During Vietnam, Recht said he served on the original “Wild Thing” during convoys. After the war, he met John Pentangelo through his brother Marvin. He said John wanted to build a Vietnam-era truck. Randy then sent him a photo of the original “Wild Thing.” From there, they started collecting parts and in 2001 found a 5-ton truck and built the replica.
Since then, the unit and “Wild Thing” have been a reunion regular.
In 1969, the gun trucks were used to protect convoys, he explained. It was first built on a 2 ½ ton truck, which proved to be difficult to maneuver through the rough terrain. Then they mounted the gun box on a 5-ton model for a more powerful truck.
The truck saw action three times in Vietnam, including in 1971. Now, the unit takes the truck on tours to schools around the country to educate students on what the war was about and their experiences.
“We go to schools and talk to them about the war,” Recht said. “We didn’t talk to them about the blood and guts. We talked to them about what we ate, the climate and the importance of supporting veterans.”
One by one the students boarded the gun truck.
“I’m intrigued,” said Kyle Coate, 17. “I found [the veterans] to be optimistic and poignant. It was hard to talk to them. I was afraid to say something wrong.”
The day kicked off with its traditional opening ceremonies featuring two bald eagles.
With the birds perched on their handlers’ arms on the stage and the Greentown American Legion Color Guard standing at attention, hundreds of veterans stood silently and saluted the flag as the song “8th of November” rang out on the loud speaker.
The song by Big & Rich was a tribute to the 173rd Airborne, which was ambushed by the Viet Cong during Operation Hump from Nov. 5 to 8, 1965.