DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) - There is a new book that tells the firsthand accounts, from the military perspective, of life behind the lens during the Vietnam War.
"This is the greatest day that we'll ever see," said Bob Hillerby while sitting alongside three other fellow Vietnam veterans at a Dayton hotel.
"Me and this guy were the same unit, but never met the whole time we were in Vietnam," said Willy Muchler while pointing to Hillerby. "This is our first meeting!"
Dan Brookes, Willy Muchler, Bob Hillerby, and Curtis Rose were all part of the 69th Signal Battalion during Vietnam. They were combat photographers, except Dan, he worked as a combat "lab rat". They've reconnected and reunited nearly 50 years later, to look over perhaps their final mission.
They have written a book aptly titled: Shooting Vietnam. The chapters share their individual stories and use their photos from the front lines that have been kept private until now.
"These guys never got a lot of credit for what they did," said Brookes. "To this day we still don't know where literally hundreds of thousands of our pictures even ended up."
The guys were there to document history, but their presence brought comfort. "Because when we got out there and took their picture it was like somebody cared," said Muchler.
And they still care, deeply.
"In fact this photograph is one I took... we were in a mountain area," said Hillerby while holding a black and white photograph. Moments later he said, the air cav troop he was with took heavy fire.
"I feel a lot of guilt for the ones... the ones that didn't make it back," he said while fighting back tears.
What they saw behind the lens can't be photoshopped from their minds. The book helped bring healing to a chapter of their lives not easy to talk about, and they hope it does the same for other veterans both young and old.
However, read between the lines and the real story emerges about their shared life experiences. "The most important thing for me is the opportunity to connect," said Rose.
Commonalities breed camaraderie. They have a brotherhood bound together for life, and now in the pages of a book.
The book also looks at the history of combat photography as well as the life and culture of Vietnam. The men say they hope to get a book deal soon.
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