Honoring area veteransPublished 7:04pm Thursday, November 8, 2012
Nelon said 40 years later a sergeant contacted him through the Internet and asked if he still had the chainsaw. The sergeant was calling to tell Nelon about a reunion, which sparked his interested in that chainsaw yet again, encouraging him to get it restored for the reunion, which is held annually.
“I got interested in the chainsaw, put gas in it, pulled it three times and it started,” Nelon said.
Nelon has since been in touch with many that he served with as well as vets who live in the area. Nelon actually served in the same infantry division as Brick Owner Ron Kuwaja and Hunt Hardin, although Nelon and Kuwaja didn’t meet until four or five years ago. Hardin and Nelon went to high school together, but didn’t see each other in Vietnam.
At weekly meetings in Hendersonville, through the Greenville Veteran’s Center, Nelon meets up with local Vietnam veterans Arledge, Larry Gibbs, Steve Shehan, Bobby Arledge, Bobby McAbee, Leon Morgan and others.
Nelon has had his first sergeant, captain and his assistant gunner visit and stay at his farm in recent years through communications and the reunions.
“Your assistant gunner is the closest to you,” Nelon said. “I hadn’t heard from him in 40-something years.”
Nelon found a list and found his assistant gunner’s name, Ken Shadel and called him.
Shadel and his family came and visited Nelon at his farm during the summer of 2011. Nelon said Shadel brought an article from the Stars and Stripes where it talked about a firefight Nelon was involved in where Nelon said they lost three soldiers.
The article listed Nelon’s name as Jerry Nelson and said he was from Asheville, but Nelon knew who the reporter meant.
“One of the most memorable things from Vietnam was when Shadel’s mother sent him a case of Heinz 57,” Nelon said, “and you talk about changing the flavor of the rations.”
Nelon said he also stays in touch with a soldier from Oklahoma who is a Cherokee as well.
“When you’re in that situation you don’t think about where you’re from,” Nelon said. “You’re just brothers. Everything was out to get you over there.”