In the aftermath of a nighttime fire fight in Vietnam, veteran Ron Kirby spotted an enemy gun on the field of battle with something else attached to it.
"This little lonely flag was tied on it onto the barrel and I just kept it," said the Army combat veteran. Holding up the tattered and truly war-torn Viet Cong symbol with faded red and blue stripes punctuated by a gold star in the center, Kirby has decided after 49 years, it is time to give it back.
"I just feel like, in one sense, it's a brotherhood. We're all brothers. They fought on one side, I fought on the other," the East Tennessee native said.
Days from now, Kirby will lead a trip back to Southeast Asia with almost two dozen other veterans of Vietnam headed back for the first time since the war ended. This will mark the sixth trip to Vietnam for Kirby. The combat veteran and former door gunner on a helicopter says going back has proved to be a much needed dose of post-war therapy.
"I think these trips back to Vietnam get rid of this bad stuff for you. For me it does and for other people it has," he said.
WBIR 10News will follow those veterans, most in their late sixties or early seventies, and chronicle their 10-day journey scheduled for Jan. 24 through Feb. 4.
"My hope is that we'll certainly have a good time, but it will kill some ghosts," said Kirby.
He is working ahead of the departure date to set up a meeting with a former enemy soldier to return that battle flag in what he feels is "a gesture of friendship."