MERCEDES — It’s an amazing story. Actually, it’s difficult to believe.
But POW, Silver Star recipient and pilot Mike O’Connor is quick to tell it because he needs some help.
The Vietnam War Veteran has a special item now in his possession that he never thought he would have — a pair of pistol grips.
They are more than that.
They are believed to have belonged to O’Connor’s fellow Vietnam aircraft crew mate, Harold Ray Reeves, who is honored on Panel 37E, Row 27 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Sgt. Reeves died Feb. 4, 1968, in the province of Thua Thien.
But, it’s the story of how the pistol grips made it to O’Connor all these years later that is unbelievable.
This all as he tries to locate Reeves’ next of kin to return the grips to them.
O’Connor said it would be an “immense honor to return these very personal items of my late and very courageous crew chief, to any of his surviving next of kin, if they exist.”
It’s been a long journey for the grips to finally reach a place where they could be returned.
Here’s the story.
Last month, Bill Greer of North Carolina, a retired teacher and retired member of the North Carolina National Guard, sent O’Connor a letter with the grips and explained what happened.
In Greer’s handwritten letter, he addresses O’Connor, of Lincoln, California, as chief and talks about the chain of events that led to his receiving the grips.
According to the story, James Bailey traded a revolver in with the grips to a gun store in Dunn, North Carolina.
At that time, Bailey told the owner of the store that his father had removed this firearm from an NVA officer during the Vietnam War, the latter part of 1968.
Bailey also knew the revolver had been taken from an aircraft crew member.
Greer then purchased the revolver and grips from the gun store and upon hearing of the story, contacted Bailey.
That’s when Greer became interested in finding the identity of the initials on the grip.
After a couple days of internet research, Greer writes, he found five Vietnam military KIAs with the same initials. But, also, only one was an aircraft crew member, this person being Spc. Harold Ray Reeves, born on June 19, 1939, home of record Mercedes. He was in the C Btry, 2nd Battalion, 20th artillery of the 1st Cavalry Division.
This information was then shared with Jim Giles, a pilot with a sister unit during the same timeframe in Vietnam.
Greer wrote, “I feel these grips belong to the family and friends of Spec. Reeves.”