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SAIGON KID KEN YEAGER’S ATTEMPT AT WRITING A BOOK

Submitted by Ken Yeager (ACS)

Ken YeagerSeems like everyone is writing a book these days, me included, although mine is not for publication. I started my book a few years ago and sort of wrapped it up this year. My purpose in writing was to provide some information to my son who grew up without a father in residence. Over the years I often wondered about aspects of my parent’s background, the questions I never thought to ask previously and as explained, it is now too late. Perhaps someday my son will want to ask the same questions but by then I, too, will be gone.

Of course, one chapter is about my childhood experiences in Saigon, that wonderful, wonderful time of my life.

Here is the introduction to my book if anyone is interested:

My name is Ken Yeager and I am an army brat, an Army veteran, former police officer and diplomat of sorts. This book is primarily about my life as the son of a career Army soldier and then later as a member of the Department of State’s Foreign Service (FS). Over the years I have spoken about my travels and memories and several people have suggested I write about my experiences. While my stories to some may have seemed extraordinary, that really isn’t the case. There are thousands of adults who grew up in very similar circumstances. I suppose it depends on the audience who feel that my stories are somewhat exceptional.

It goes without saying that any autobiography covering 70+ years relies mostly on memories and thus some inaccuracies will occur. I have some documents and photographs to fall back on but not a lot and unfortunately, all of the family (aunts, uncles, parents, etc.) that I could call upon for information about the early years have passed away.

I started writing this book when I was 67 and finished it in 2018 at the grand old age of 73. There was nothing terribly exciting, no breath-taking moments in my life, but when one begins traveling at about 18 months of age and continues until age 66, it is a bit unusual for an American, as it seems many have never been outside their home state let alone outside of the country. Lots of military families move and kids change schools far too often, and Foreign Service families experience the same situations I did during tours in various countries. But having said that, everyone’s life story is a bit unique, as is mine. Medical concerns, citizenship problems, family separations, dangerous posts and occasionally war zones, unhealthy posts, great assignments, lousy assignments, wonderful and awful bosses are all part of the FS life. One advantage of the Foreign Service is that your supervisor or the ambassador will change every couple of years, either he or she transfers or you do, so one is not stuck with lousy leaders for years and years.

Life in the Foreign Service is a special way of living regardless of one’s position in an Embassy or Consulate. In the eyes of the local citizens, you are a representative of your country and one must always keep that in mind. We all make mistakes or do stupid things occasionally but in the FS, such errors in judgment can be detrimental to the relationship between the host country and the U.S. Probably sex and alcohol are the two biggest problems that can cause difficulties but fortunately, neither affected me…FS life is also difficult for spouses and children. Accompanying wives or husbands often cannot find work, either in the embassy or on the local market for various reasons and the children, who get uprooted from schools at transfer time, especially in the high-school years, lose their friends and young loves are torn apart. So despite the stereo-type cookie-pusher image portrayed by the press and quite often by members of Congress, life in the FS is not all cocktail parties or a bed of rose petals.

Not being a professional writer, I know that I have probably not followed all of the rules of good English grammar for composing a book. One will see I have interchanged “I” with “we” often. In most instances, the “we” is appropriate because my wife of many years has shared this adventure with me. To ask a person to give up their job, family and friends and travel around the world to often hot, dirty, dangerous and unsanitary places is a lot to expect, but Gisela did it gladly and enjoyed the adventure with me. I have a lot of respect for my wife and for all Foreign Service spouses. It takes a lot of gumption to participate in this Gypsy life.

Before I end this introduction I would like to say a bit about my family name, Yeager. Many will know that this is a variation to the German name Jäger, meaning hunter. Exactly how my family got this name is unknown but the family has been traced back to a Fredrick Yeager (1808-1884). To date, nothing is known about earlier family. However, I have some thoughts on the matter.

German soldiers were hired/bought by the British king to help fight in the American Revolutionary War that ended in 1783. Most came from Hesse-Kassel and Hesse-Hanau and were often Jäger Battalions or light infantry. As in any war, some soldiers died, some ran away and some returned to Germany. I think, but without any proof, that Fredrick’s father was a German soldier who stayed in the US, probably by running away from the fighting and in order to hide and lacking in too much knowledge about names in use at that time, changed his name to Jäger which in turn was Anglicized to Yeager at some point. He stayed and started a family but there is, to my knowledge, no record beyond knowing his son Fredrick. The timing is right.

I hope that you enjoy this book and that if any young people are reading it, this type of life just might appeal to you. Government service will not make you rich in terms of dollars but it can certainly add to your wealth of knowledge and give you some great experiences and memories.

Cheers

Note – Certain readers may note that some names and instances are not included in this book. You know who you are and why.

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