The Book

My father had been missing in Vietnam for thirty-five years when we unexpectedly received a thick, oversized envelope from the U.S. Joint Services Recovery Task Force. Inside this envelope was a report summarizing a recent crash-site excavation in the Truong Song Mountain range near the Laotian border. While not conclusive, the appendix to this report contained a familiar detail which convinced us that our father’s small reconnaissance plane had been found. The discovery set in motion our unsanctioned trip to Vietnam’s central highlands to visit the crash-site. My mother, three brothers and I navigated a series of obstacles to hike through a steady October rain to say our goodbyes.

We Gathered These Stones: A Family Memoir of War, Loss, & Love describes the experience of growing up beneath the shadow of my father’s mysterious disappearance in an unpopular war. It is a poignant memoir about the largely unexplored, other side of war. A side of war that continues to ripple through the generations long after the fighting has ended.

We Gathered These Stones is a story of the strength of family bonds, and ultimately, of the indestructible force of a father’s love.

Prologue

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Family Photos

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Harley’s High School Graduation Photos – 1948

Harley’s High School Graduation

Harley’s First Service Photo -1951

Harley’s Service Photo -1951

Julie and Harley’s Wedding – 1954

Wedding – 1954

Julie and Harley Receive a Wedding Gift – 1954

Julie & Harley’s Wedding Gift 

Branson with Harley in Japan – 1957

Dad & Harley – 1957

Stuart, Nathan, Jonathan, Branson – 1962

Stuart, Nathan, Jonathan, Branson – 1962

Harley Flying F106 for Strategic Air Command -1962

Harley in a F106

Allen, Paul-Jim, Harley, Dovie, Jenny, Elno, Inez – 1964

Allen, Paul-Jim, and Harley

Family photo in Enon, Ohio -1964

Enon – 1964

Casual Photo of Harley before Leaving for Vietnam – 1965

Harley Casual – 1965

Dad & Paul Needles

Dad & Paul Needles

Brothers – Christmas 1965

Christmas 1965

Nathan next to Indoor Bamboo Garden – Fall 1965

Nathan and Bamboo

Family at Gaunt Park Swimming Pool – Summer 1966

Family at Gaunt Park

Brothers with Snowman – Winter 1966

Winter 1966

Stuart with String of Fish in Minnesota – 1969

Stuart with Fish

Julie on Patio – 1992

Julie 1992

JTF Report Crashsite Map – 2000

Crashsite Map

Vietnamese & JTF Researchers Excavate Slope – 2000

Crashsite Excavation Close-Up

JTF Researcher Harnessed on Steep Slope – 2000

Crashsite Excavation Slope 

Mom & Brothers at Marble Mountain Vietnam – October 2000

Family at Marble Mountain

Below Crashsite: Village official, Le Van Chin, Sang, Nguyen Huu Than, Happy Farmer – 2000

Guides Below Crashsite

Joint burial at Arlington National Cemetery of Dad and his Marine Spotter, Col. Winfield Sisson – 2001

Arlington Burial