2nd Platoon, C Company, 4th/47th Battalion, 2nd Brigade
Introduction – In 1966, our father, Idoluis Casares, arrived at Fort Riley, Kansas for basic training with a trainload of other Army recruits. He was assigned a bunkmate – a boyish looking 20 year-old from Maywood, Illinois, named Bill Geier. The way Dad tells it, Bill became his closest friend during basic training. Within a short period, Bill nicknamed Dad, “Bear” for reasons still unknown. They had a similar sense of humor and enjoyed hanging out together and making each other laugh.
Dad speaks highly of everyone in his platoon and especially of his platoon leader, Lieutenant Jack Benedick. In a room full of people at the August 2003 Charlie Company Reunion, Dad said he wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the intelligence and leadership of Lt. Jack. He would have followed him anywhere, and it seemed from his emotional delivery, that he still would today.
After serving six months of hell in the Mekong Delta, Dad headed to Thailand for one week of much earned R & R. Upon return, Dad learned of a horrible battle that occurred on June 19th involving his entire battalion. At least 50 Americans had been lost, but perhaps most personal of all, was the loss of his dear friend, Bill Geier. Bill, a trained medic, had been shot and killed while aiding his wounded buddies. Bill’s heroic deeds earned him the Silver Star. Feeling tremendous guilt that he was not there that day, Dad kept silent about his feelings until the 2003 reunion where he was finally able to meet Bill’s family and talk openly about the loss of his friend.
On July 11, 1967, Dad was evacuated for a leg wound from sniper fire. Just a few hours later, Dad’s squad – the men that had trained most closely with him at Fort Riley – ran into an ambush and four of them were killed. While still recovering from his leg wound, Dad learned from Lt. Jack that he was being reassigned to Rach Kien (Charlie Co. 3/39th). Dad never had a chance to say goodbye to any of the 2nd platoon because they were out on patrol – something he regretted for the next 36 years. The new group at Rach Kien afforded him the opportunity to meet other soldiers and officers. He quickly realized how lucky he had been to train and soldier under Lt. Jack Benedick and Charlie Company.
On November 16, 1967, at Rach Kien, a booby-trapped grenade wounded Dad during a night patrol in a rice paddy. After recovery at Saigon Army Hospital, Dad was reassigned to a headquarters group until he shipped back to Oakland on January 1, 1968. He was eventually awarded two purple hearts for his bravery and service – he considered himself very fortunate to have survived Vietnam. Despite the difficult environment, he also considered himself lucky to have served with such a special group of men in Charlie Company.
The entire time Dad served in Vietnam, our mother, Toni, sent continuous letters reminding Dad of her love and support. He wrote her from Vietnam and told her to make all the necessary preparations for a wedding. His positive thinking paid off, and on January 13th, just 12 days after his return to the States, our Mother and Father were married in Houston, Texas.
Dad went on to graduate from the University of Texas, becoming the first in his family to earn a college degree. After earning his degree in accounting, he eventually became a CPA and settled in his hometown of Brownsville, Texas. Then, two years to the day of that infamous battle – on June 19, 1969 – Mom and Dad’s first child, David, was born. Two years later, daughter Cindy was born, and five years after her, came the birth of their son, Rene.
After attending the Charlie Company Reunion in August of 2003, we have a renewed admiration for our military, and we feel honored to be able to contribute to memorializing Charlie Company and all the brave men and women who fight for our freedom.
Respectfully and with much love,
David, Cindy, and Rene Casares
February 20, 2004