RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A Rensselaer County Vietnam Veteran honors his fallen comrades every day with a life well lived and an unyielding passion for keeping their memory alive.
As Edward Breedlove flipped through photos and instruction manuals of years gone by, it wasn’t easy to get him to talk about himself. He was quick to explain the intricacies of a mission or each person in a photograph from a recent reunion.
More than 50 years after his time in the Vietnam War, he’s now found solace in talking about his fallen brothers and sharing their stories.
“It’s helpful for me to be as accurate as I can. To a lot of people, it’s very important to tell the truth of what happened,” Breedlove said.
Breedlove joined the army in 1969 at just 18 years old and was shipped out to a region outside of Saigon shortly after boot camp and some additional mechanics training. He said he’ll never forget the dry air and heat he faced on his first day in Vietnam.
“Being young, being naive, I didn’t know what I was in for,” Breedlove said. “Just thought I was fighting a war, supposedly we were stopping communism.”
Unlike Breedlove, who enlisted, most of his comrades were drafted and didn’t want to be in uniform. The combat engineer outfit consisted of about 120 men: Field operators, cooks, mechanics, everything that makes a company run. Their sole mission was to clear the jungle with bulldozers.
“See that road? We made it more secure, so convoys could ride down the road without getting attacked,” Breedlove said as he pointed to a photo of a dirt path surrounded by greenery.
Too many times, he said the enemy came at night, waiting for them in the brush and killing off his brothers in arms. The horrors of war came out as a detailed list of his fallen friends, always taking care to be accurate.
But Breedlove was haunted by those incidents long after he came home from Vietnam.
“Your brain is changed forever, and the way that your mind processes information isn’t like people who were never traumatized,” Breedlove said.
When Ed came back, he was hospitalized at the VA and wrongly diagnosed with Acute Schizophrenia when in actuality, he found out years later that he had PTSD.
After 20 years of not speaking a word about Vietnam, Breedlove found that healing was possible through therapy and remembrance of those he held dear during wartime.
“Like Franny Bond. He was killed. He got shot in the arm the year before, then volunteered and went back and then lost his life. I went to see his father in Leominster, Mass,” Breedlove said. “Barry Kent Weaver; I talk to his mom and sisters, and they call me often.”
Names like that flowed from his mouth with ease, and each one held a special memory and connection. Breedlove honored them by talking about them at reunions, visiting their family members, and even traveling to their gravestones places across the country.
When asked why he felt it was important to keep their memories alive, Breedlove quickly answered.
“I survived the war; I lucked out. I came home in one piece. A lot of guys didn’t come home,” Breedlove said. “I don’t know if there is a hereafter or not, but I like to think that if there is, they’re looking down on me and beside me. And I’m trying to live a good life because they got jipped out of having a good life,” Breedlove said. “So, to me, it’s very important because they were my buddies.”