December 2023
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Submitted by Frank Stoddard (ACS)

On 20 June 2018 I headed out on a road trip. Here I am, in front of the house my son, Silas, and I built… just two minutes later I headed down the road on one of my buckets lists.

Now if you are wondering about the little red car. Family friends, you know those that go back to when you first remember. Well Pam and Stan were two of those kids.. Sadly Stan, who just past 67 died. He was an Idaho guy, you know, the folks that are of a gentle spirit. Pam his sister and Stan’s son got a hold of me and asked me if I was interested in buying Stan’s car. It was a 2000 BMW M Roadster with less then 26,000 miles on it. I flew to Idaho and picked up the car in Pokey (Pocatello, Idaho) in January. The following photo is of me, Pam, Stan and my sister Mary. I was back in college (by 1970) and it was between my time between the Corps and the Army… The photo is at Washoe Park, Anaconda, Montana, maybe early summer 1971. (Ah! So if anyone ever thought about Montana, which is unlikely, you thought we were behind the times or were roping cows!)

On my way to Southern California, I first a stop, an had an appointment with my Oncologist at the VA hospital in Tucson. It was a good visit because for the first time in years, my white blood cell count went down. I know we all hear about the terrible VA. I think the VA has two different systems, the bureaucracy and the health Care. The first one is the difficult one to maneuver. Once that is achieved, the health care is terrific. The Tucson VA Hospital is a very nice place. Between it at the Tucson Medical Center, they are the best hospitals I have ever gone to. (Most of the Saigon Kids have been to many hospitals. We did not have a say about keeping the same doctor, let alone keeping the same hospital. The military hospital system served us pretty well, however. Don’t you think?) Anyway… the Tucson VA Hospital was built in the 1920’s with a very Southwestern flare. (For WW I Vets of course, then for WW II etc..) They have so many types of clinics, but they do lack in rooms. I wish they could expand in this area, but it takes money and land. “If a fool such as I” (That sounds like a song) stops in the hospital hallway looking confused (wish I often do) someone is always there to ask, “can I help you sir”. I do not mind my 70-mile drive to this hospital. This may seem funny, but I look forward to going there. Hey, I will take attention any where I can.

Note the selfie!

After leaving the hospital, I drove over to Gilbert, Arizona and stayed three days with my friend Carlos and his wife. Carlos and I took teenagers on European tours twelve summers in a row when we were teachers. Carlos lost his older brother Frank to a sniper in 1967 in South Vietnam. I think I was about 20 miles from him at that time. It seems so simple and not meaningful, but I still must say, “Semper Fi”. Both Carlos and I are retired military and retired high school teachers. Yea! We have a few things in common…Like we are really close, really! During my visit with Carlos, while enjoying some great beer and Scotch, Carlos and I planned our trip to Europe next year. We will first fly to London, go by train to Portsmouth and then take the Ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. Carlos and I plan to be in Normandy for the 75th anniversary (he and I went to the 65th one) of D-Day. We will visit the American cemetery and actually shed a tear. We really do fell very sad! We will talk about the bravery that those young guys had to charge up those steep sloops into the machine gun fire. We will visit and read names on many graves. We will then drive to Saint-Mere-Eglise. This is the where the Paratrooper landed on the church steeple during the battle. There will be a celebration going on. French will not only be flying their flag but they will also put the U.S. flag up. I wish that other Americans could experience what this day means to the French. They are a very close and cherished allied of ours ever since this day in 1944.

After Normandy, Carlos and I, via rent a car will go to The Somme (WW I), Bastogne (WW II), Verdon (WW I) and Metz (for food and drink). Being both Carlos and I are military guys, this will be looked at as a very interesting but reflective trip.. We understand our limitations, but also will try to understand how so many men went beyond what we as humans are suppose to.

We will end our trip in Stuttgart where I plan to meet up with my kids and grand kids. Carlos will head back to London to meet up with his wife. Now Germany, I think is the best kept secret of Europe. Their food and drink is so good and still relatively inexpensive. Me and my family spent six years there with the U.S. Army.

Leaving Carlo’s house, I stopped in Phoenix and picked up my #two granddaughter, Tavia. She had to go to the Spanish Consulate in LA for an interview and paperwork. She did not get to pick the music, so old Rock was the norm. I don’t think she minded. I guess she thought that I drove fast! Oh well, less time on the road the safer we all are. Tavia plans to study next year in Madrid. She is very good in knowing Spanish and World Marketing. She and I had a nice ride to Westminster, although it was windy and very dusty, and the traffic became huge as we got closer to LA. (Where I live, if there are five cars in front of me, I figure I am caught in rush hour). Well, Tavia navigated the old guy in the right direction and we made is safely. We checked into our motel and then went out (via uber) and had a wonderful German meal at this very nice place. (I lived in Germany for six years, so I have a strong love for the people, food and drink). They (at the restaurant) were even singing and playing oomph music including “Ein Prosting”.. It was also so nice just to spent cherished time with a grand daughter.

The next morning, we first went to the Vietnam war memorial in “Little Saigon”. It was very pleasant and nicely done. I wondered if there were any other place in the World that the South Vietnamese flag is flown! My Gosh, so many lives were lost and changed because of the war.

