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Zurliene    A lost address book with addresses and phone numbers from his battalion unit in Vietnam led a New Baden veteran to reconnect with his fellow comrade after 52 years.
    Maurice “Mo” Zurliene of New Baden recently connected with the veteran who he worked with while serving in Vietnam.
    "I had been searching for him for 52 years," Mo said about his friend, Linwood "Linny" Johnson.
    Mo grew up in Albers and graduated in 1966 at Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese. He said, back in those days, everyone went to Mater Dei, and everyone ended up going into the service. Mo signed up for the U.S. Army in 1967, and rather than wait to be drafted, he volunteered.
    In April of 1968, he was on his way to Vietnam.  

    Two things he will never forget about when he arrived in Vietnam — the awful smells and the intense heat. 
    “As soon as I stepped off the plane, I could feel the heat,” Mo said.
    When he arrived, he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, 725th Maintenance Battalion, Charlie Company. He went to Vietnam thinking he would serve as a clerk typist; however, they needed drivers.
    He said that his captain looked at his warrant officer and asked to see if Mo could drive an 88.
    “I think my grandpa can drive one (like an Oldsmobile 88),” he had told the captain.
    He remembered them laughing and saying, “No, no, not that kind of 88. An M88.”
    An M88 is a tank recovery vehicle and is one of the largest armored recovery vehicles (ARV) currently in use by the U.S. Armed Forces.
    That was then when he was introduced to Linwood Johnson of Virginia, who showed Mo how to drive an M88.
    It wasn’t a big deal for Mo to drive the tank; he knew how to drive tractors on a relative’s farm.
Zurliene2    The two became fast friends — Mo was the driver of the M88 and Johnson was the tank coordinator.
    It didn’t take long for Mo to realize that they shouldn’t have even been in Vietnam fighting in the first place.
    “Going into the service changed my life tremendously,” he said. “They sent us there to stop the aggression of communism from the North Vietnamese to the South Vietnamese, and that was all understandable if you were young and dumb … which we all were. We were 18 and 19 years old. But, just after a short time, you really realized that it was a bunch of BS. They didn't want us there.”
    He added that it always amazed him when he was serving in Vietnam, while at night, when he was in the fields in Vietnam, he would look up at the sky and see the moon, and think about how it was the very same moon that was shining back at home. 
    From the very first minute he set foot in Vietnam, all he wanted to do was go home.  After being over there for one year, he decided not to re-enlist. 
    Linwood Johnson was the one to take him to the airport to go back to the United States in a helicopter, however, Mo was second-guessing himself about going home.
    “It just really changed me,” Mo said. "All I wanted to do was go home, but I wasn't really sure."
    Before leaving, he made sure to get everyone’s addresses and their phone numbers in his tiny navy blue pocket address book, including Linwood Johnson’s.
    They lost touch when Mo went back home, and it would be over 50 years until he saw or heard from Johnson again. Mo said he often thought about Linwood Johnson in that time span — even trying to find his name on the National Monument in Washington, D.C.
    Last spring, Mo's wife Karen was cleaning out closets at home and getting rid of old bank statements. Instead of shredding them, they opted to burn the old papers at their clubhouse. She then found that address book that her husband used from war and had been searching for for years.
    “She (Karen) said, ‘you’ll never guess what I found.’ She then showed me the address book. I asked her, ‘is Linwood’s name in there?’ and she said, ‘yes.' And that is how I found him — Linwood Johnson," Mo said.
    Mo found Johnson's address and phone number in the book, which, back then, phone numbers had two letters first. 
    He was able to research the phone number, and eventually reached him via phone.
    "(Linwood) said, 'Is that you, Big Zee?" Mo laughed. Big Zee was the nickname Linwood would call him. "And I said, 'yes.'"
    The two, along with their wives, were able to meet up for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel earlier this month, prior to the 20th Biennial National Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina.
    “There were lots of tears," Mo said. 
    They were able to catch up on what they missed in over 50 years' time. 
    Johnson lives in Providence Forge, Virginia, and owns the family logging business. Johnson also volunteered in the service rather than waiting to be drafted, just like Mo. 
    Johnson married his high school sweetheart and they have two sons. Mo and Karen also have two grown sons, Chad and Jason.
    Linwood remembered one specific thing about Mo — being introduced to summer sausage.
    "(When I was in Vietnam), I received a big box of summer sausage that was sent to me by family," Mo said. He was able to share the summer sausage with his other comrades, including Linwood Johnson.
    Johnson told him after that, he would buy summer sausage wherever he would see it. 
    Mo did give Linwood a few sticks of summer sausage when they met.
    They both have a lot in common and were able to talk about the old times, including the trauma they experienced over in Vietnam.
    When Mo got back home from Vietnam and stepped on American soil, he said it was like he had a “chip on his shoulder” and wondered why he was so different from everyone back at home. 
    He then tried to “dumber” himself down to try to block out the war, and act like he didn’t know anything about it.
    He always had flashbacks from his days in Vietnam, and was eventually diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, some of the health issues that he has had has been attributed to Agent Orange, which was a tactical herbicide used by the U.S. military.
    "It's like I left Vietnam, but Vietnam never left me," he said.
    Mo is a huge advocate for bringing awareness to health issues that happened during wartime. As president of the  Clinton County Vietnam Veterans Chapter #269, which he has been for the past 18 years, Mo attends conventions all over, advocating for Vietnam-era veterans and families.
    The Clinton County chapter is part of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), which is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to the Vietnam-era veterans and families.
    Today, VVA has a national membership of over 89,000, with over 650 chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Philippines.
    The VVA places great emphasis on coordinating its national activities and programs with the work of its local chapters and state councils and is organized to ensure that victories gained at the national level are implemented locally.
    The goals are to promote and support the full range of issues important to Vietnam veterans, to create a new identity for this generation of veterans, and to change public perception of Vietnam veterans. 
    They strive to achieve the following: advocating on issues important to veterans, seeking full access to quality health care for veterans, and identifying the full range of disabling injuries and illnesses incurred during military service. 
    Locally, the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter #269  holds many fundraising activities throughout the year to support projects for helping other veterans.  Recently, they built two complex handicap ramps for disabled veterans, making a total of 13  ramps that they have built for local veterans.
    Their motto is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”
   Mo and Johnson plan to keep in touch as long as they can. 
    “It’s just so amazing how we were able to reconnect,” Mo said. “I’m just so damn proud to be a Vietnam Veteran.”
    Mo encourages other veterans to share their stories and/or attend their meetings. 
    The Vietnam Veterans of America - Clinton County Chapter #269 meets the third Wednesday of every month. Meetings are held at different locations every month, so if you want to attend the next one, find out from Vernon Mohesky at (618) 444-0573 or Mo Zurliene at (618) 920-5222. 
    You can also find them on Facebook at “Vietnam Veterans of America - Clinton County, IL Chapter # 269.”