Copied from the 1st Cavalry Division’s Saber Magizine Mike Jim Kurtz

Posted on October 11, 2020


But the grand champion organizers of Troop Reunions are C Trp’s Patrick Bieneman and his wife Carol. After hosting three reunions of the Charlie Troop Blues, they stepped up to Troop level and have done five already.
Covid caused their sixth to be postponed from this September to next.

Patrick Bieneman on the Value of Reunions: Patrick asked if he could share
the following lessons learned from the many he and Carol have hosted:
In 2014, (LTC) Billie Williams asked (SFC) Wallace Titchenell (“Titch”) to
ask me and a fellow Trooper if we’d coordinate a reunion in Columbus, GA for the 50th anniversary of C Trp’s going to Vietnam. A medical situation left my counterpart unable to assist, so my wife Carol and I immediately began making preparations. Titch came across with lots of help, as he had helped the Bullwhip Squadron Association hold reunions there. The only guidance Billie Williams gave us was: NO fancy dinners; it was to be more casual and relaxed.

We decided seven things are a must for every reunion: (1) Honor the Troopers who went to Vietnam that year (2) Honor Our Fallen Brothers (3) Honor the Gold Star Family Members in attendance (4) Keep it casual (5) Keep it entertaining (6) Keep the families involved and (7) Welcome any 1st Cavalry Division Trooper who wanted to attend, no matter what unit they served in. Carol and I have organized five C Trp Reunions starting with the one in 2015. Several Troopers and Troopettes come back year after year. In the past three years, we have had an explosion of new Troopers and Troopettes attend. We also have had 5 children, 7 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild take part. Titch’s grandson and his wife and their son (Greg, Carrie and Zach Titchenell) have attended all five. We do make sure our reunions are family events. At each reunion we involve another family by having them read the poem, “It’s Me Who Has Your Back,” and we ask the wives to read the names of Our Fallen Brothers.

The 2019 reunion was in Washington, D.C. We laid two wreaths at the new
Helicopter and Crewmember Memorial. Those who came home from Vietnam placed the first, to honor those killed in action. The Gold Star Families placed the second, to honor the loved ones they lost. LTC Galen Rosher spoke on what this memorial means to him as a pilot and a commander, and Dierdra Jelich-Langworthy, daughter of CW2 John A. Jelich, spoke about what it meant to her. At the conclusion of the ceremony, our niece Lucy Bieneman sang the Tim McGraw song, “If You’re Reading This.” There were a lot of tears. Next, Troopers Ed Gruetzemacher, Jay Hockenbury, Artie Sanders and Don Coshey placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then Troopers Dutch Florez and Stephen DaCosta placed one at the Vietnam Wall as the rest of us placed a Cavalry Yellow
Rose with nametag and a 3×5” American flag below the name of each of our 120 fallen brothers. The children took part as well, carrying the American Flag, the 1-9 Squadron colors, and a C Trp guidon in each ceremony.

I once had a Trooper ask me to help persuade a certain individual to attend
a Troop Reunion. I tried but was not successful. Then one year, that man’s
sister and sister-in-law (both Gold Star Family members) and their children did attend, and had a fantastic time just learning that we really did keep their loved ones alive. In 2018, Mike Tuttle finally attended his first reunion, along with his daughter, Jennifer. He was very reserved at first, and kept his feeling and thoughts close to his chest.

CWO Mike Tuttle was a Scout Pilot in 1968-69. His best friend, CW2 John
Jelich, was also a scout pilot. At the end of their tour, when both went back to the States, Mike introduced John to his sister Tina. They became a couple, and they soon wed. John went back to Vietnam for a second tour and was flying an OH-6 with D Co, 229th Assault Helicopter Bn when he was killed in action on 1 April He left his widow, Tina (age 22) and a baby girl, Dierdra, 11 months old. Tina was also 7 months pregnant with their son, John Anthony (Jake) Jelich II.

Mike had haunting memories and very bad PTSD. At the 2018 reunion, his
crew chief, John Strickland, (the one who wanted him to come) stuck with Mike from beginning to end. So did Peter Guthrie, who’d been the Blue Platoon leader at the time. Mike began to loosen up, and by the end of the reunion he had come out of his shell and was starting to embrace life again.

After Mike attended his second reunion, in 2019, he was full of life and had knew great happiness. Mike Tuttle died on 31 January 2020. We all lost a great brother that day. Mike’s daughter Jennifer and his sister Tina talked to Carol and me about the great change that had come over Mike as a result of those reunions. He was back to the Mike from a long time ago. This is what the reunions are about. Our brotherhood is a stronger bond now even more than when we were fighting side by side. It is stronger because our families are now a part of that bond. Yes, they knew some of what we went through but now they walk side by side with us. The Troopers are not the only ones to their shells at our reunions. I have seen wives make a total transformation from being quiet and shy to joining in on everything we do.

I have also come to realize that the reunions affect not only us grown-ups but the younger generations as well. Don Vinningre’s granddaughter, Kayleigh, has made only one of our reunions but she gave her class a report on the reunion and finished by saying, “I hope I get to go back again this year.” Jack Schwarz’s two grandchildren have also made one reunion, but they were so looking forward to coming back this year. Isaiah wanted to make sure I would be needing his help again. Zachary Titchenell was looking forward to starting our reunion with the Pledge of Allegiance and then participating it the reading of the poem, “It’s Me Who Has Your Back.” I look forward to having these Honorary Charlie Troopers and Little Sisters of Charlie Troop come back year after year.

The first reunion Carol and I organized for the Blues, in 2011, attracted 17 at- tendees. At the 2015 Troop Reunion, we had 175 and since then we’ve averaged between 125 and 180. Thanks to Covid-19, 2020 will be the first and the last I hope where we will be at ZERO.

I decided to add the following because of the history of each Trooper.
Losses Reported Since the Last Issue:

Fredrick M. “Mike” Tuttle of Millican, Texas, passed away January 27, 2020,
at age 72. After graduating from high school, Mike joined the Army, trained as a helicopter pilot, and flew Scouts in C Troop. After leaving the Army, he flew helicopters along the Texas and Louisiana coasts and eventually became a sales representative for Texas Helicopter and Air Logistics, providing helicopters to the oil industry drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Karl G. “Smitty” Smith of Spokane, WA, died March 19, 2019. Karl enlisted
at age 18, went to flight school, and flew Scouts in C Troop, where he reportedly survived being shot down 10 times. Karl died from a rare stomach cancer his doctor advised is typically seen only in patients exposed to Agent Orange.

CW4 (Ret) John D. McWaters of Copperas Cove, TX, passed away 5 April 2020 at age 69. Born in Schwetzingen, Germany, he retained just enough German accent that his friends called him “Fritz.” After high school he joined the Army and served with distinction for 26 years, retiring at Fort Hood as a CW4 in 1995. He was in C Troop in 1970-1971, flying Cobras and Hueys, and later flew fixed-wing aircraft. After retirement, he taught Air Force pilot candidates at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas, for 19 years.

Luther M. Russell of Columbus, GA, died 8 April 2020 at the age of 78 from the effects of Agent Orange. He flew Scouts in C Troop in 1969, call sign Cavalier 14. He later served in C Troop, 16th Cav in 1972 and 18th Corps Aviation Company in 1973.