Hank Collins publishes Vietnam memoir
Major Richard Hank Collins returned home from Vietnam with an overwhelming array of haunting images and life-defining moments. He had a hard time talking about his personal experiences until the men who served with him from November 1965 to November 1966 in the 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company got together for their first reunion in 2007.
"We have found relief in sharing these memories with those who nor only have similar memories but also understand ours," Hank says."We don't have to explain why we laugh too loudly or cry too quickly. All of us know, all of us were part of it ... part of that time and place where our country was confused and often nonsupportive, where we were in a strange place that was not a common name even in history classes, where we were fighting for a cause that at times was unclear, and in the end all we could really depend on was each other—and we did."
Hank has woven these still-vivid memories into compelling stories that convey what these pilots were thinking and feeling as they provided lifesaving air cover and firsthand reconnaissance. As you read the stories in this collection, you will feel yourself belted into the back seat of an 0-1 Cessna Birddog flying so low that you can see the faces of the people below. You will visit an orphanage and come face-to-face with the youngest victims of war— and you will learn about often unpublicized good things Hank and many other military personnel plus their families back home did to help relieve their suffering. You will spend a very long, very dark night huddled next to a much-too-young crew chief in the operations shack at the Bac Lieu airstrip anxiously watching for the enemy to discover your hiding place. You will deliberately dive into a barrage of bullets, pull up at the very last second, skim the treetops, and inexplicably land unscathed with no damage to the plane—leaving you in disbelief and pondering what had protected you on that death-defying mission. Perhaps most of all, you will begin to understand that "you can't get more personal than taking a life or giving yours."
About the Author
Major Hank Collins served as a US Army Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Vietnam from November 1965 to November 1966. After completing flight school at Fort Rucker in Alabama, Hank was assigned to the Third Infantry Division, Second Brigade Aviation Section in Kitzingen, Germany. While serving in the military, Hank flew more than 500 hours in combat as an FAC and completed a total of 1,500 hours of flight time. Hank served as the Fourth Platoon Leader with the 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. In recognition of his heroic and extraordinary service, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with V Device and 12th Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Bronze Star Medal, as well as three Cross of Gallantry medals awarded him by the Republic of South Vietnam. His last duty assignment was serving as Operations Officer at Wright Army Airfield at Fort Stewart in Georgia. Hank, who is a native of Alabama, completed his Associate in Arts degree at Marion Military Institute in Marion and his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa before earning his master's degree in business at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham in 1986. Hank served as Senior Vice President of SouthTrust Bank from 1982 to 2005 and as a consultant to Wachovia Bank from 2005 to 2007. He and his wife, Irene, live near Columbiana, Alabama. They enjoy spending time with their five children and their families, especially their nine grandchildren.