Vietnam veteran shares his story nearly 50 years later

When Kathy Westbrook received a call from Vietnam veteran Danny Lane, she was shocked.

Lane, of Huntington, said he wanted to write a book about his time in Vietnam and wanted to honor Westbrook’s brother, Gordan Dean Perry, who died in Vietnam. Westbrook, of Morgantown, talked it over with family members, including her sister Beverly Fragale and their mother, who now lives in Florida.

“It was kind of startling at first,” Westbrook said. “Of course, it had been 48 years. And of course, we think about Dean every day, but when you bring up exactly what happened you think ‘wow, do we really want to go back and relive [that],’ but after talking to him, he seemed like a great guy. He was very responsive to how our feelings were going to be, and if it was OK that he wrote that in the book,” she said.

Perry became a member of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division as an infantry man. He was assigned to Cpl. Danny Lane’s First Squad.

On May 30, 1969, he died fighting alongside Lane during Operation Pipestone Canyon. Fragale said their father, as well as a brother were Marines, so that’s what Perry wanted to do.

“Of course you didn’t want to see him enlist and go to war, but to see this, very proud,” Fragale said of the book.

Lane’s book, “Some Gave it All,” begins in 2006, with Lane laying on train tracks, waiting for a train to hit him. Unconscious, Lane is taken to a hospital, and his history of Vietnam unfolds to the reader. The doctors try to determine who he is and how he got to that point.

Lane said he believed it was his duty to tell his story nearly 50 years later, and part of that story included Perry.

“He’s a hero. He went down fighting for his country and his story’s never been told,” said Lane.

Lane wrote that he had a premonition about two months leading up to May 30, 1969. He thought he was going to be killed in the night. Lane was injured in that fight and received a Purple Heart. He would receive another one less than two weeks later.

He has believed since then that Perry was a guardian angel.

When the fighting broke out that May night, Lane was sure he would not survive, based on his premonition. Perry and Lane fought from the same foxhole, and Lane felt he was responsible for Perry. Both being from West Virginia, Lane took Perry under his wing.

“It was kind of a hardcore story, but a story that needed to be told. People can know really what happened, he went down fighting and he was giving all he had before the bullet got him,” said Lane.

Lane hopes people will understand the story of what these young men endured. At the time, Lane said, they were taught not to get too emotional, but as time went on the war affected him differently.

“Gordan was 19, just like I was at the time, and we were taking care of each other. Fighting the war that we didn’t even know anything about,” said Lane.

Westbrook, Fragale and Lane all agree, the way people understood the soldiers when they came home posed a difficult situation.

“I know that when anybody goes to war they’re different, but for some reason the Vietnam War was much worse than anything,” said Fragale.

Lane came home and suffered with PTSD, which in 1969 was not diagnosed properly. Lane said most people do not understand that when these men come home they are still serving this country, and still battling these wars every day. He hopes people gain a better understanding of what soldiers go through, not only in battle but when they come home.

“It was eyen-opening even for me. Even having two brothers serve over there,” said Westbrook.

“And multiple friends,” Fragale added.

Both women were fairly young when their brother went off to war. Fragale was a high school senior and Kathy three years younger.

The book, which was released May 1, brought about many emotions for them, but they appreciate that Lane is someone who cared about their brother and someone who had his back.

“It affects me more now than it did then because Marines were being killed every day and we didn’t know each other’s names a lot of times. We didn’t get too close to people most of the time, but we did have a duty to protect each other and that brotherhood kicked in,” Lane said.

He said he wrote the book to let people know the sacrifices these young Marines made and what it took to survive.

He also wanted to honor his fallen brothers, including Perry.

“He can be laid to rest as a hero, and somebody that paid the price. That’s why we named the book “Some Gave it All,” cause he gave it all,” said Lane.

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