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Old 11-11-2010, 05:23 AM
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Default Three Rialto vets still standing together

Three Rialto vets still standing together

Michel Nolan, Staff Writer

11/10/2010

Three Eisenhower High School buddies who'd never even heard of Vietnam eventually found themselves on the same troop carrier bound for the war zone in 1966.

Mike Prescott, Larry Lewis and Steve Hadley are lifelong friends and part of Eisenhower's Class of 1964. They were drafted on the same day, served in the same battalion and fought in the same blood-soaked rice paddies of the Mekong Delta.

And of the five Eisenhower grads drafted that day, three returned.

They served in different companies, but agreed it was "pretty rare for three from the same hometown to serve in the same battalion."

The three mud-eating grunts endured misery in the form of fire ants, blood-sucking leeches and mosquitoes. There were also the snakes, aggressive water buffalo, jungle rot and ringworm.

"We were with the Mobile Riverine Force and the elements alone were as bad as fighting the enemy," Lewis said. "We had a platoon disabled because of bumblebees. A guy hit a bees nest and everyone got stung so many times they had to be hospitalized," he recalled.

"Your feet were always an issue. You were always in water," Prescott said. "It got to a point where they had to cut our boots off. Our feet were yellow and blue."

The three Rialto teens, drafted May 10, 1966 (a Tuesday), returned home in 1968 and worked together at Rialto Beef Co.

More than four decades later, in fact, they still get together to reminisce, swap stories, catch up on families.

The veterans gathered for breakfast one autumn morning in Crestline, where Lewis lives.

"We were just kids, had only heard of Indochina," Lewis said.

"We trained nine months in Kansas - specifically as a division. They had just re-activated the Army's 9th Infantry Division," recalled Hadley, who served with E Company, Third Battalion/47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.

All three denied they were heroes.

"I don't want to hear the word `hero' to describe me, but I'm a patriot to the bone," said Hadley, who received two Purple Hearts.

Hadley, who lives in Highland with Patty, his wife of 42 years, still works for Crest Chevrolet in San Bernardino.

He prizes his Combat Infantry Badge above the others.

"We were in a banana grove where we ambushed the enemy and stayed there all night. When we crossed over a board that covered an irrigation canal, someone threw a white phosperous grenade in the middle of us. I got burned," Hadley said.

Prescott, a combat medic, says he was a scared kid who worked on lots of people in "horrendous condition," but "always went forward to help the guys."

"I worked on a guy with his eye hanging down on his chin - I know I saved him. I worked on guys shot in the chest, in the head, in the leg."

A Rialto resident, Prescott served with C Company, Third Battalion/47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division. Proudest of his Combat Medic Badge, he is retired with two daughters and five grandchildren.

Lewis, awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for Valor, remembers that the soldier shot with him bled to death.

"They sewed me up with wire stitches that kept ripping out," Lewis said. "I tell ya, going through the surgeries and the wire stitches ripping were worse than getting shot."

Lewis, who served as a rifleman/mortar man with A Company, Third Battalion/47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, is retired with one daughter and two grandchildren.

"We saw the worst they had to offer - from the first day to the last day," Hadley said. "But we still get together and I fly the flag every day."
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Old 11-11-2010, 06:59 AM
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God Bless you Soldiers! Thank you for your service.
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