The Reeder family gathered at Soldotna Creek Park recently for the placement of a memorial bench dedicated to their patriarch Bill Reeder Sr. who passed away nearly three years ago and is still remembered as a veteran and mayor who worked to grow the beloved city where he lived for some 45 years. Flying in from Seattle to attend the event was his son Ret. Col. Willian Reeder Jr. It was fitting that the memorial bench was placed at the same time Reeder Jr. was releasing his book “Through the Valley…My Captivity in Vietnam.” In an interview with the Dispatch Reeder spoke of the influence his father had on him and why he had waited over 40 years to write his story about being a POW in Vietnam, “That’s a difficult question to answer briefly, but I would say that I always intended to write a book since shortly after I returned, but became very busy in a military career that lasted for thirty years, very busy in training and education of military forces since 9/11 and it was just five years ago that I had the time to devote to getting the book written,” said Reeder. A great story teller Reeder begins his book at a hardly remembered time when it was believed the war had been won and our soldiers were coming home. In 1971 Reeder was a senior captain on his second tour in Vietnam. He had returned eager to experience a whole new perspective as a Cobra gunship pilot. Believing that Nixon’s Vietnamization would soon end the war he was anxious to see combat action.
Regarding the author Joseph Galloway in a liner note writes, “Col. Reeder’s story of how he became the last soldier captured by the enemy in South Vietnam and how he endured captivity and then a forced march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail is awe inspiring. His will to survive and the courage and sacrifice demanded of him make this book hard to put down.” As to what it was like coming home Reeder said, “Looking at the return that our country gives our veterans today makes us old Vietnam vets proud to have served and proud for the guys that are coming home. It wasn’t like that when I returned from my first tour of duty. When I came home after being a POW the war was over and were welcomed home after most of our loved ones feeling were dead,” he said. “I didn’t know that I would survive, it was a very trying circumstance as I describe in the book, but the change that it made in my life? I’ve always been a very positive person, but the experience made me a more positive person. I am so grateful for every day that the good Lord gives me on this earth. What helped more than anything else and I bring this out in the book was the ability to be able to share my story with others. I think that more than anything else and for our returning veterans today if they can find someone to listen and if they can share their story and their experiences it helps them as it did me to come back from the war and adjust to life. Being in Soldotna today is an emotional day for me. My dad was my biggest role model. My dad was the definition of a good man and was the best man that I knew in my life. My one big regret today standing here with this bench and my book is that my dad was not able to live to see this book published. I would have loved to have shared this moment with him.” Bill Reeder Jr. will return to Soldotna in January and a public book signing is being planned. In the meantime anyone interested in a great read and a historical biography “Through the Valley…My captivity in Vietnam” is one of the best. It is available anywhere books are sold locally or on line at amazon.com.