Fifty years ago this May, Jim Waitzman Jr., of Alabama, was stationed in Vietnam and received word that a helicopter was shot down in the Central Highlands that killed 10 men, including three he knew.When the war ended, Waitzman moved on with his life but never forgot about the men who perished.
Starting in 1995, he began visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and returned to the wall every five years since. The anniversary of the deaths of the 10 men on the helicopter will be May 12, and for this year’s visit to the wall, Waitzman has been organizing a meeting of family members of those that died at the memorial.
With the help of the internet, Waitzman has been able to track down family members for nine of the 10 men killed. He has not been able to track down a relative of Sgt. Maj. Griffith Alfred Jones, whose home of record was listed as Marysville.
“Even with the power of the internet I have not been able to track down any of his children,” Waitzman said.
He said any relatives of Jones can call him at 205-936-9982 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to get details about the gathering on May 12. The gathering will be very informal, Waitzman said, with the family members meeting around 8:30 a.m. at the wall. Everyone will have the opportunity to say a few words about those that were lost. The names of those killed in the helicopter are on the 10th panel west of the center of the memorial.
“It’s solemn,” Waitzman said about going to the memorial and seeing other veterans. “On the other hand, it’s friendly and uplifting and very non-political.”
The 74-year-old lives in Birmingham and has been retired for 12 years after making a living in the heavy equipment business and working as the CEO and chairman of Tractor and Equipment Company based in Birmingham. He said there’s no sponsor for the meeting and that he will be helping some of the family members with travel costs to Virginia.
“It’ll be wonderful to meet face-to-face some of the people I’ve been talking to and finding the last few months,” Waitzman said.