Civil Affairs Memorial Stone Unveiled at Fort Bragg

These Army soldiers entered the most rural parts of Vietnam to provide medical care, rebuild roads and support refugees.

They made up less than 1 percent of the Americans in country (450 of 350,000), but the unique mission of Civil Affairs soldiers left a mighty footprint throughout South Vietnam.

On Friday, 44 veterans traveled from across the country to unveil a memorial stone at Fort Bragg, forever remembering their unique service during Vietnam. The group spent the past two years raising money for its stone at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Memorial Complex.

Harold Youmans, a first lieutenant during Vietnam, helped organize the group of veterans to attend the ceremony.

"A lot of these guys came back when soldiers were being spit on and refused service at bars," he said. "What we've been trying to do is instill in them that they do have the respect from the active Army."

Vietnam was one of the test beds that proved the potential of Civil Affairs. Their mission was pacification, easing support away from the communist insurgency and toward democracy.

At the height of the war in the summer of 1968, Civil Affairs soldiers were providing medical and dental care and supporting refugees.

But Youmans and his soldiers also were exposed to the violence of war.

He said he remembered falling asleep to the gentle rumblings of gunfire. Sometimes it was thunderous roars of B-52 bomber planes from above.

He rattled off his other memories -- malaria pills, monsoons, the smell of the open market -- evoking chuckles from the veterans.

Youmans continued to serve for 28 years, retiring as a colonel in 1994.

"Take care of your soldiers," he said. "Look for them and thank them."

The importance of Civil Affairs continued to grow after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three Civil Affairs units have adopted the lineage of the 2nd, 29th and 41st battalions, which served during Vietnam.

Brig. Gen. John Deedrick Jr., deputy commanding general of 1st Special Forces Command, said remembering the service of Vietnam veterans is an honor and a requirement.

"Current serving Civil Affairs soldiers, they stand upon the foundation, the tradition and the honor that you, veterans of those companies, built during Vietnam," he said.

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