My brother, Harvey Cooley, was assigned to D Co, 4/12, 199th. He was a Combat Medic with this unit.
I was inspired to write this story awhile back because of a Note; because of this story that I wrote, my brother is being included in a book, written by Lisa Lark, called "All They Left Behind".
My name is Bob Cooley, and I would like to share a story about my brother, Harvey Cooley. Harvey met a fellow soldier, David Lawson during basic training at Ft. Polk, LA. in April 1967. In their free time, what little there was, they hung out together. As the weeks went by, they grew very close, almost like brothers, even though they had only known each other a short period of time. As most soldiers would know, basic training went by fast. The friendships formed during the 8 weeks of basic training last forever. However, after basic training, soldiers move on to advanced training. Harvey went to Medic training at Ft Sam Houston, TX and David went to Ft Sill, OK for Field Artillery training. Even though their hometowns were very close since David was from Helena, AR and Harvey was from Memphis, TN, they thought their friendship would end and they would never see each other again.
After advanced training, both young men received orders for a one year tour of duty in Vietnam that was to begin in September. Since they had lost contact with each other, they did not know they were both going to Vietnam.
One day in September, 1967, these men, fresh out of training, were both in Ft Ord, CA awaiting transport to Travis AFB and then on to Vietnam. Unaware they were at the same Army base and as David puts it, they had an unexpected surprise when they literally ran into each other while coming from different directions. They talked very briefly since they both had to report in five minutes. They agreed to meet in West Memphis, AR on May 1, 1970 after they were discharged from the service. Harvey took a moment to write a brief note which he gave to David indicating the date and location they were to meet.
Harvey never made it back home. He was killed in combat on May 6, 1968, while his unit was engaged in a battle with a large Vietcong regiment. Harvey died after saving two fellow soldiers and while attempting to drag another wounded soldier to cover during enemy fire. Harvey was a true hero in every sense of the word. He was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest medal for Heroism. Harvey's brave actions and his death are described in a book titled "Days of Valor", written by Robert Tonsetic.
David did not learn of Harvey's death until the mid 1980s. He wrote a letter to Harvey after he returned home from Vietnam and asked if they could postpone their meeting until a later date. His letter was unanswered.
David felt then that Harvey must not have made it back from Vietnam. He knew Harvey would surely have answered his letter if he had been able to.
While David was searching the Internet for information about Harvey, he found a poem that was written by our sister, Nancy. The poem was dedicated to Harvey and Nancy had posted it on the Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall several years ago. David waited a while before contacting her. He sent an email to Nancy and told her about his friendship with Harvey and about his search for answers. Nancy responded to David's email and sent it to me as well. I immediately sent an email to David and we exchanged cell phone numbers.
David called me recently and we talked about his friendship with Harvey. While on the phone with David, I learned about the note Harvey had written for him regarding their meeting plans. David still had the note and sent me a copy of it.
It is amazing, to say the least, that David was able to track us down. Even more amazing is the fact that he still had Harvey's note after all these years. David told my sister and I, what a joy it was to finally hear from Harvey through us after over forty years.
I would like to think that Harvey is looking down from Heaven and smiling on this occasion. Thank you, David, for keeping Harvey's memory alive and for being his friend. As Nancy wrote in her poem, "Dear Brother, you will always be my hero".
Harvey was born and raised in a small town outside of Fulton, KY. He was only nineteen years old and had a six month old son when he was killed. Harvey would now be a Grandfather of five and a Great Grandfather of one.
He is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery near Fulton, KY alongside our Mother and Father.
David and Harvey were finally able to get together 43 years later. David, along with my wife and I, visited his grave. The moment was solemn and bitter sweet. David will cherish this visit with Harvey forever.
Written in 2010