'We Were Soldiers' veterans in Augusta for reunion

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AUGUSTA, Ga.--Some Vietnam veterans are having a reunion this weekend in Augusta, but this isn't just your average group of vets. The 1st battalion 7th cavalry served in Vietnam, and their real life battles inspired the book and movie "We Were Soldiers."

"We Were Soldiers" tells the story of warriors dropped by helicopter into the La Drang Valley of Vietnam. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.

Don Campbell served as a sniper for the 7th cavalry in Vietnam. He says, "It was like getting up to bat in a softball game. Everyone's patting me on the back and telling me to take him out, but it's a very emotional thing when you take all somebody else has to give. You never forget it."

Ray Tanner also served in the battle of La Drang. He says, "The first formation we had after we pulled out and looked down the line at our ranks, and see so many empty spots. That was sad, I mean everybody was hurting."

It's been called the "the battle that changed the war in Vietnam," one of its bloodiest events, and it certainly left its mark. The soldiers have survived a lot, but many of them are still fighting the toughest battle of all with PTSD.

"It's been a long hard walk back home because all of us have severe PTSD," Campbell says.

But, back then, PTSD was just called 'shell shock,' and it was all but brushed under the rug.

"They finally came up with a name for it, and they finally found out it was real," he explains.

But, reunions with close friends who survived the same experiences give the soldiers a chance to remember and a chance to heal. Friday, News 12 planned a special surprise for them.

A Chinook chopper, the same helicopter the 7th cavalry used back in Vietnam, happened to be making a stop at Daniel Field Friday during a test flight. We arranged an up close look for our visiting heroes.

Tanner says, "This brings back memories. We spent half of our life for a year riding these things."

It's a small memory from Augusta to take with them until the next time they can be together.

Next year will mark the 50 year anniversary since the battle of La Drang, so they're planning a big reunion bash in Charleston, where they shipped out for Vietnam all those years ago.

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