A 'soldier's reporter' in Vietnam still emotional, on new mission to mark 50th anniversary of war

SEATTLE -- As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, former UPI war correspondent Joe Galloway -- the "soldier's reporter" -- is interviewing Vietnam vets about their stories for a permanent record in the Library of Congress.

"These are, for me, the most honorable people I know," Galloway said of the Vietnam veterans in an interview Monday on Q13 FOX News. "The most loyal friends that I have in my life I earned on the battlefield."

Talking about the Vietnam War and the soldiers who fought in it is emotional for Galloway.

"I can't let their experiences just go, that's not in me."

So, he added, his mission is to let them tell their stories on video that will endure for generations.

Galloway was a front-line war correspondent for United Press International and was at the first major battle between U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese army in November 1965 in the Ia Drang Valley.

It was a fierce four-day battle in which both sides suffered heavy casualties.

But one of the heroes of that battle was Bruce Crandall, of Olympia, a helicopter pilot who repeatedly flew through enemy fire in Ia Drang to lift the wounded off the battlefield and get them to surgical units.

Galloway took photos during the battle of Ia Drang. He later co-authored a book titled, "We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young' about the heroes on that battlefield.  In 2002, the story became a movie, "We Were Soldiers," starring Mel Gibson.

"We all left with a certain amount of damage," Galloway said. "Nobody left that place the same man he was when he arrived. You can't."

To mark the 50 years since the start of American combat in the Vietnam War, there's a national initiative to thank veterans for their service. Galloway is once again telling soldiers' stories.

"In their own words, so that we'll have a record that will last a hundred years or more," he said.

"I hope this will be a body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about," Galloway said.

Moreover, Galloway hopes to make right the less-than-welcome home many veterans of that era received with a simple message.

"Welcome home. Thank you for your service. God bless you."

Q13 FOX News wanted to partner in marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Over the next few days, we will assist in as many as 15 interviews with veterans in the greater Seattle area. They have incredible stories to tell -- and we are honored to share them with you.

And we'll be doing that in the days to come.