A Father Lost

Two sisters lost their father in Vietnam in 1968. They were very young and never really knew their father. Crystal Lawrence Hood and Deborah Lawrence share with us their stories about their father Sgt. Gregory P. Lawrence, 37th AARS. 

Crystal’s words about her dad: 

On Oct. 5, 1968, the JG 10 was called out on a rescue mission. A SOG group was pinned in and needed to be pulled out. The JG10 was the second helicopter to be called out. The four man crew, with no regards to their own safety, approached the marked spot and as they did they took on heavy fire and was hit with a mortar that went through the floor and then through the top of the chopper hitting the papilla. They had to fly off unable to complete their rescue. As the JG10 went over a mountain they crashed. The copilot, Albert Wester, and the door gunner were both killed. The door gunner, Stg. Gregory P. Lawrenceis my dad. I was 3 years old. This is just one of the stories I have been told about that day. However, the ending is always the same. My dad was listed KIA, later to be listed as KIA/BNR, killed in action/body not recovered. To this day, he remains listed that way. Forty-four years later I still can’t tell this story with out a flood of tears rolling down my face. Somewhere along life’s road you get use to the idea of not having your dad around.  You learn to accept the fact that he is gone. What I can’t get used to is not being able to remember how it felt to see his face, to hear him laugh or to tell me he loves me. I can’t even remember if I told him goodbye or that I loved him too. I am blessed though; I do have a few memories of my own. That is more then my sister who had just turned two, or my bother, who was not yet 4 months, old can say. 

Growing up not know much about what they called a “conflict,” I had always wondered why my dad left me behind to go fight for a country full of people he didn’t even know. Why couldn’t he have just stayed home? It was after all, his choice to go. He had asked three times to go before the Air Force said okay. My dad was 30 when he left. He left two weeks before my brother was born. I was angry, I was hurt and I was confused. Vietnam seemed to be a taboo thing when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I was grown with children of my own that I learned just what it was all about. When it was no longer taboo and the vets, the “survivors” from that “conflict” could talk about it, that is when I knew just why my dad and so many like him were over there fighting. I now know my dad didn’t just leave me behind to fight for a country full of people he didn’t know, he was also fighting for me, for his family and for his country. He was fighting so that we could maintain the freedom that we take for granted every day.

While it seems that our government has not learned a lesson from that historical event called “The Vietnam Conflict,” our nation has. We no longer walk up to our military men and women and spit on them and call them names, instead we reach out and shake their hand and tell them “Thank you for your service to our country.” We come together to support our troops rather we support the war or not. We reach out a helping hand to the families they have had to leave behind. I’d like to think that is my generation doing this. And to the vets of the Vietnam War, I would like to say “Thank You’ for sharing your stories with us. I know for most it is not easy to do. In sharing with us, the children left behind, your stories do give us a since of peace. They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you, I for one, beg to differ.

Deborah’s words about her dad: 

My Dad, My Hero

Oct. 5, 1968 was the day my dad gave his life for our country, for his brother’s in arms, for men he never knew. It was also the day that changed our family’s life. Sgt. Gregory Paul Lawrence was a man of honor, a man everyone stationed with him trusted, a member of the USAF. Growing up I only knew him as the man in the picture on the wall in our home. Now that I am an adult and thanks to today’s technology I have learned so much about that day in1968 and about that man in the picture. I have had the honor of meeting a few of the brave men that were stationed with my dad and through them have gotten to know my dad.

The History Channel had a program on a few years ago call Heroes Under Fire: Ambush in the Jungle. It was about a Special Forces unit that was trapped in Laos and had call for help. It was also about the day we lost our dad. The Jolly Green Giants answered that call as they always did. The 37th ARRS in DaNang sent out two birds for an extraction mission. The enemy had the SF unit pinned down and the only way for those men to get out of the jungle was to fight and stay alive until the helicopters arrived. When the birds arrived the enemy was waiting and somehow knew what colors to use to draw them into an ambush. The first helicopter was so shot up that they had to turn around and head back to base. The second bird, JG10, went in to attempt the rescue. The men on the JG10 fought for their lives and for the lives of the men on the ground. The helicopter was shot down, the pilot and copilot managed to fly the helicopter away from the battle on the ground and crashed over the mountains. The mission had changed at that moment for the Jolly Green Giants; they had to rescue their men along with the SF unit. There were two survivors and two dead on the JG10. The pilot and PJ were still alive and the copilot, Albert Wester, and the FE (the door gunner, my dad) had lost their lives. The SF unit was told to get to the crash site for extraction and that is what they did. The survivors of the crash and the SF unit was picked up by another JG helicopter and taken back to the base in Da Nang.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Jolly Green Giants those men survived and were able to come home. They are the men that we as “Children of the Wall” search for. They are the men that can tell us about our dads. We want to know what our dads were like, how they lived and not just how they died. I know that the war is something that veterans don’t like to talk about and I respect that. When I have met with the men that knew my dad my questions are always about the man not the mission. We have the facts of the mission what we don’t have is knowledge of the day to day life of our dads. What kind of person he was, what he did in his free time, what he talked about, these are the things that helps us to feel closer to that man in the picture, to the name on the Wall. I don’t have any memory of my dad but thanks to the men that have shared their memories of him I know him.

I am now an adult with children and grandchildren. I have taught my children about their granddad they never knew and I will teach my grandchildren about their great granddad. I have taught my children to respect our military and show their appreciation for their sacrifice to our country.

The Joint Task Force had located the crash site many years ago and we are just waiting for them excavate that site. We are waiting for them to find our dad’s remains so he can finally come home to be laid to rest on American soil.