Welcome Home Soldier

Charles H Meldahl

Charles H Meldahl

When I was about 12 or 13 (which would have been around 1985), my brother, who was active Army, sent me a bracelet for my birthday. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the significance of it, but I wore it every day. As I got older, I started doing research and found that Charles H. Meldahl went missing on October 20, 1968, and was considered MIA. Every day I wore the bracelet with his name on it. I wore the bracelet until it was no longer shiny red. I wore it until probably 2000, and then one day, couldn’t find it anymore. Until today. As I was unpacking boxes that have been boxed up for a decade or more, cleaning out my garage in hopes to regain my sanity AND to start preparing to move, it was tucked away with some fire service mementos.

So, I came into the office to find out the status of SSG Meldahl. Cue tears. His remains were recovered February 14, 1995 and identified March 18, 2001. I only wish I’d known that his remains had been returned on 6/6/2001  because just a few weeks later, I was actually in Washington D.C. and could have left his bracelet at the Wall.  There’s very little left to say, except welcome home soldier – thank you for your service. You and your fellow soldiers will never be forgotten. May you, and your comrades, rest in peace.

I’ve included the details about SSG Meldhal below. His entire team has since been found and their remains identified and returned.


Remains Identified 06/06/2001
Name: Charles Howard Meldahl
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: 243rd Assault Helicopter Company, 10th Combat Aviation Battalion
Date of Birth: 15 July 1948 (Denver CO)
Home City of Record: Monroe WA
Date of Loss: 20 October 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 122945N 1090753E (BP890830)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH47
Refno: 1306
Other Personnel In Incident: Charles E. Deitsch; Henry C. Knight; Jerry G.
Bridges; Ronald V. Stanton (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.

SYNOPSIS: On October 20, 1968, CW3 Deitsch, aircraft commander; WO1 Knight,
pilot; SP5 Meldahl, crewchief; SP4 Bridges, flight engineer; and SP4
Stanton, door gunner, departed Dong Ba Thien Airfield, South Vietnam, in a
CH47A helicopter (serial #66-19053) on a resupply mission to Ban Me Thuot,
South Vietnam.
The CH47 “Chinook” helicopter was one of the workhorses of the Army’s air
fleet. As a cargo lift, the Chinook could carry up to 28,000 pounds on its
external cargo hook, and is credited with the recovery of 11,500 disabled
aircraft worth more than $3 billion. As troop carrier, the aircraft could be
fitted with 24 litters for medical evacuation, or carry 33-44 troops in
addition to the crew. On one occasion, a Chinook evacuated 147 refugees and
their possessions on a single flight. The Chinook could be outfitted for
bombing missions, dropping tear gas or napalm in locations fixed wing
aircraft could not reach. The big bird could carry a large cargo of
Deitsch radioed at 0700 hours on October 20 that his aircraft was over the
Ninh Hoa Valley. That was the last anyone heard of the CH47. At about 0800
hours, it was determined that the helicopter was overdue.
An intensive search effort was made, but no wreckage was ever found of the
CH47, and search efforts were concluded on October 28. Villagers were later
canvassed throughout the Ninh Ho Valley, and literature was distributed
asking about the crash of the Chinook, but no new information was ever
Subject: SSG Jerry Glen Bridges
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 01:02:07 EDT
Between 1984 and 1994,Vietnamese residents and refugees offered information
and material evidence potentially linked with the crash. In 1994, the crash
site was located and in 1995, during the 33rd Joint Field Activity, the site
was excavated, yielding additional information. In October 2000, the
investigation was completed and it determined that all members of the crew
went down with the helicopter and did not survive the crash. SSG Jerry Glen
Bridges remains have since been returned home. On June 10,2001 SSG Jerry
Glen Bridges was finally layed to rest where he belongs in Giles County
Memory Gardens. Home at last.

Subject: Deitsch, Charles
Date: Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Charles Deitsch r4emains will be returned to the family on 6/20/01 and all
of the crew was also identified through DNA.


I’m Bringing Sexy Back

Okay, so the title sounded better in my head, but if you come to think about it, there is something sexy (romantic, sentimental, caring – insert the adjective of your liking depending on who you’re writing) about finding a handwritten note in the mail, sitting on the dresser, taped to the mirror, or on the kitchen table by someone you care about. Heck you don’t even have to buy a fancy card. Case in point:

My grandparents and parents. In Mexico. At night.

My parents (on the right) and her parents, Mariann and Milo, on the left. In Mexico. At night.

I’ve been cleaning out my garage. I know, you’re thinking OH HOLY HELL – the world really must be ending. No, I just figured it was time. In doing so, I have found quite a few little treasures. Cards from my Daddy, a letter I’ve never seen from my Mom to me written shortly after I was born (oh yeah, cue about 30 minutes of tears), and a couple little notes from my Granddaddy to my Grandmother (which I’m going to frame). MiloThis one especially made me chuckle written on the back of an envelope:

To the nicest person I know in this world. Thanks for doing all the menial chores. Sorry I missed you this trip but have hopes of connecting with you this week-end. Would advise taking one short course in math or reading or??? as I only ** found $2.29 on the table, and the financial statement said here is $5.00 for your supper. I love you.

The Boss (I hope) – Milo
PS. Note: Added letters to (crossword) puzzle. Ha Ha. Each asterisk denotes one (1) drink.

You have NO idea how much I giggled at reading this note, knowing what an incredibly loving couple my grandparents were, the sense of humor they both had, and that they were each other’s  best friends. I realize now where I get my mad off the cuff math skills from (thanks Bobo) and my sense of humor (my Dad and my Granddaddy).  When I called Tiffany to tell her about the note, the first thing she said was, OH MY GOD you need to frame that!

Milo and Mariann (Bobo)

My Mom’s parents, Milo and Mariann (Bobo)

Then, she sent me a bunch of pins (Pinterest speak for all you non pinners) on saving and archiving old letters and ways to display them.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything…I am too right now. SQUIRREL. Oh yeah. I am taking up letter writing again. Even short note writing. Using the …hold on to your seats…the United Postal Service. I want my daughter to be able to read the words that are on my heart, or find little funny notes tucked inside a card, or one day, be cleaning out stuff and find letters I wrote her and remember all the goodness and love she brought into my life. I want my loved ones, my family, my friends to not have to save text messages from me, or forget all the memories we’ve shared, or the happy times. I want my relationships to be less technology and more human. More connected. More memorable. I want my grandkids – in a VERY long time from now – to be able to sit and chuckle at how “cute” their family was. That’s just not going to happen by itself. And it sure isn’t going to happen with Facebook and text messages.

So, I’m challenging you to put down the phone, disconnect from Facebook and Instagram and spend 30 minutes a week (a week, that’s it) and write a few notes to those you love, that you haven’t seen in a while, that did something that just made you smile and drop it in the mail. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll definitely make someone else’s day.