Stanley Parker and Doug Stanton met in Afghanistan in 2005.
Parker was nearing the end of his four-decade Army career. Stanton was researching his second nonfiction book, "Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan" (Scribner, 2009).
Parker had read Stanton's first book, "In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors," (St. Martin's Press, 2003) and told him he should be writing about his wartime experience in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, in 1968.
Friday, the two greeted fans and signed books at the Post Exchange on Fort Carson. Stanton, now a New York Times bestselling author, was promoting his third military book, "The Odyssey of Echo Company" (Scribner, 2017). It is, in part, Parker's story.
"I like to tell stories about ordinary Americans caught in extraordinary circumstances," Stanton said.
He described his latest offering, which was released in mid-September, as "a war story, but if you read it, it's very emotional."
"There's this whole generation of Americans, age 70, with children who are 40, and grandchildren who are 15. So actually, the Vietnam War is still very much an American story," Stanton said. "This book is for the guys who fought there - and I don't want to leave out their wives and girlfriends."
The story was also dear to Parker's heart, as it talks about his experience serving during the Vietnam War and about his return to the village of Trung Hoa, Vietnam, in 2014, accompanied by Stanton and his wife, Anne, and Parker's former platoon-mate Tom Soals. Parker had last been there in 1968, fighting for his life.
More than 46 years later, the group happened upon a man, Mr. Sinh, who had been there fighting Parker.
"Somehow they ended up not killing each other back then," Stanton said.
With the help of an interpreter, Parker and Mr. Sinh revisited the site of a terrible battle that resulted in massive casualties on both sides.
And Parker, so moved by seeing the man, asked the interpreter to ask Mr. Sinh if he could hug him. Mr. Sinh agreed, and the men embraced.
That feeling of acceptance was more than Parker said he ever got from the American people after returning from war.
"It was amazing. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders," Parker said. "Here I was with the enemy - we had tried to kill each other - and 46 years later we bump into each other. I thought he was going to be angry, and he thought I was going to be angry. We thought each other was dead."
At the book signing on Fort Carson, a steady stream of fans gathered, books in hand.
Leroy Scott, retired from the Army and a Colorado Springs resident, wearing a "Vietnam Veteran/Purple Heart" recipient cap, struck up a conversation with Parker. They had both served in the same place during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
"I was there. We walked in the same rice paddy," Scott said. "When he got there, we welcomed his brigade."
He added, "It's great to see these Vietnam guys."
Carmen Cadman, who lives on the base, was getting a book signed to send to her dad, a Vietnam veteran, in Alabama.
Miriam Mielke was getting a book signed as a gift for her Army husband.
"He loves stuff like this," she said.
"Their story can stand up for a lot of people," Stanton said. "This book is a good excuse to talk about the war. The Ken Burns Vietnam War film takes a 10,000-foot view. This book gets in close. It's focused on the experience of the guys on the ground, from day to day."
Those who served in Vietnam and other wars often don't want to - or can't - talk about what happened there. Stanton said he hopes this book will start conversations between generations and get the veterans to open up.
"You don't get a lot of closure with the Vietnam War, but you do with this book because it ends with a smile," Stanton said.
Sgt. Maj. Stanley Parker, 5th Special Forces Battalion of the 19th group, now 71, retired from the Army after a 42-year career in 2007 and now lives in Black Forest with his wife, Anna.
"In Harms Way" is set to be released by Warner Bros. in 2018 as a movie starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon.