Remembering Tragedy, Friendship

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John Lawson and Ananius McBride hadn't seen each other since their platoon was ambushed by the Viet Cong on April 11, 1971. It was Easter Sunday. They reunited recently in Forest, Miss.

"The radio man got a call that we got a chopper inbound," said Lawson.

The chopper was carrying a chaplain who was coming in to see the troops when the platoon came under fire by the enemy.

"The chopper came in for a landing and when it did it was hit by an RPG and immediately exploded and dropped. Everything on the chopper was killed except one of the door gunners. He managed to get off," said Lawson.

Only seven men from the first platoon walked away under their own power that day. Everyone else was either killed or wounded.

Lawson was not seriously injured during the ambush. He was grazed across the chest by shrapnel. But McBride was shot through the left leg by rounds set off from the flaming wreckage of the chopper. His right leg was injured from hand grenade from a Vietnamese soldier and he caught some shrapnel in his back.

And in a strange twist of fate, McBride said he owes his life to an act of racism by a lieutenant.

"I had been up there about three months and I wanted to go on R and R and he wouldn't let me go. I had rank, seniority and everything. He was prejudiced, but he saved my life. The dude who was supposed to go on R and R, he got blown up," said McBride.

The two soldiers had not seen each other since that day until now, but had often thought of each other and the day of the attack.