Friday, September 17, 2010

Back From Kokomo and the Howard County Vietnam Veterans Reunion

I left Celina at 9am Wednesday, and made it back home in one piece before Noon yesterday....what a day long odyssey it was.  Taking Indiana Highway 18 to I-69, and then on Indiana 26 towards Kokomo was a trip that I had made many times during my stay at WIOU Radio in Kokomo in 1979 and early 1980.  It was a trip that I had not made in 30 years.   As much as the world, at least my world, has changed in the 30 years, the route had not changed much in those 3 decades.   Montpelier, the outskirts of Marion, down 69 to James Dean's hometown of Fairmount, looked much the same as it did when I made the trip from Kokomo to Celina back in my News Anchor days at WIOU/WZWZ.

I had only planned on staying the afternoon, just to catch up with fellow Vietnam Sky Cops Sam Lewis and Tom McCandles...but they planned leaving time around 6pm came along, I was already convinced to stay the night, with a little help of some good conversation and a few drops of white lightning.  And I'm glad I did.

Also met up with Phil Savage, another Air Force SP and Dog Handler in Nam...and we met another, Herb Johnson from Indiana, who wasn't even aware of the VSPA...we swapped information between sips, and hopefully have recruited another member.

$10 to get in for the entire weekend...if you are lucky enough to get a campsite, like Tom has had for 24 of the 28 years of the event...those are $10 a night as well.  The place is sold out every year, and a farm field a lady owns is filled with overflow...and this was only Wednesday, the actual events don't begin until Thursday night.  Regardless, Tom and a few thousand others had been there since Monday, and I'm guessing(if CBS and the National Park crew in DC can get a count wrong, so can I)...somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 thousand were already there when I arrived just before Noon Wednesday.

Free food, everybody has a cooler or a number of filled bottles, and you can party on the cheap....no difference if you are Air Force, Marines, Army, and Navy....everybody was getting along, and I noticed no difference if you had been there 24 years, like Tom, or where a first year FGN , like me and Sam.  Of course it helped being with Tom...everybody, and I mean everybody knew him.

Music throughout the weekend, swap meets, sales, free food,  and by tonight some 40,000 Veterans of Vietnam, friends, family, and descendants, will be on hand....I had a blast for 24 hours...I made it until about Midnight, somewhere about half passed Drunk-30, when I hit the sack...or should say, passed out in the back seat of my car.  It took Tom and Sam awhile to find me, wondering just where the Hell I had gone....I was gone all right, this old beer drinker isn't used to that hard stuff.

I got home before Noon yesterday, headed north to Wayne Trace to do a Junior High football game, and got home to a good nights sleep...tonight I head to Toledo for the City League game between Rogers and Whitmer...another long night, especially with a JV game at Spencerville tomorrow morning.

I plan on taking it easy, other than football officiating and watching, this weekend....and I'm trying to figure out how next year, I can pace myself if I decide to spend 3 or 4 days at Kokomo.  Photo descriptions below:  Double Click for large versions....



Photos-top left...Sam Lewis, Me, and Tom McCandles...along with "Sweet Pig" the Boar's Head....next is our new found Vietnam SP and potential VSPA Member Herb Johnson...for the life of me I forget where he was at and when...might have been the "shine" and a few other things I had partaken in by this time.  Next is Sam, Tom, along with VSPA Dog Handler Phil Savage from Michigan, and Wendy, and daughter of a Marine and long time attendee of this event who passed away a few years ago.  Our numbers are growing smaller by the day...The excellent painting on the back of Phil's pick-up saluting his dog and honoring his and our time in Vietnam.  The other photos, of new and old found friends and the grounds outside Kokomo, as the crowd was growing...hopefully I can make it back for a longer stay next year...

Back Later>>>>>

7 comments:

Sarge Charlie said...

i am thinking what a great day that must have been.

Nancy said...

So glad you enjoyed it. We pass there on our way to Indy. The drive is not too bad. My only brother and only sibling was in Nam for about 2 years. He passed away about 6 years ago from cancer. I sure miss him and wish he could have been there. God Bless America

Shrinky said...

Wow, that's one hell of an annual party you guys have got going down there! I'm glad you had a great time, and still made it home again all in one piece!

PRH....... said...

Thanks gang...now all I have to do is survive the rest of this weekend and the football officiating. Takes a few days to recover, to be young again? :)

Nancy said...

Ha! Me too. I don't officiate, but am playing in a band all weekend!! A total of 9 shows! First three are in. The night is mine. Age is a state of mind.

Larry said...

Looks/sounds like a fun time for comrades-in-arms, Pat. Noticed the camo tarp in the one photo. Were you guys expecting a raid from the Indiana Air National Guard?

PRH....... said...

Hey Larry...those were to catch the Jack Daniels and Moonshine bottles being dropped in CARE packages...

:)