Monday, November 21, 2011

Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Processing the Memories, or lack of...part 3

After a quick basketball scrimmage at Delphos Jefferson Middle School on Saturday morning, I basically spent the weekend watching football....both Ohio State, who really sucks this season, and the better than expected Bengals, lost close games.  In addition to the basketball work Saturday, I did do some weight lifting and managed to get a 40 minute walk in yesterday.  Other than than, except for an occasion run out of the house to usual destinations, Patricia, Anissa, and I, spent the weekend around the homestead.  Pat began making her batches of Christmas cookies, although she vows not to make as many this season...good by me, it's hard enough to keep the 30 pounds I have lost over the past couple of years off, without that temptation.

Still no Grandson in site just yet...the official due date is November 28th, but Hal and Lisa thought Kaysn would come early...that doesn't appear to be the plan that he has however.  As of now, he's still not ready to come out, but we do plan on heading down to Centerville, with Sam coming from Columbus, and fix Thanksgiving Dinner for them.  A change over the past years....unless the baby decides to come before then.

Tan Son Nhut a final look(for now)_____

On Friday's blog, I presented a list of names from my tour at Nha Trang, names and faces I remember vividly.  Since Vietnam,  I have hooked up with some of those guys, some have passed, and others remain lost in time and space.  The same can be said for Dover, where I was from the fall of 68 until my Vietnam Vacation which began on 30 June 1969, and my final Air Force stay at Griffiss in upstate New York, from August 1970, until my quickie discharge in May 1972.  Names and faces are clear as a bell, even now, 40 and more years later....but as for Tan Son Nhut, not so much.

When I started thinking about Vietnam back in 1999, 30 years after the tour began, the memories, faces, names, and places from Nha Trang came flooding back.  From the flight out of TSN to Nha Trang, to the day I got my orders to return to Saigon and the 377th.  I wish now I had kept a complete diary of the time I was there, because although I remember many things from my 6 months at Tan Son Nhut, the names, almost all, are gone from my memory banks.

My drill instructor{TI in the Air Force, for Technical Instructor} from Basic Training at Amarillo, in the summer of 1968, Joe Prokop picked me up at the airport, but Joe would be on B flight, so I only saw him a time or two before he headed back to the states.  My buddy Aceavedo, a Hispanic from Texas, and I spent much time in downtown Saigon, in the bars and brothels together, but I don't remember his first name...we had Tuesdays off, so we spent a boat load of time together.  My cube mate in the barracks, was another Hispanic, a great guy, but frankly, although I remember his face, I cannot remember his name, Martinez? Manuel? Hell I just cannot recall....other names are completely forgotten, although I did connect with one guy through VSPA that I had worked with...but everybody knew Chris Godfrey, although I really didn't know or remember his name, we just called him "Surfer Joe".  Chris, from California, spent 4 of his 6 years at Tan Son Nhut working Security...and is a member of the VSPA...he saw a lot of faces come and go during his tour. I salute him for sticking it out that long, I only wish I had done my final two years there as well, although as I mentioned on a previous post, sometimes you don't know what would have happened, if you had stayed...I am happy with the way things worked out in the long run.

So there is my block or 'brain freeze" when it comes to Tan Son Nhut....I just don't remember the names...not sure why...maybe it was working nights, or having a bout of insomnia.  During that spell, I would get off duty on C Flight, first in Echo Sector, then with Blue Patrol, head to the NCO Club, and try to drink myself to seldom worked...I battled the lack of sleep for at least 2 months, finally after returning from my R&R in mid April, and managed to get back to some semblance of normal sleep.

Hawaii April 1970_____

I'm really not sure why I choose to take my R&R in Hawaii?  Most of the guys who were not married, went to Australia, Hong Kong, or some other southeast Asia location...the married guys were hooking up with their wives in Hawaii.  Regardless, I headed out to Honolulu, and as luck would have it, another guy, unmarried, from Army Artillary, Denny Moneypenny, from West Virginia, was seated next to me.  Now, for some reason, I remember his name, clear as a bell.  Denny and I decided to save ourselves some bucks, and would share a room at a off beach hotel called the Kalakaun, we rented a car for the 5 days, and toured the Island, either together or on our own.  We hit the local bars at night, but pretty much went our own way most of the trip, especially during the daylight...each searching on our own, for whatever we were looking for...{insert obvious conquest attempts here}.  

On our final morning, before jumping on that 707 back to Saigon, we grabbed a cab, from an outfit called "Love Cab Company".  A "Hippy Dude" was our driver of the flower power Chevy, he took one look at us and asked "You guys heading back to Nam"?  Answering the affirmative, he opened his dash pocket, where a jar of small rolled joints was stashed....he fired one up, and we proceeded to smoke it on the way to Honolulu International....topping off that R&R, I slept most of the way, or at least a good portion, back to Tan Son Nhut, where I would face about 10 more weeks of duty.

The Final Days____

The next two and one half months rolled by, me and "Ace" continued to spend our Tuesday off days downtown...sure I had some concerns about safety, but I knew life would not be the same when I returned to the states, and wanted to do as much living as I could muster when in Saigon.  

With my insomnia clearing up{I think}, I would get my 5 or 6 hours sleep in, until the sun and heat would wake me....most days, I would head to the outdoor swimming pool, working on my tan, so I could at least look like I was in a tropical location when I returned home for my 39 day leave{30 days plus 9 days allotted travel time}....when 29 June 1970 arrived, I was ready to return home, sure I had my doubts, well founded, about serving 20 months in the USA, but I was ready to come home.....

I have no regrets about my service in gung ho war hero am I, no draft dodging coward either, just somewhere in-between, someone who has no doubts about my service there, and I don't worry what people think of those of us who served....those that continue to dis us for our service, and those, now some 40 years later, who claim to praise us today, while when we were there protested us, do you hear me Bill Clinton and Company?  Can kiss my ass!

back later>>>>

Photos-top left...the only piece of the self-serving "Award" I received for my duty with the "Blue Patrol"...from March 24 through my late June 1970 final days at Tan Son Nhut...The Terminal at Tan Son Nhut....I traveled out and arrived here on more than one occasion.  The Monsoon Rains come down on our Barracks Compound 1300... On the Beach at Waikiki,  The Kalakauan Hotel, where I spent my five day R&R in Hawaii....and finally, getting ready to leave the Honolulu Airport and return for my final couple of months at Tan Son Nhut.


Rick Adams said...

Love those pants in the last photo, Pat. Yipes, stripes.

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

Those were funny.....even back then, they got all kinds of looks from the locals on the Island.....bell bottoms to boot. :)