TWO BROTHERS UNITED
After 32 years two Vietnam veterans, Emilio (Gabby) Luna and Charles Rushing, Jr. of Northport AL, were reunited Friday Mar. 22nd 2002 in Bay City TX
Gabby arrived in Vietnam in June1969. Rushing nicknamed “Alabama” (most of the guys never knew the others first name) arrived in Vietnam in September of 1969. They were in the 1st Air Calvary Division, 2/8 Echo Company, Mortars. Rushing and about 12other Troopers were transported by helicopter to Firebase or Landing Zone (LZ)Ike to replace the wounded or dead. LZ Ike was attacked the night before Rushing arrived, with heavy mortar fire and sappers. (Suicide soldiers of the North Vietnamese army (NVA) with explosives strapped to their persons or carrying explosives in a bag.) Gabby received a head wound and was evacuated along with others to the rear area for treatment. As new Troops they were called cherries or fresh meat. Rushing did not meet Gabby for 8 day’s. The 1stAir Cav. 2/8 moved off LZ Ike a week after Gabby was wounded. Echo Company’s Mortars and Heavy weapons were flown by helicopter to a bridge on the Song Be River. The mission was to guard the bridge, send out patrols and set up night ambushes. The two saw each other for the first time at the Bridge. “Gabby saw me and I guess he felt someone needed to look after me because I weighed only110 pounds at that time. He had taken me under his wings and called me Little Brother. He was determined to see me through the war at least until he returned to the world in June of 1970.” But through a twist of fate, Rushing was the one that helped save Gabby’s life. “The next six months were filled with constant moving from LZ to LZ. The weather was always a problem. It was either hot and dusty or raining. Most Firebases were named; LZ Mary, LZ Carolyn, LZ Becky, LZ Gloria, LZ Illingworth but many had no names. Theses places were set-up for a week to10 days, called jump LZ’s. We were always on the move, always very close to the Cambodia border.” In December of 1969 at LZ Mary, Rushing was infected with malaria (both strains). HE was sick three weeks with chills and high fever. A Sergeant First Class was in charge of sick call and would not let the Medic send him to the rear for test and treatment. Gabby made a move that probably saved his life. “I did not know this for 25 years. I was airlifted to the rear area and received medical treatment This was six more weeks of sickness.”
“March of 1970 The1st CAV. 2/8 mover to Firebase St. Barbara, in the shadow of the Black Virgin Mountain. Gabby had always been next to me along with a lot of other great guys to whom I grew close to. About nine of these guys and myself have been meeting once a year in different location for seven years.” LZ St. Barbara was an Old French Base built in the 1950s when France occupied Vietnam. IT set in a prime location, supporting troops and firebases on the Cambodian border and also troops at the bottom and top of the Black Virgin Mountain. The NVA owned the middle of the mountain. Because the Base had been there for so long, the French army and the U.S. Army had placed thousands of mines around the outer perimeter for protection. “This would be the reason for my 32-year search for my friend Gabby.” Gabby had 90days left in country (SHORT) the name given to guys with 100 days or less. This was the time that he felt really good about making it home alive. He was getting out of the field, going on R & R to Australia for two weeks. When he returned he was to report for a rear job and kickback and enjoy his last three months of the war. The day was March 26th, 1970 a day the two men will never forget. Gabby had already packed all of the belongings in his life in 1rucksack with a pair of flip-flops tied to the top. He had bought two pair that morning and gave Rushing one and he kept the other pair. As fate would have it THE Captain would not let Gabby on the last helicopter leaving for the rear area that afternoon. “I already said my goodbyes and he had given me a piece of his mind on how to stay alive for the next six months.” Rushing said. That was the morning of the 26th.
That same afternoon around 2 p.m. a group of guys including Rushing were stringing Constantine wire in an area outside the perimeter. This area was supposed to be cleared of mines. They were told which area was clear and which area was not. They had been out about three hours and out of the blue there stood Gabby. “ He was there to relieve me and I asked why? (WHY? was my favorite word in THE NAM.) He said THE Captain would not let him leave. I asked WHY? That was the wrong word at the wrong time.”
