Thank you: Sergeant thanks Vietnam vet for saving father’s life

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • Staff Writer
It isn't every day that someone gets to meet the person who saved their father's life, 45 years after the fact.

That meeting became real for Master Sgt. David Herrig, a contracting superintendent with the Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting Directorate. Sergeant Herrig recently sat down with retired Senior Master Sgt. Pete Piazza, who in 1968 inadvertently played a part in saving Sergeant Herrig's father's life while stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam.

The sergeant's father passed away in 2009, so having the chance to meet and talk with Mr. Piazza was very moving for him.

"I lost my father and, in a way, this is a way to reconnect to him," Sergeant Herrig said, as he shook Mr. Piazza's hand. "I'm grateful for what you did."

Just 3 years old in 1968, Sergeant Herrig knows that his life would have been drastically different were it not for the heroic efforts of then 25-year-old Staff Sergeant Piazza, who served with the 3rd Security Forces Squadron.

Then-Tech. Sgt. Delbert Walter Herrig served in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing as a bomb loader for the F-100 Super Saber. He would have been loading bombs on the Charlie ramp -- near Bunker Hill 10 when the attack took place.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 31, 1968, hostile Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces launched a rocket and ground attack, beginning the infamous Vietnam Tet Offensive against Bien Hoa Air Base and the 3rd Security Police Squadron.

Sergeant Piazza drove through a hail of machine gun and sniper fire to resupply the defenders of Bunker Hill 10 who were quickly running out of ammunition and slap flares.

In a February 1968 letter to his wife, Sergeant Delbert Herrig wrote that he commended the 3rd Security Police Squadron. He included a now yellowed newspaper clipping from the Stars & Stripes newspaper that mentioned Sergeant Piazza and his heroic efforts.

According to the Stars and Stripes article, "One of our ammunition truck drivers, Staff Sgt. Pete Piazza, 25, Wichita Falls, TX heard they were in trouble and drove through enemy positions to supply the beleaguered bunker, which made it possible for them to hold out."

In his letter, Sergeant Herrig wrote, "Honey, remember I told you we had real good security on this base."

Ever humble, Mr. Piazza said he couldn't take all the credit and accepted the thanks on behalf of all of those who fought that day and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"I appreciate it, but it wasn't just me, it was a bunch of us," said Mr. Piazza, who is quick to point out it was a team effort. "We went out and did our job. We never expected an award."

Mr. Piazza said of all the people lost that day, no one was killed by a bullet.

"We lost two people, one SP to RPG and one to a hand grenade, but not one bullet," he said. "Someone was watching over us that day and it wasn't our turn to go. For the ones we lost, God needed them for something else."

The two men sat and shared war stories while looking through each other's photographs. As Sergeant Herrig relayed stories his father had told him, Mr. Piazza knew exactly what he was talking about and filled in some of the missing pieces. Mr. Piazza also brought a large map of the area at Bien Hoa and was able to show Sergeant Herrig where his father had worked and where the attacks happened.

Reconnecting to and remembering the past, a friendship was forged. The two men look forward to sharing that for as long as they can.