My brother Larry Smith served proudly in the 1st Cavalry during the Vietnam War... Described as a rowdy bunch, also known as "sky troopers", "killing dogs", "hell for leather", and "First Team". Barry Brady served in Larry's Airmobile unit, also as a Helicopter Crew Chief. Barry was mentioned twice in Larry's letters, one of only two he mentioned by full name...and yet, it took years for me to find him. When I did, he shared precious time with me on Zoom, both of us sporting a Cavalry Stetson. His wife and brother were present that day, and his brother remembered Larry because he and Barry visited him during the War, in his luxury accommodations as a Navy man at port...(i.e., flushing toilets and paved roads). There's a fantastic interview I will share one day. Meanwhile, here's the story of finding him, a bit of a miracle in itself. With a name so common, it wasn't easy. I searched all of the war statistics, army budding finding services, and hounded all of Larry's other buddies for information, and continued to come up short. I didn't know if Barry had survived the war or was still alive and well. How I found him (and every other Army buddy from Larry's unit) brought me CERTAINTY that I was doing the right thing by telling my brother's story. Here's how we finally connected, after 5 years of searching. Online, one COMMENT left at the bottom of the page at the end of one Pilot's typed accounting of Larry's search and rescue mission when he and Barry were lost in the jungle...a guy named Jack Watkins simply wrote something that led me down a path...he said he ran into Barry Brady when they both worked at the Seminole County Sheriff's office and discovered that Barry was the one being rescued in the story and Jack had served in the same area at the same time. I called the Seminole Sheriff's dispatch office no fewer than 12 times over a year period, begging them for more information. One sweet lady remembered Barry, and tried hard to get me a contact number, but was not able. I was sure that Barry was alive, had lived in Florida, and was the guy Jack remembered, and my brother's friend. That's when FACEBOOK came in handy. I found a Barry Brady, Florida, on Facebook, actually several. But he didn't answer my friend requests so I started looking into HIS friends, and THEIR friends, and just tried to find anyone with a semi-public setting and with any recent posts. I left personal messages with a dozen of his friend's friends and finally got one to respond. They contacted Barry, and his wife contacted me. She was as thrilled as I was but quite surprised. Barry WAS alive and ready to talk to me. I shared documents and photos she had never seen. Larry and Barry, sitting in a helicopter. Larry and Barry, goofing off at the hooch (tent) with the other guys, Larry and Barry with the other six Soldiers who got lost in Happy Valley all weekend, surrounded by enemy forces and WAY outnumbered. We laughed together, cried together, and set up a time to meet Barry virtually. It took months to orchestrate since her job was in 'Crisis Management' and you can imagine her crazy schedule in these turbulent times. On the day we finally made it align with all of our schedules, Barry's brother happened to stop by at the right time, and they all listened as I read Larry's letter to them. They remembered the day Larry wrote about. They remembered my sassy brother. They reminisced, and Barry showed me his uniform. Barry told me that Larry was his best friend in Vietnam. He was saddened to hear of his passing, but happy to share memories with me. His wife tells me it was the first time she heard him speak so many details about his experience, and that he really enjoyed the virtual visit. I vowed to meet him in person and bring him a WAR AND PENNIES autographed book as soon as possible. During the Pandemic, I reached out to Barry's wife, and she told me the devastating news of his sudden and unexpected death. She thanked me for finding Barry and sharing the pictures and stories. Our meeting on Zoom was a proud moment he cherished in the final days of his life, and I was honored to have shared those precious moments with him, his beautiful wife, and his shocked brother who dropped in for a moment that morning. The timing of it all orchestrated without my control, came together perfectly as we all needed it to, in the end. Barry, reliving a piece of his personal valor, found peace in that interview. As did I. Rest in perpetual peace, Brady. Thank you for your service. Welcome Home.
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