Vietnam veterans gather for first time on US soil, 50 years since leaving war

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GREENTOWN, Ind. (CNN) -- Thousands of Vietnam veterans are in central Indiana for a weekend celebration. Among them are eight men who are seeing each other for the first time since they left the Asian country.

Image Source: U.S. Air Force / MGN

They were all a part of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), a joint military service. Their group was Team 47, located in An Loc, located roughly 60 miles from Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City.

"When we left Vietnam, we didn’t exchange addresses or phone numbers," said Barry Smith. "We just said bye."

Smith lives in Noblesville and said he always had fond memories of the friends he made while serving. He had to spend roughly a year in Vietnam, and there are roughly a dozen others who are still alive who were apart of the team during the time. The first of them started heading back to the states in August of 1968.

"In November we got in contact with one another," said Smith. "It just snowballed, and we said, it’s been 50 years, why not make this a half a century celebration."

Smith, along with John Smith, who lives north of Pittsburgh, started finding the others. Thanks to Facebook, it didn't take too long.

John met Barry on his first day. It was Barry's second day on the job. The two became friends and have stayed in touch over the years, with John coming to Indiana for weddings in Barry's family.

Another member of the team lives in Fishers, but won't join the gang until Saturday. The rest who made the trip come from New Jersey, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

"We’re talking about the old times," said Daniel Patrick White. "Trying to forget about the bad times and only thinking about the fun we had. We're updating each other on what we’ve been up to the last 50 years."

The former servicemen picked central Indiana for their reunion and are joining in on the 36th annual Howard County Vietnam Veterans Organization (HCVVO) reunion held at a campground outside of Greentown. The event runs through Sunday and is expected to bring in close to 10,000 veterans.

Most of the group rolled into central Indiana on Thursday. Each one said they hoped to get together again, maybe as early as next year.