Local Vietnam Veteran Finds War Companion After 54 Years | News, Sports, Jobs
Friendships can be precious and strong, even if the time together is brief, as was the case with local Vietnam veteran Harry Uhl and his pal, Ed Morris.
“I searched everywhere, everywhere, for Eddie Morris,” said Uhl, from Randolph. “I looked at VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America) magazine. I went to Veterans Finding Veterans at the Fenton Museum and they couldn’t find it. They told me that he had not died in Vietnam, because I did not know whether he was dead or not. I left before him, so I never knew if he made it out alive.
“From the moment he got off the service, two or three times a year, he was like, ‘I wonder what happened to Eddie Morris. I wonder if he succeeded, “ the 76-year-old’s wife, Cathy Uhl, added.
The Army veteran recalled his boyfriend talking about his father working at Folsom Prison around the time country music star Johnny Cash was writing the song. “Folsom Prison Blues.”
“I remembered that and it made me think he was probably in this area,” Uhl said.
He remembers asking his church member Loretta Adams to look up Morris’s phone number when she visited her son in California, but does not remember that she came back to him.
A few months ago, as Cathy was getting into their all-terrain utility vehicle, while the couple were in their woods doing their annual maple tapping ritual, she noticed a small piece of folded white paper lying on the ground. . When she unfolded the tattered piece of paper, she couldn’t believe her eyes, for it had Eddie Morris’ address and phone number written on it.
“We think he fell out of the glove box,” Said Mrs. Uhl.
They had owned the little one side by side for 23 years and perhaps thought Mrs Adams put the paper inside on one of the many occasions she had attended a special event at their house. After all, the Gator had transported many friends who attended family weddings, church gatherings, and the annual July 4th celebration. They later learned that the writing did not belong to her or any member of her family residing on the West Coast.
Mr. Uhl put the paper in his pocket until he returned to the sugar shack and then placed it in his Bible.
“I tried at all hours of the day and night to reach him by phone”, he said.
Even though his computer skills are very limited, he turned to the computer in the hope of getting up-to-date information on the friend he left behind in 1967 near Phouc Ving, when they were only 21 years old. When he typed the information on the note, another California address popped up. He then wrote four lines stating that he was looking for Edward M. Morris who served in the 1st Infantry in Vietnam with his contact information and mailed it to the address on the computer screen.
While Uhl waited for Randolph to respond, Ed Morris was in Rescue, Calif., 12 miles from Folsom Prison, showing the brief note to his family.
“I was very surprised to receive the letter. I remembered him very, very well. When I showed my family, they said, “Call him! Call him!” said the retired captain of Folsom State Prison. “I told them I was going to write to him but they said, ‘Call him!’
After sending Uhl a note, Morris waited six days to make the call. In the note, he expressed how happy he was that his former army sidekick had found his address and that it was his biggest surprise in the past 54 years. He sent his phone number and said he couldn’t wait to hear from her.
The call came on Uhl’s cell phone one evening while he was boiling sap in the sugar shack and before he received the letter from California.
“The phone rang and the voice said ‘Is this Harry Uhl? It’s Ed Morris. I could have fallen from my chair. I couldn’t believe it ” said the retired businessman.
They spoke briefly, but spoke for 40 minutes the next day. They learned that they both had three daughters and a son – and many grandchildren.
“We picked up where we left off 54 years ago”, said former dealership owner Zahm and Matson John Deere. “Eddie always called me Uhl. He always had a smile on his face and I never knew what he was doing. We got along better than our brothers.
“One of the first times Harry and I went out on a mission, they told us to dig. Harry dug a fox hole about 6 to 8 feet deep. Then he dug in the wall. It was like a triple fox hole, “ the Californian joked. “If we had been hit hard, he certainly would have been safe.”
Stories of Mike the Platoon Monkey have been told. Some of the men gave him beer and cigarettes.
“He would smoke cigarettes and then eat them. The guys would give him beer and he would get drunk and fall out of his stomach. Uhl said. “He had his own little personality.
He then told a story about Eddie that took place on Christmas Eve in 1966.
“He said we would probably never spend another Christmas Eve together.”
According to Uhl, the young Californian stole a can of “The most acidic orange juice you can imagine” from the refectory and combined it with vodka he had obtained from a non-commissioned officer.
“I lay down on my bunk after drinking that 12 ounce glass and the boy who kicked it.
From the West Coast, Morris told his side of the story.
“One of our buddies made moonshine and I was asked to go into the kitchen to find something to mix. It was a bit late at night. I found orange juice. We were pretty sick the next day.
Light moments were needed at this difficult time in the lives of young men. Serious stories have also been told. Dispersing his men after being instructed to do so by the platoon sergeant, Uhl stepped back.
“I went out of sight. I fell thirty feet into a well, a punji pit. I floated because there was water in it. I took off my backpack. All of my guys tied their rifle slings together and pulled me out.
Before that, as his team scanned the jungle for the North Vietnamese, they found 10 of these pits. Each had several razor sharp bamboo stakes that had been saturated with human excrement.
“If you fell on it, you would die” said the grateful veteran.
He was once bitten by a rat, which led to him being evacuated by plane.
“I could have gotten a Purple Heart for that, but I refused because I didn’t want to explain how I got it,” he said with a smile.
Uhl was awarded a Bronze Star for outstanding meritorious service in ground operations against a hostile force.
Both soldiers were drafted in 1965 and were promoted to Sgt E-5 on the same day. Uhl started out as an ammunition carrier for the 81mm mortar and eventually made his way to the gunner and then the squad leader. Morris was part of the Fire Direction Center (FDC).
“He was the one who told you how to set up the gun to put the shell where it needed to go and he was good. He was the best of the best, “ declares his friend.
Uhl sent half a gallon of maple syrup to California, and Morris sends Uhl some of his homemade jerky. They had planned to reunite this summer until Debra, Morris’s wife of 49 years, suffered from pneumonia, but still hope to meet as soon as possible.
“That’s good! It gives me a really good feeling. He was closer to a brother than I have ever been. Morris said. “He was a very strong young man. His arms were like Popeye’s, very strong. That’s why nobody bothered Harry or me when I was with him.
So who wrote the note?
“After hearing that Ed had moved to the new address in 1968, I thought he must have been the author of the note. Sure enough, when I sent him a photo, he verified that it was his handwriting.
After receiving his friend’s letter, Morris found among his military papers a matching piece of paper on which Uhl had written his address. The two young men had forgotten that they had exchanged addresses before going their separate ways. The Uhls are stumped as to where the Note had been over the years and more, how it found its way into the Gator 54 years later.
“It was orchestrated by God”, Uhl said.
Even though they only spent six months together, a special friendship with a 21-year-old who lives in peril 8,500 miles from his home has created a lifelong bond.