SIDNEY — Many Shelby County men and some women served in the military during the Vietnam War.
Only one is still unaccounted for. Staff Sgt. Charles Gregory “Greg” Huston, of Houston, is still listed as missing in action, 47 years after he was last seen alive. When the AVTT-TWF Vietnam Memorial wall replica comes to Sidney this week, Huston will be honored again, not only by area citizens, but by his family.
His brother, Robert, who was 14 when Greg left for the service in the mid-1960s, honors him every day by driving the truck that hauls the memorial around the country. He’s been doing that full-time for five years and travels about 35,000 miles annually between April and Veterans Day.
“I look forward to coming back to Sidney,” he said by phone from Colorado recently. “We have great events in Ohio.”
Robert said that Greg “never mentioned too much about what he did when he was in the military. He wrote letters home to my mother, but they weren’t allowed to talk about that.” Greg was a Green Beret, in the Special Forces of the U.S. Army.
A younger brother, John Huston, of Sidney, who was 10 when Greg was lost, said Greg and two other soldiers, with nine Vietnamese, were on a reconnaissance mission in Laos on March 28, 1968.
“They were discovered and called for help,” he said. “Helicopters couldn’t land. They put down a rope ladder. The Vietnamese went up the ladder and got into the helicopter. But the ladder broke. The helicopter came under heavy fire and had to leave. Last seen, three Americans on the ground, not wounded but alive.”
None of the three has ever been found, and a six-hour search and rescue mission on April 1, 1968, found no evidence that they had been in that location.
“We weren’t supposed to be in Laos. Our guys had to go in there and find out what they were doing,” John said of why the Army team had been sent there. “I don’t know how my mom (handled it). I remember when I was younger, I went with my mom a lot to a lot of malls and passed out MIA-POW stickers.”
The family worried about what Greg might have had to endure.
“You always kind of hope he’s still alive, but after so many years …,” John’s voice trailed off. “Then you hear about what happens to prisoners and that burns in your mind.”
Greg was declared dead in 1977.
He wasn’t the only serviceman in the Huston family. Greg’s older brothers, James Elwood and Bill, were also in the service. Robert was in the Air Force. John’s son, Greg, named for his uncle, is in the Army now.
It was the Huston brothers and Keith Goins who brought the Vietnam Memorial replica to Sidney the first time, to honor local Gold Star Mothers.
“They said they needed help,” Robert said of the AVTT-TWF organization. That’s when he became the driver.
The exhibit that will arrive Wednesday will be different from what was in town in 2010. Displays that accompanied the replica wall will not be included. They are being refurbished, Robert said.
“It’s just the wall this time,” he noted.
The replica wall will be exhibited in Custenborder Park, 449 Riverside Drive, from Sept. 3-6, as part of the Shelby County Historical Society’s Week of Valor.
AVTT stands for American Veterans Traveling Tribute. Every time Robert gets behind the wheel, he’s paying a special tribute all his own.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.