Vel L. Garnett (1947-2003) enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 5 July 1966 and was discharged on 4 Jun 1972. He was in Golf Company, 2nd Battalion 9th Marines or “Hell in a Helmet”, as they called it. Vel received the Purple Heart for injuries he received in September 1967. He floated around on a hospital ship recuperating, then was sent back to his unit in January 1968. I don’t know much about Vel’s experiences there, as he was like many Vietnam era veterans and didn’t talk much about it. In the year before his death, he had really started making progress toward overcoming some of Post Traumatic Stress he suffered from for so long. He began to reach out and connect with some of “his brothers” he had served with – swapping pictures, telling stories, reminiscing.
In researching Vel’s unit, I did come across an excellent blog by Beth Crumley on the Marine Corps Association & Foundation site: ‘2d Battalion, 9th Marines in 1967- “Hell in a Helmet”’, describing the 2/9’s activity during 1967. No wonder they called it “Hell in a Helmet”. I am trying to track down some of Vel’s buddies during his time in Vietnam to get a better picture of what it was like for them. Maybe they can help me identify some snapshots he had. Somewhere in a box in storage there is a large bundle of letters that Vel wrote to his parents while he was in the Marines. I need to find them and preserve them so his children and grandchildren can know what a truly brave soul he was.