Ben Currin has invited a bunch of his buddies to the Granite City for a Mayberry midsummer break in a couple of weeks.
Not just any buddies, these are men from the fabled Bravo Company, subject of Eric Poole’s 2015 book, “Company of Heroes,” about the Vietnam War-era infantry company and the 42-year process resulting in a posthumous Medal of Honor for company member Les Sabo.
“We all served together in ’69 and ’70,” said Currin, who began eyeing Mount Airy as a potential home in 2004 and finally made the move in 2016. “We all got out at different times, and it was 36 tears before anybody heard from anybody else. We came home and went on with our lives.”
Currin went on to say that Rick Clanton in Georgia decided to do a webpage on the unit.
“At first one or two popped in, and then a few more. Over the years, he found a lot of us. There were some sad moments. We’d think we found somebody, and then find out they had passed. Our first reunion was in 2003 at the Vietnam Wall in Washington. We’ve had one every year since then. They’ve grown as the number of people has grown.
“We started locating our Killed In Action families. We’ve made their brothers and sisters, mamas and daddies, aunts and uncles, all part of our group. We’re lucky. We made it home. They didn’t.”
Currin said their biggest reunion so far was in 2012 when one of the men who didn’t make it home, Les Sobo, was finally awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.
Sabo had been put forward for the award during the war, but his paperwork got lost in the chaos of conflict. Currin said that through the testimony of the people who were still alive, Sabo’s heroism was substantiated, making the way clear for the medal to be presented to his family by President Barack Obama with about 30 members of the company present at the White House ceremony.
In other years, reunions have been held in the hometowns of various members of the company. The most recent was held in Nebraska in September.
Since Currin moved here in 2016, he’s been bragging to his old Army buddies about life in Mayberry, posting news about Mayberry Days and other events in his adopted hometown.
“So I invited some guys to come to visit,” said Currin. “We’ve got one near Charlotte, one in Winston-Salem, another in Knoxville, Tennessee. I expected five or six might show up. But it’s just about turned into a full-scale reunion. There’s going to be 22 or 23 of us here, coming from New York, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee and Florida.” He reels off the guests’ home states.
“It says a lot about this town that almost 50 years later, a group of people are looking forward to dropping what they’re doing in the middle of the summer and coming to Mount Airy.”
Currin said his friends are looking forward to seeing the town and doing all the Mayberry stuff.
“I’ve been bragging a little bit,” he confesses, adding that he came to Mayberry Days for the first time in 2004. “I haven’t missed a single one since. Then I started sneaking up here in the middle of the week, on a Tuesday or Wednesday. (Currin was making his home in the Raleigh/Durham area.) I wanted to see what it was like on a normal day. I made friends with a lot of merchants uptown. It almost felt like I lived here before I moved here.
“If I was living where I was before, I wouldn’t be inviting these people. Mount Airy is the kind of town that attracts people who want to come and refresh their minds. Live like the people in Mayberry did. They’re all looking forward to that.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if one or two of them likes it enough to decide to come back and stay.”
Members of Bravo Company, 3rd/506 Infantry, 101st Airborne Division will be visiting Mount Airy July 19 – 22 for those who might wish to give them a warm Mayberry welcome and thank them for their service.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.