Written by Jill Nossa Saturday, 07 September 2013 00:00
Vietnam veteran Sam Esposito was reunited with his Army buddies and received an inconceivably gracious welcome while attending their Company C/22 Reunion in Oklahoma this past June, an experience Sam says he owes, in part, to coverage he received in the Record Pilot.
In 2009 Sam was honored as a decorated Vietnam Vet in Glen Cove’s Memorial Day Parade and Ceremonies. The Record Pilot had pre- and post-parade coverage which included an in-depth story, written by his wife Diane, detailing Sam’s experiences serving in Vietnam in 1967-68. The story stated that Sam was attached to Company C, 1st
Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 4th Division, along with a mention of an infamous battle on Chu Moor Hill.
One of the men who served with Company C, John Bobb, of Arizona, turned up the article in a Google search of “Chu Moor Hill.” He then called the man who had begun organizing the reunions in 2003, Bud Roach, a Texas resident, so that he could research further.
“To Sam’s surprise, 42 years later, he received a phone call from Bud asking him if he was the person in the article,” says Diane. “He proceeded to tell Sam that he served with him and was a medic who probably treated him when he was wounded. The Co. C grapevine began ringing phones, resulting in several other calls from other Vietnam buddies.”
The Espositos decided to attend next reunion, in Branson, Missouri in 2010, despite some apprehensions. They found the reuniting, hugging and storytelling very enjoyable but bittersweet for Sam, as it dredged up memories that he had suppressed for years, according to Diane.
She says he did not remember any of the other alumni, but recognized some faces from pictures they all took with them from Vietnam. He kept in touch with a handful after the reunion, but the couple did not go for the next two years. Then, this year, he was persuaded to attend the reunion in Tulsa, OK.
That’s when they got a very special uplifting “Welcome Home” on the infamous Route 66.
A total of 31 vets, some with their wives and some without, were traveling in their cars, motorcade style, into Claremore, OK for a day of sightseeing.
“To our surprise we were met on Route 66 and escorted into town by members of the Claremore Police Department and the Rogers County Sheriff’s department, blocking off every side road along the route with flashing lights,” says Diane.
She says they were then greeted by a crowd of very appreciative flag-wavers all along the way.
“When all the vets got out of their cars, there was not a dry eye to be had,” ” says Diane, who adds that they were hugged, kissed, hand shaken and thanked profusely. “It was an extremely emotional, touching display of ‘Welcome Home’ that most said they ‘waited for 42 years for this moment.’”
“It was the most tear-jerking, heart-wrenching welcome that any of us ever experienced,” Sam says. “It was wonderful to feel remembered and appreciated after all these years.”
At the museum were the mayor, Mickey Perry, and other dignitaries to honor the vets.
“That evening there seemed to be an uplift in everyone’s aura. The whole night was abuzz about the unbelievable welcome given to them in Claremore,” says Diane. “All the vets seemed to be in a better place, including Sam.”
Sam says that the memorable welcome from Claremore helped in rekindling of friendship and bonding with his “old” army buddies. He is now looking forward to attending most future reunions,. “They are a great, caring and compassionate bunch of guys, always willing to help you out,” says Sam. “Thank you City of Glen Cove and Record Pilot for opening up an “old” new world of Vietnam buddies.”