Mantua – Last week, the Zoller family in Mantua celebrated the life of a soldier, a remembrance that was 43 years in the making. Robert W. Zoller II, US Army veteran, was killed in action at a battle at Fire Support Base Ripcord in Vietnam in 1970 at one of the last ground battles of the conflict.

“My brother was just 20 years old; fun, caring, loving, and ornery,” shared Zoller’s sister Bonnie Zoller Collier. Her brother graduated in 1968 from Crestwood High School. He was killed in action on July 2nd in 1970. “It’s touching that this is happening 43 years later  — on the anniversary of the day we laid him to rest,” she marveled.

“This visit is long overdue,” shared veteran Gary Gilliam from Potosi, Michigan. Six members of the Charlie Company — the same Company Zoller served with in Vietnam — are fulfilling a self-appointed mission to locate and visit the graves of the 26 fallen ‘brothers’ from Charlie Company and to offer condolances to the surviving families. Dave Simons from North Canaan, Connecticut; Frank Matsko from Streator, Illinois; Glenn Green from Puxico, Missouri; Glenn Shuman from Laverne, Oklahoma; and Bob Lister from Jefferson, Ohio joined Gilliam.

“The story isn’t about us,” insisted Gilliam. “The story is right here,” he explained, pointing to Zoller’s grave. “This young man gave his life to save his friends.” The group of veterans is scheduled to visit twelve by the end of August. They hold annual reunions with other Charlie Company veterans, and have a practice of calling the names of the 26 fallen during a memorial dinner, “So we never forget the names of our brothers,” they explained.

“We’re here today to grieve your loss, but also to share your joy in remembering this soldiers life,” acknowledged Gillian. As a part of the ceremony, the group shared stories and poems of their time serving,  placing coins on Zoller’s grave to signify having served with him. Eleven members of the American Legion Mantua Post 193 participated in the ceremony, as well, serving as Honor Guard.

Zoller hails from a long line of proud veterans: An uncle served in WWI, while their father served in WWII. A cousin served in the Korean War, while brothers Bill and the late Bob Zoller served in the Vietnam era.

“Forty-six years later, he’s looking down, knowing he’s remembered,” shared older brother, Bill Zoller.