Joe says he was lured to a family gathering for cake and ice cream at the Null farm outside of Woodsboro to celebrate the occasion.
As he was sitting in the yard visiting with family and friends, he heard a noise. Someone asked, “what’s that sound?”
Only Joe knew!
“That’s a Huey helicopter!”
As it came over the tree line, Joe says it flew directly overhead, its sound raising the hair on his neck. The chopper circled and landed in the horse pasture.
“Out jumped several veteran buddies and the owner of the perfectly restored Vietnam War Huey helicopter, Gregg Baiano of Midland and his co-pilot, Rick Freeman of Denton, who did three tours in combat in Vietnam and has over 30,000 hours as a pilot,” Joe said.
The duo flew from Midland with five hours in the air and two stops to refuel to make certain that Joe’s 70th birthday was the best ever.
He says they succeeded.
“Everyone got a ride in that old warbird,” he said. “My soon-to-be 3-year-old grandson Joaquin flew with me, and it’s hard to say who grinned bigger or laughed louder.”
The buddies then sat in the yard, visited and told war stories.
“What a celebration!” Joe said.
His buddies called the trip “Galloway Joy Seven Zero” with the farm noted as Landing LZ Joe.
On Friday, he was in Washington, D.C., speaking to throngs of people at the Vietnam Wall. C-SPAN carried the event live. For those who missed it, Joe was at his best.
The best thing about C-SPAN, they repeat all the important shows, so they’ll surely air it again.
As usual, when Joe speaks, I have a hard time taking notes with all the moisture gathering in my eyes. But his speech made me proud to know him.
He told the story of Capt. B.T. Collins, who introduced himself to Joe after “We Were Soldiers Once... and Young” was published. Collins was a forward observer for Hal Moore, co-author of Joe’s book. Collins lost an arm and a leg and “other parts,” Joe said.
He returned home, earned a law degree and went into politics in California. Collins never misses a chance to speak in favor of our veterans.
“He says no whining, no crying, we’re the fortunate ones – we survived. We owe them an obligation to live each day to its fullest and to make this a better place – no whining, no crying.”
Joe’s well-placed concern is on returning soldiers who have served three, four, five and even six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are returning home to fewer and fewer jobs in an economy “that’s sputtering,” many with post-traumatic stress disorder – and many are not getting the care they were promised.
Born three weeks before Pearl Harbor, Joe’s life has been bound by war.
“I didn’t meet my father until 1945 when I was five years old,” he said.
His father’s and mother’s brothers all served.
“I grew up in houses with frightened women looking out for the telegraph boy,” he said.
Joe’s disdain for politicians who have never served but sign off on war is inspired.
“They should not be allowed to vote for a war if they don’t know what one is firsthand,” he told the crowd. The applause went on and on.
Later that evening, Joe was awarded the Legacy of Service Award, the latest in a growing list of honors – all well deserved.
I’m very proud to know Joe. He is my classmate Mike Galloway’s brother and the husband of my dear old friend Theresa Null Galloway. Both Mike and Theresa have passed away.
But there’s no whining and no crying. Not because of insufficient suffering but of an obligation, that he shares with his friend, Capt. B.T. Collins – to make this a better place.
Happy birthday, Joe, from the bottom of my heart!