Forty-five years after dying in Vietnam, Dave Herbert was presented with his long overdue sergeant stripes at the Vietnam Memorial – The Wall – on November 11, 2011, by his platoon members. WATCH THE JOYFUL AND TOUCHING ANNIVERSARY VIDEO, A TRIBUTE TO DAVE AND ALL VETS.
It was the second of July, 1966. The reconnaissance platoon of the 1st Infantry Division, 2/18, faced an overwhelming enemy force in a jungle fog with almost zero visibility. The attack came just before dawn. The ferocious face-to-face battle lasted for hours. The bloodied but not broken men of Recon, out of ammunition but stubborn as all hell, fought off one last desperate push from the North Vietnam hardhat regulars with nothing but tear gas.
Sergeant David Herbert, like the other squad leaders, was the pillar of strength that held his men together. He died in the final minutes. His squad, mostly kids, were stunned, but not weakened.
He was buried without his sergeant stripes—the promotion he was awarded just days before. The records had been lost. His mother wanted to know what happened to his stripes, but no answer came.
Through the years, we all grew old, and like the stripes, forgotten. The forgotten few. But among we few, the memory lived—of how we fought, and how we won, and the promotion of David Herbert and the stripes he never wore.
As the platoon leader, I swore to make it right—to close the circle before all the memories were gone. On Veterans Day, November 11, 2011, that circle was finally complete as I handed the stripes to a mother whose memories will never fade. Dave Herbert’s true rank had been finally acknowledged by the Army. I was joined by a few old soldiers, standing tall for the others, and we left his sergeant stripes at the Wall beneath his name.
With a salute, the forgotten fight was finally ended. Now, we, and a family joined in pride, can walk on, knowing how we fought and how we won and how we will always be together, dead or alive.