Larry Smith was lost in enemy territory with 7 other soldiers. Deep in the "Happy Valley" jungle, where nobody was happy, the boys were surrounded by Viet Cong guerrillas. They lost all radio signals. It's a miracle, what happened on that day, and one man I found, alive and well, remembers it like it was yesterday.
His name is Tom Stroud. He was Larry's hero, but Larry never met him.
Tom's words to me were further proof that this book was not only right to publish, but necessary to publish. He said:
I look forward to following this book.
You are doing all of us "Nam" veterans a great service.
Our story has never really been told at the individual "gut" level.
This is our story, the way it really was.
God bless you for giving voice to us.
This is our story! I couldn't be more proud to help share their story.
Captain Tom Stroud served as a Pilot for the Air Force during the height of the Vietnam War, flew in active combat all year long in his Skyraider, and served this country with incredible skill and heart. F
inding him was another miracle in this story! Tom shared his incredible recollection with me and brought this epic part of my brother's story to life.
Collaboration between different military branches was not a common occurrence in the war, but in this rescue, the Air Force worked closely with the Army to make an almost impossible mission possible.
Tom admitted that out of the hundreds of missions he led in 1968, most were not rescues, but this one - Larry's 24+ hours in the jungle of Happy Valley - was his first and MOST successful of all rescues.
You will have to wait for the book, to see just how he pulled it off!
Happy Valley represents the backdrop for the climax of this story and will be the most explosive action scene in the motion picture version that I've always imagined, and Tom will be the featured act everyone talks about...but nobody got to meet. This is a part of his story, I'm so proud to share.
I remain thankful for the devotion to the motto of Tom Stroud's Air Commando Unit:
Anything. Any place. Any time.