your cousin, Dave Bryant, was killed in action. It was on October 19, 1970. At the time as an E-6 Staff Sergeant, I was the acting Scout Platoon Sergeant.
Dave was flying as Observer in the left front seat of a Loach piloted by Ron (Barney) Vestal. Flying as Crew Chief/Scout Gunner in the right rear was Dave's very good friend Lawrence (Larry) Parker.
Neither of these guys, nor Dave himself, could have done anything different to have spared Dave's life. They took ground fire and Dave was shot with what I honestly believe was an immediately fatal wound. It's my sincerest belief that Dave did not suffer at all.
They were scouting an area heavy with action. The day before on October 18th, Pilot Bill Cahill, Crew Chief/Scout Gunner Rae Bailey, and Observer Doug Strait were shot down. Cahill and Bailey's remains were recovered but Doug Strait is still carried as missing in action (although presumed KIA). Aviator boot prints were found at the crash site and ground troops followed enemy tracts and the aviator boot prints for several days before loosing the trail. It is not known if these aviator boot prints were those of Strait or that of an enemy now wearing aviator boots.
When killed, Dave was holding a purple smoke grenade with the pin already pulled. The grenade exploded inside the Loach and Vestal did a wonderful job of flying sideways to clear the bird of smoke. Under any other circumstances I am sure Dave would have laughed like heck about dropping the grenade inside. Apparently the smoke was really heavy and of course purple!
Don, I can write a little more about this incident if you want, just let me know.
Gary Pope (SSG C 1/9 Scouts and Blues, 1970 - 1971)
Gary Pope -- June 2006.
Hi again Don,
This is a good time for a small disclaimer. Sometimes I may have a little bit of bum information or the years have distorted things a little. For instance David coming to C Troop in September probably is incorrect. After writing my response I did dig up some old notes and I had noted David was killed with less than 10 days left in country. I do not know if 10 days is a correct figure but he was a "short timer". Some of my notes about David came from a memioral service we held in troop. They read that he arrived to C Troop on April 30, 1970 after serving a year with Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 17th Artillery. If this tour was a six month extension for an "early out", that would of ended at the end of October.
I can answer your question of what you have been wondering from Larry Donaldson's letter to your family. It sounds like what Donaldson wrote is right on the money. I remember David being a Crew Chief/Gunner for our Lift platoon. That would fit with your picture of him being "in one of the bigger choppers and sitting in the side door manning the gun..." That indeed was his job, on a Huey Helicopter.
One of my jobs as the Scout Platoon Sergeant was to schedule crews (Scouts, Observers, and Pilots) to the Scout Helicopters (OH6-A, Loaches). Normally, the Scout and pilot flew their own helicopter but many times they had to be scheduled to other birds for various reasons. This has nothing to do with David but it is part of what I did as a Sergeant. I also scheduled what time each crew would lift off from Phouc Vinh, ie., first light, 0700, 0800, 0900, or even 1000 hours. I would post this information on a board in TOC and make sure the crews received this information.
On the evening of Oct 18, 1970, the day Bailey, Cahill, and Strait were killed the C Troop Officers had a briefing in TOC to which I had privy to attend as the Scout Platoon Sergeant. At this time, Larry Parker and pilot Barney Vestal were scheduled in their bird (I think 987) with an Observer that I do not remember his name. I scheduled myself to fly with our Scout Platoon Leader, Capt. Ron Beyer. Again I do not remember who the observer was flying with Beyer and me but I think I talked Mike (Zero) Stroble into flying observer. Our bird was scheduled to leave at first light.
Larry Parker and David approached me after the briefing and asked if David could fly as Observer. And this well could have been because David felt he had to do something for Bailey killed early in the day (we did not recover bodies until early the 19th).
Like Sgt. Donaldson, I told David he could not fly. I remember telling him the area was to hot and I too may have remembered David being a short timer. Despite this, apparently David talked himself into flying for the scheduled Observer.
Capt. Beyer and I were in the air when we heard of the "down bird" alert over the radio. The alert was for David , Barney, and Parker getting shot up and David killed. Beyer asked me who was flying with Barney (his call sign was 13) and I told him Parker and whoever was the Observer I had scheduled. Little did I know at that moment that the Observer KIA was David Bryant.
So, what Sgt. Donalson told you is truth and hopefully my additional information clears up the picture a little better. David was only trying to help his buddy when he too ended up dead.
Gary Pope (SSG C 1/9 Scouts and Blues, 1970 - 1971)
Letter from Larry Parker Aug 2006
All this with David happened over 25 years ago and is now a bit fuzzy, so I hope I don't say anything to make things any more confusing for you. Some things I might say may not jive to well with what someone else may say. I really don't recall anything about a briefing the night before that flight or any denial of Davids request to go along. What I remember was something like this:
David was a door gunner in the lift platoon which flew the hueys or slicks. That week C troop was working a really hot area and had taken a lot of ground fire resulting in the loss of one of our scout helicopters, the loach or LOH. I was a member of the scout platoon. The gunner on the lost aircraft was a friend of Davids so David came to me and asked if he could come along the next day to look for the crew, which of course was okay with me. Besides, he was going home soon and had never gone out on a scout flight the whole time he was there and really wanted to do that. So the next day we went out with David as observer in the left seat next to Barney, the pilot, and me in back as the gunner. We found the lost aircraft, which was completely destroyed, and down in the jungle in an area of very tall mahogany trees and thick underbrush. as we were hovering almost directly above the wreckage we started taking heavy ground fire almost from directly below us. We really couldn't see anyone in the thick brush but David and I just stared firing in the hopes of just hitting anything. Meanwhile Barney did a fantastic job of getting us out of there. It takes awhile to transition from a very slow speed, and when someone is shooting at you it seems like forever. Of course I don't know just when David was hit but I'm sure it was very early after we started to take fire, and that he died instantly. Once we cleared the immediate area the engine failed and Barney was able land in an open area a short distance away. We were very lucky, there weren't many clearings in that part of the country. After landing, Barney and I lifted David out and waited for a Lift heuy to drop in a ground squad and take us out. We flew from there straight to the hospital in Long Bien, but of course it was to late to do any good. Later, after our helicopter was recovered, we tried to figure out how many hits we had taken. I can't remember now but it was a lot. It was a miracle Barney and I survived. I felt terrible about David though, he was one of best guys I had the honor to work with over there, and there were a lot of good guys.
If you have any thing to add or coments please feel free to do so or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to thank the men from C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the men from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 17th Artillery Regiment for all of their help and support.
And a special thanks to all the brave men and women that served for this great country so we can live in freedom.
DAVID EUGENE BRYANT
YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN