Reunions are times to reconnect with family and friends, swap stories and share memories.

For members of the Fire Support Base Ripcord Association, many of the memories shared at the group’s annual reunion are heartbreaking, but sharing stories with others who experienced one of the deadliest battles of the Vietnam War helps them heal.

Lee Widjeskog, one of the reunion planners, said for many of the soldiers, the memories of what happened March 12-July 23, 1970, are fuzzy and talking with others helps fill in the blanks. For some, the guilt of surviving while 138 soldiers were killed is a burden eased by talking with others who feel the same.

“It’s all part of coming to grips with what you encountered,” said Widjeskog who has attended every reunion since the first one in 1998.

The next reunion takes place Oct. 5-8 at University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center. About 150 veterans and their family members and friends are expected to attend, including a dozen who have never attended before.

Widjeskog said he’s sure the first-timers will be glad they went.

“When you get there, you’re going to find out you have friends you never knew you had,” he said. “You may have never met them before but they’re your friends. They’re glad to see you.”

For more information about the reunion, the association and the battle, and to read biographies of Ripcord veterans, visit

For more information about group events brought to Springfield by the Convention & Visitors Bureau, call 417-881-5300. The CVB is a nonprofit organization dedicated to boosting the local economy through growth in travel and tourism.