Human Interest

If you've kept an eye on our blog (http://garmin.blogs.com) or this newsletter, you've seen pictures of how our GPS units have literally saved soldiers' lives.  Testimonials from America's finest tell how a well-placed eTrex can deflect a piece of shrapnel and keep it from piercing a soldier's heart.  It's incredible, and it has happened more than once!

Here's another story about how our GPS units make a big difference on the battlefield.  But these particular battlefields are much quieter than those in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Vietnam Battlefield Tours is a veteran-owned, nonprofit corporation that provides professionally staffed tours of battlefields in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for veterans, their family members, historians or anyone else who is interested in seeing the historic battlefields firsthand.

Along with standard trip packages, VBT also creates custom itineraries for family members who may have lost a loved one in battle.  This is where Garmin comes in.  VBT researches each incident using declassified situation reports, squadron archives and tactical maps to piece together the precise location of battlefield incidents.  But pinning down a location on a map doesn't make it easy to find in real life.

"After 39 years of monsoons, typhoons, erosion and unchecked vegetative growth, little of the countryside topography from the war years is recognizable." says William Stilwagen, bush guide for VBT.  "In addition, we need to find the most efficient and safest routes."

Stilwagen adds, "The eTrex has led us to some of the remotest battlefields in Vietnam.  From the bomb crater where a Marine lost his legs, to isolated mountaintops better known as the Hill-fight peaks west of the Khe Sanh, to the exact spot where a Medal of Honor recipient gave his last full measure, Garmin has been there to lead us in and to prove that we are where we say we are."

Recently VBT helped a woman named Judy find the site where her young husband had been shot down in 1969.  The couple's daughter, Marcie, was only 35 days old when she lost her father, and she dreamed of visiting Vietnam to learn more about her father's death.  Unfortunately, Marcie died before she could visit Vietnam.  Her mother, Judy, made the trip to honor both her husband and daughter.

"Even though the sky and horizon were hidden by jungle canopy, Garmin helped us complete our mission.  After three and a half hours marching, the eTrex told us we had arrived at the crash site."  reported Stilwagen.

Once at the site, Judy placed a cross and sprinkled a vial of her daughter Marcie's ashes, so Marcie could finally be with the father she never met.  VBT held a memorial service for all 10 Americans who died in the 1969 crash, standing at attention and playing Taps in the middle of the jungle.

Garmin is honored to help play a small role in the life-changing expeditions that Vietnam Battlefield Tours leads for people like Judy.  If you'd like to know more about VBT, visit their website www.vietnambattlefieldtours.com.


Garmin, Inc

This article appeared on page 9 of "Waypoints," Garmin's worldwide company newsletter in October, 2008.
It is reprinted here with Garmin's permission.

To download a pdf copy of this story, click here.

A special thanks to Garmin, Inc for this article.

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