Each year for the past 14 years or so, members of the Vietnam Security Police Association:
have gathered in one spot each October for it's annual reunion. The association has grown from a handful of dog handlers back in 1995 to a fully funded organization of some 1200 members nationwide. The Internet and our web site is responsible for almost all of the groups growth in it's entirety. The annual get together is held near an Air Force base each year, and this past year it was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 2009 event will be held in Phoenix...other years we have been in Las Vegas, Valdosta, Georgia, Washington DC, San Antonio, Texas, and in 2002 it was in Dayton...the only year I have been able to attend.
The problem with the annual event comes in several areas. Expensive, long travel distances, getting the time off....for me, the past few years have been, I do football officiating, and the middle of October is a busy time....my wife is working, and I really have no reason to travel long distances for a get together like that without her.
A couple of years ago a half dozen of us decided to get together for a rather informal meeting...some guys being from Kentucky the rest from southwest(or my case, west central) Ohio, we figured Wright-Patterson was as good of place as any to meet....we chose February 2007 in the dead of winter to meet at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Pat...It so happened Sam and I were on our way back from an RV run to Florida that morning so we hooked up with the other guys and broke bread and drank coffee, got a few photos(see banner shot of me next to the Security Police Defender Statue), and had several hours of good conversation. When we broke up the meeting, we decided we should do it again "someday" and invite some other guys from around the region to join us.
Fast forward to December 2008....after some e-mail exchanges, the original gang, me, Mike Tillman, Larry Dotson, Wayne DeZarn, and Rick Adams, decided to meet up again in the winter...and why not post a note on the web site Bulletin Board:
asking anybody else that felt the need, to join us at the Museum......
Needless to say we were not, or at least I wasn't, prepared for the response. it was outstanding....so at 11AM tomorrow January 31, 2009, a small group of Air Force Security Policeman who served in Vietnam and Thailand during the Vietnam "War", will gather with wives and family members around the frozen statue outside the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio.
At this point, depending on those willing to travel, in cold weather, we will see somewhere between 50 and 100 old timers....I have to admit when this all started, I was feeling that we would get maybe a dozen of the gang, from Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana....instead we have guys coming from Florida, Virginia, Montana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee, and the other states mentioned as well. Needless to say we are surprised in a good way....who would have thunk it? Traveling in the dead of winter to frozen Ohio for a 6 hour get together with guys who for the most part know each other only through the web site and mail....AMAZING! We will have a memorial, lunch and then tour the impressive AF History Museum...say our good byes and head either home or to the various motels we will use.
The VSPA is comprised of Security Police who served in SE Asia during the 1960-1975 war. Unlike Army and other outfits...we SPs did not serve as one outfit during our time in the military. We served as individuals within a Squadron...and got orders, not as a group, but as individuals....I went to Nha Trang in the summer of 1969 by myself....I landed at Tan Son Nhut, and flew via a C-130 north to Nha Trang, on that plane were me, and old mommasan with her goat, and the 5 crew members....it is a trip that is forever burned into my mind....I love that memory...the new guy in country, flying in an open cargo door airplane above the jungles, just 48 hours after leaving the USA...amazing, I had never been out of the country, let alone into a war zone. Most of the other members of the VSPA have similar stories. We served as individuals with other individuals as a well oiled group....it was unique.
So most of the members of the Vietnam Security Police Association never knew each other until this group came along...some of us found old friends long lost....I know that is the case for me. Harry Beven, Bruce Thompson, my old NCOIC Phil Lange(who I drove nuts at Nha Trang), Tony Nieomoka, are old friends I found after 30 years, when I joined the group in 1999...others that I now consider friends, I never knew...Bill Marshall from my old home town of Scott, Ohio, Big Sam Lewis, Mike, Rick, Wayne, and Larry, and others...I am glad I found this group, I look forward to tomorrow.
We will start off by freezing our asses off at the statue, saluting those that are no longer with us, including those lost on January 31, 1968, the day of the TET Offensive that took the lives of several SPs and hundreds of other American Heroes.....
I plan on having the complete story and some photos to share next week.
photos-Patches I have worn/VSPA Today/14thSPS Nha Trang/377th SPS Tan Son Nhut...and manning the Civilian Gate at Nha Trang, RVN, October 1969.