Two war buddies reunited after 40 years of absence at the Rockingham VFW Tuesday to recall their time together as young men soldiering in Vietnam. They met each other with embraces that felt decades overdue.
“Your face looks the same as it did back then, but you’ve got a little bit more gray hair now,” Richmond County resident Larry Evans said to his friend Charles Faucette, his hand resting on his shoulder and their gazes fixed. “But then again, I reckon I do, too.”
“You look the same, too,” Faucette replied, immediately before the two launched into stories of Vietnam.
Since leaving Vietnam in 1970, Evans has returned there a number of times. He spoke of visiting Cuchi, where he and Faucette served together in the 57th Signal Company.
“Do you know that the tunnels are still there?” Evans asked. “You can go crawl through them.”
“I didn’t want to crawl through those tunnels then, and I don’t want to now,” Faucette joked, an airy laugh escaping from under his gray mustache.
Faucette’s wife Pat explained the two set out from York, PA., last weekend, stopping over to visit her brother in Roanoke Rapids on I-95. They’re trip Tuesday morning was about three hours.
“Oh, he’s been looking forward to this,” Pat explained. “He’s gotten all his pictures out, and has been talking about (Evans). I asked him, ‘Do you think you’ll remember him after all these years?’”
For Evans, there was little doubt he’d remember his best friend from the Army.
“We just connected again over the Internet about last fall,” Evans explained the day before the arrival of his friend. “There’s a site where all the members of the 1st Signal Brigade, which had 57 signal companies in it, can sign up to do roll call, and he was there ... It’s going to be a very emotional day for me.”
After returning from Vietnam, Evans had a more difficult time adjusting to being home, while Faucette more or less settled into a middle class life.
Evans described his divorce from the mother of his two eldest daughters. Her portrait hung over his bed in a photograph from 1969.
“I was kind of rough-and-tumble when I came home, and it didn’t last too long after that. She’s still a good woman to this day.”
“It was very difficult - I don’t even want to tell you how many jobs I went through, wives I went through,” he explained Wednesday. “I’m not proud of that. I just had a lot of problems back then, and I was trying to deal with them by myself, wanting to do things my own way. I’ve found out that I wasn’t the only one. There are a lot of people out there just like me.”
Faucette remained married to Pat, the girl whose portrait hung over his bunk in the pictures from 1969. After serving in Germany in 1971, the two settled first in Maryland, then in their native Pennsylvania. He worked for 30 years for a utility company, and they raised a son.
It is only during the last “six or seven years” Evans has come to terms with the post-traumatic stress he incurred in Vietnam, with the help of Veterans Administration treatment.
The trips to Vietnam have also helped him come to terms with the past, Evans said, and boasted all three of his children have visited the Southeast Asian nation.
“This is the end of a long journey,” he commented to Faucette at one point.
“I think this is really kind of a new beginning for him,” Evans’ companion Eileen Kinsey said. “He’s come a long, long way already, but this really will be a healing time for him. It’s like he said, he thinks of this man as his brother. They’re all that way at the VFW, too. I think it really helps him.”
Faucette was presented with a commemorative book about Cuchi and a North Vietnamese flag upon his arrival at the Rockingham VFW by Ex-Post Commander Yank Gibbon.
The pictures Faucette brought with him held the attention of the two friends for about a half an hour, though, with Evans looking down and up and Faucette explaining where they were taken and back stories.
“I’ve always thought about it, continually,” Evans remarked. “I still dream about it.”
“I don’t dream about it,” Faucette said. “I left it all there.”
“That’s what I should’ve done,” Evans said. “But I couldn’t or didn’t. When I came back to Fort Hood in Texas, I was miserable. I missed y’all so bad. When you live with somebody for a year - they become your family. You’re like brothers, even more than blood.”
“Especially in those circumstances,” Faucette agreed.
“Then, when you come back home, you don’t just forget about them,” Evans said. “You don’t know how many times I wished I was still there. I felt guilty about leaving my brothers. I wished I was back over there many times.”
“This is very interesting,” Faucette said of his trip to see his friends. “It brings back a lot of memories.”