| This little Case pocketknife has special meaning to me. It was given to me in 2000 by a good friend that I met at the El Toro Archery Range in Irvine, CA. His name is Terry Lee Boyer.
I first met Terry in 1998 back when I used to shoot a lot of archery and it was common for me to go to the archery range on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was on one of these days when I saw Terry at the range with a few other club members. They were getting ready to walk the dry river bed where there were numerous targets the range members had installed. When Terry and the others saw me they invited me to join them.
As was normal, we'd start walking from one target to another - each of us shooting several arrows at the targets while chatting about practically everything. This is when I learned that Terry had served as a USAF officer and had flown F4 Phantoms in Vietnam. Hearing this I "welcomed him home," which was a common but unique greeting we Vietnam veterans would say to one another. It originated from our collective experience during the Vietnam War when our country was going through a troubled time. Vietnam veterans experienced a very different homecoming than did other veterans from previous wars. America did not greet us with a "Welcome Home," after we returned from war. Our reception included words of anger and disdain by a country that many of us believed had turned its back to us. Many Americans were influenced by the biased media and aligned with the misguided message from those who were against the war. Many of our fellow Americans and the new media blamed us for war its causes and when we returned home they openly displayed their anger and hatred against us.
For many of us returning from war this was a confusing time. We who fought in Vietnam were proud of our service and we knew by first hand experience that our fight was noble and just. As a result, most of us simply went to ground hoping to eventually see the day when our country would regain its sanity.
So, Terry and I shot a lot of arrows together that first meeting and over the months our friendship grew. We not only shared a love for archery, but also a common experience from a very unpopular war. We were members of warrior Band of Brothers where friendships are forged in fire. The result was a bond so strong it equaled and sometimes surpassed family ties.
But I soon found out that my experience in Vietnam paled to the experience Terry had endured. You see, Terry's F4 Phantom was shot down by the enemy over North Vietnam and Terry spent five years in the Hanoi Hilton as a POW. Yes, Terry Boyer was the first and only Vietnam POW I ever personally met in my entire lifetime, and now I felt honored to be considered his friend.
As time passed, Terry and I had numerous talks together as we enjoyed the sport of archery. He was older than me, so I soon looked to him almost as an older brother. Terry was by nature a quiet man. I would normally have to lead the conversation as we walked the trails of the archery range. But his quietness camouflaged his depth of intelligence and when he did speak you immediately recognized that he had a huge passion for life and love for his country.
But what really impressed me about Terry was that he never had a bad thing to say about our country even when it would have been so easy to voice discourse with the way our country treated him and his fellow warriors after Vietnam. His attitude was the exact opposite - he loved America and all it stood for. In fact he told me that if it wasn't for his love of America, he would not have survived his ordeal as a POW.
One weekend while shooting arrows I shared with Terry my interest in collecting old Case pocketknives. I never really had a large collection, but as a young lad growing up in Pennsylvania I owned an old Case pocketknife that I cherished and used for decades. Somewhere during my life travels I lost that old knife, but my memories of it continued. When Terry heard my story he listened quietly and smiled.
A month or two passed before I saw Terry again. He lived in Avila Beach a considerable distance from the archery range and would only come this far south when he visited his elderly mother here in Orange County.
I was happy to see Terry one Sunday morning after a long absence. We greeted each other and immediately started catching up on our respective news and stories. This is when I learned that Terry was losing his eyesight. He had been diagnosed with macular degeneration a medical condition predominantly found in the elderly that can result in loss of central vision, which entails inability to see fine details, to read, or to recognize faces.
This was not good news to me, but Terry's attitude was pure Terry. He accepted his lot in life and had a positive outlook that he would make the best of it. This is also when he told me he was moving from California to Arizona and that this would likely be his last visit to the El Toro Archery Range.
Then he reached into his trousers pocket and handed me this little Case pocketknife. He said it belonged to his father who had long passed away. Terry said he wanted me to have it because he knew I would show the care and respect for it that his father would appreciate.
At first I was speechless. This little pocketknife suddenly took on a significance way beyond its normal use or utility. This little knife became a very special gift from a very special friend.
That day was the last day I saw Terry Boyer. Our paths never crossed again. But I will always remember him and our friendship. He was one of the very special people that I had the honor to call friend in my lifetime and this little pocketknife serves as symbol of respect and love between two members of a magnificent Band of Brothers. We few, we very few, Band of Brothers.
BOYER, TERRY LEE
Name: Terry Lee Boyer
Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force
Unit: 497th TFS
Date of Birth: 22 September 1938
Home City of Record: Visalia CA
Date of Loss: 17 December 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 211700 North 1051500 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: Kenneth Fleenor, returnee
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
REMARKS: 730314 RELEASED BY DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602. Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
TERRY LEE BOYER
Captain- United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 17, 1967
Released: March 14, 1973
Captain Boyer was born in Los Angeles and moved with his family to Visalia where he attended schools through high school. Following a four-year tour of duty in the U.S. Submarine Services, Captain Boyer attended the College of the Sequoias and Fresno State College where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration. In 1965 he entered the Air Force, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and proceeded to pilot training in both Arizona and California. In October of 1967 he was assigned to fly F-4 combat missions in Viet Nam. Captain Boyer was shot down and captured in December, 1967.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, the American people, for what you have been to me during my imprisonment: a source of courage. The love, honor, and gifts you have bestowed upon me since my return have meant a good deal to me. I have yet to determine in my own mind what I have done that is deserving of this consideration.
"For some reason, you people insist on calling me a hero. I would like to say that I am not the hero- you, the American people, are the heroes. You have made the United States what it is, and I thank you for it.
"I have made this statement time and again during my speaking engagements and I would like to make it again to you now.
"We were not a hand-picked group of Americans sent to prison cells in Hanoi. No, we were just average American citizens like you and your neighbors. But, by the grace of God, you could have been sitting in that prison cell instead of me. I know that had you been there, you would have felt and acted as we did. We did not want to conduct ourselves in any manner that would be unworthy of the love and respect you have always bestowed upon us, your military men.
"It is this love and respect that makes Americans the wonderful people they are. It is this love and respect that has enabled the American people to build the greatest nation in the world.
"I was indeed very fortunate to have been able to serve and represent a nation of people such as you, my beloved Americans. My heartfelt thanks go out to each and every one of you. May I never conduct myself in a manner that would reflect in discredit upon the American people."
Terry Boyer retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He and his wife Vicki reside in California.