Gabby was an E-5Sergeant that was (SHORT) mad and did not want to be outside the perimeter. He said the captain would let him leave on the 27th A.M. “In a very nice (NAM)Voice he told me TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HIS FACE. I thought it was bull shit that he was out there but I knew it would do-no good to argue with him. I walked the path that was cleared of mines back to the Perimeter. When I reached the berm (a dirt wall around the perimeter of the LZ about seven feet high) I heard an explosion, turned and saw Gabby lying on his back covered in dirt and dust. He was about 100 yards away from me.” Rushing risked his own life by running through a field that was not cleared of mines. “It was the shortest distance to Gabby. I was not thinking, I heard no sounds, saw no sky, no people, nothing. I remember him trying to push himself up with his arms behind his back. I knew at that moment, time was our enemy. I had to reach him as quick as possible. Reason was not working in my mind. I believe that shock or fear or LOVE of a BROTHER had taken over. The other guys were frozen in time, not knowing if the area they were in was clear of mines. When I reached Gabby all I could do was hold him, not knowing what to do or say. I had no medicine, I had nothing. I was telling him that everything would be OK, just hold on. He then asks me to straighten his legs. I didn’t know what to say, I was a 20 year old kid, just married, in a GOD FORSAKEN land that I NEVER liked in the first place. What do you say? I held him close and told him that his Legs were gone. He then said WHY ME? “Alabama” WHY ME? I had no Words, but through the tears, blood and dirt, I told him that GOD HAD A PLAN FOR HIM! but I didn’t know why. I could not understand why this happened to him and not me. I had been walking in the area for over three hours and made it through the Open field. I don’t remember how long it was before the Helicopter arrived. It couldn’t touch down in fear of landing on a mine. It was about three feet from the ground and hovering above us. The Medic dropped on top of us, in fear of mines around this area. During this time Gabby never lost consciousness. The Medic opened his bag handed Me a rubber hose and told me to tie it around Gabby’s right leg to stop the Bleeding. He knew the leg was completely off so it was easier for me to work with. He was working on the left leg because it was somewhat hanging on. He then gave me a Handful of needles and said start sticking him. I said where? He said anywhere you see skin. We each had about 4 needles and soon the morphine started to work. Gabby stabilized and the bleeding slowed. The Helicopter had moved away from this area for its own protection, but was motioned to return. It again hovered about three feet above us making it easer to lift Gabby inside. The Medic and I placed the left leg on Gabby’s chest and lifted him up to the door gunners inside the chopper. The Medic was next in the chopper. I picked Gabby’s right leg up and handed it to the Medic. My last words to Gabby that afternoon were that I loved him, and to hang-on, YOU’LL be OK and back soon. Knowing part of this was not true; I MAY NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN. He Also knew that he wasn’t coming back to THE NAM! I also knew he would never Walk again, at least not on his own Legs. Even worse I wasn’t sure he would livelong enough to reach Saigon. The Medic then reached out for me to get in, but I refused.He asks my name. I said “Alabama“ no your world name. I told him, and asked WHY? I need to know whom I’m writing up for The Silver Star. I said “JUST KEEP HIMALIVE.” I guess it got lost in the mail. (I NOW HAVE Gabby.) Over the years I wish I had flown with him, but at that moment I didn’t want to see him die. Neither He nor myself knows the Medic’s name. I consider that moment in time my 15 minutes of HELL! That day I walked away unhurt but changed For life. Over the years I have often questioned myself just how close all of us came that day of stepping on the wrong piece of ground? Maybe one inch or two inches, we will never know. I do know one thing, Gabby would never wear his pair of FLIP-FLOPS!”
After the accident Gabby flew to Saigon and was treated there for five days. Then he spent 28 daysin Japan, unconscious all that time. When he awoke he asked the doctor where he was and how long had he been there? “You are in Japan and badly hurt, this is you 20th day. He also said they had lost him three times. Gabby said that the last thing he remembered was the hospital in Saigon, the night of March 26th1970. “He was too tough and mean to die.” Rushing said. After returning to the United States he went through eight months of rehabilitation. He and his buddies in rehab were running the nurses crazy. THE HOSPITALS staff could not keep Gabby and his five friends from sneaking out. Legs or no legs this group of WAR VETS. were out and FREE looking for (party time USA)the big city of HOUSTON. He returned home, married had two sons, now 30 and 27. Rushing and his wife Robin have no children, but they do now. Rushing began looking for Gabby about12 years ago. “Until then, I was too scared of what I may or may not find.” The search was especially hard, as Rushing never knew Gabby’s first name because he went by his nickname from childhood. Ironically, as Rushing was looking forGABBY, he was looking for Rushing by putting advertisements in war magazines, but to no avail. Rushing finally found Gabby’s phone number through a friend that had served with him, Lieut. Mike Russell, but had no idea how he found the number. “When I called GABBY almost 18 months ago I was so nervous, I could hardly pick the phone up. That nervousness is the reason I waited three months to call. When I finally heard his voice my emotions went wild, the tears and joy were on both ends of the line. We talked about family and friends and how our lives had changed over the past 30something years. Gabby asks me what I looked like? I was still 5’7,weighing in at170-lb., my hair was white, a big change from THE NAM. He said he was 175-lb.dark hair and stood 4’6. At that moment I KNEW his life was good.” When the two saw each other for the first time, in 32 years (almost to the day) on Friday afternoon, March the 22nd 2002, they both hugged and cried with JOY in their hearts. They said it was if they had just seen each other yesterday. The event started with a fish fry at RAM’S a local establishment. Gabby did all the cooking, crab cakes, all different fish, and hushpuppies. After closing THE RAM a group of friends and family went to THE OASIS club. “Gabby is the most amazing person I know. His character, his out look on life is unbelievable. I’m amazed at the way he works his wheelchair and drives his SUV. He fishes on his boat, or off the sandy beaches in the water, in his wheelchair! The VA people do not understand why his chairs are rusty and corroded. I heard he was fishing, in the water, off the beach, when he hooked something big. It pulled him out of his chair through the water to the second sandbar before he could cut the line. I don’t believe anything can stop him.” He coached little league baseball and football for 16 years as his children were growing up. He is a service to his community and a landmark in Bay City. “Gabby has in one weekend helped me with the agony and guilt that I felt over the years. He is an inspiration to my life, and living proof of a true survivor!” “This weekend has been an emotional roller coaster. I cannot explain it but I can feel it. I feel as if a missing part of my life has been filled,” Gabby said.
“I’m happy to be in Bay City—-everyone has been so hospitable—-and to be with Gabby again, ”Rushing said. “Gabby’s brother had a cookout at his home, Sunday afternoon. I met his two brothers and one sister, his mother, and more family and friends than I could count. The ONE moment I will never forget is when I met his mother, Mrs. Luna. She hugged me, cried and thanked me for helping her Son. I’m thankful that you both are home together again. With tears in my eyes I hugged her tightly. Gabby’s family has veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and The Gulf War. That’s a lot of WARRIORS in one family.” Rushing and his wife Robin were married during his tour in Vietnam. She says that Gabby has been apart of her life over the past 32 years because of the story she has heard. “When Charles and the other guys started meeting seven years ago, Gabby was one of the main topics of conversation. He is a wonderful man. I have love for him, his two sons, his family and friends. I’ve grown close to them all
in a short time.(Especially Roland Zarate who I Nicknamed Matthew.” ) This trip is one of the high points of my husbands LIFE.” A trip for Gabby, his sons and friends to Alabama has already been planned and the two vow to stay in touch. “I have found my lost “LITTLE BROTHER.” He has been in my heart all these years, and he will never lose one another again,” Gabby said.
Posted by Randall at 9/2/2009 12:39
Gabby Luna passed away December 1, 2009
Charles Rushing was laid to rest August 28, 2016