We visited the Vietnam Mall with all their jewelry stores. It certainly reminded me of ole Saigon with all the gold chains hanging in their windows.

That afternoon Tavia and I drove over to Seal Beach and had Mexican food for lunch.

That evening we finally met Phi-Yen and Theo. They were two people that were on Father Crawford’s “children Airlift out of Saigon in April 1975. They both, now, live in the LA area. Theo is a successful businessman and Phi-Yen works for the L.A. (California) Department of Education. It was a very wonderful and interesting time talking to them over dinner. Their journey to this point in their life is so interesting. One growing up in Oregon and one in California. Much of the conversation was about how they came in contact with Father Crawford and about their thoughts about what took place about their departure from South Vietnam. I even still want to know more.

Theo picked out the restaurant in “Little Saigon”. It is called Brodard. That should “ring a bell” for some of you ole Saigon Kids. Just the name alone can maybe flood your mind with memories. We has a varity of food and drink that evening. I guess, BaMouiBa is no longer available, but Vietnam produces another beer called “Saigon” that is very similar. It was a good beer, and I, also, find them using that name interesting. It shows that the name “Saigon” is still alive.

The next day I met up with them again for Pho. It was a place called Pho 54. The name was chosen because 1954 is when Vietnam was divided. The Pho was so good and the company was even better. Now as a sideline…Theo (even though I told him I would get the tab) paid for our evening dinner. At Pho 54, a friend of Theo’s, a Vietnamese-American Doctor, came buy and said hello and paid for our lunch. I told Theo that I would be back because the food in “Little Saigon” was free.

The next day, Tavia flew back to Phoenix and I headed off to Temecula. I would then have a wonderful two day visit with Saigon Kid Mary Ann (Matteson) and her husband Joe Smith. They took me to many, many wineries and to old town. One of the winery’s was started by an Iranian, where we ended up eating one evening. The food and drink were spectacular, but again the company was even better. Mary Ann, Joe and I talked a lot about so many things. We looked through the old Gecko Yearbooks and especially got a kick out of some of the write ups. Some would certainly be looked at as sexist today. If any of you had your nose itch, now you know why. We were probably talking about you and all the great times we had. Do you remember all those dance parties at different kid’s houses? It was a good time! The Saigon period was very important to so many of us.

After the short stay in Temecula, having a beer/wine or two with Joe and Mary Ann,I headed back to Phoenix. I stayed one night with daughter Jodie, her husband Mark and their two kids Kaze and Ami (Kaze is the older and starts Kindergarten this year). Both Grand kids know how to swim. Mark was born and raised in Hawaii, but he is adjusting to the Arizona’s hot (and dry) climate. We all went out to a Thai restaurant (one we had not gone to before) where we met up with my daughter Tanya and our # 0ne granddaughter, Paije (Tavia’s older sister). The next morning I drove home to Hereford, America!

Yea, at my age… I Love Life…”Fast Cars, Ole Rock-N-Roll Music, Smooth Whiskey and very Slow Women!”

My next trip will be soon. Silas and I are off for two weeks to Scotland, in August. We decided on August because that is the month that the Tattoo (Military marching and bag-pipes) takes place in Edinburg (also the fringe). We already have our tickets for the event. We will also drive and stay three days on Islay (this is where the smoky Scotch is from), then for the rest of our trip, we will go wherever the wind takes us! The first thing we will do in Scotland is purchase kilts. This will allow us to cut down on laundry. LOL “Smooth Sailing, Everyone”!

As a side note: In 1988 I attended a NATO conference/ exercise in Oberammergau, Germany. I met a Scottish soldier, Major Stoddart. He was a very straight up fellow who was about 6 foot 4. He told me, as he looked down upon me, that my name and his (Stoddart/Stoddard) meant “keeper of bulls without balls”! Now you have to imagine, that I had about two drinks Maybe too to many) at the opening reception…this big Scottish guy with a deep, low, slow, accent, which is looking down and saying that. I was taken back, but we ended up as close comrades for the rest of the week. I volunteered Major Stoddart for everything after that. Even one evening, he had to get up and dance and slap his leg dance to the Bavarian music. It was so fun and funny.. (From this alone, and yes many other times, like getting drunk with a German sister unit soldiers and seriously training with them for weeks on end) our partners in Europe are so important, not just for their security but for ours. (By the way, before we left, the German Commander gave our Commander a special case of German beer. Well, back then, I could pop a cap with my teeth. By the hour and a half back to Herzo Base, the beer was gone… for a good cause, mind you. Go NATO!!} Now for the folks, with many roots in Montana, would say my family kept steers, or maybe they were cattle rustlers as my dad used to tell me…but keeper’s of bulls without …now come on! That is not what we are about! LOL!


  • Mary Lou Berven

    Hi Frank,
    Such great news that your white blood cell count has decreased! Thanks for letting us know.
    Next year, if you drive through Bar-le-Duc on your way from Verdun to Metz, please say hello for me. My father was the commander of the Trois Fontaines Ordinance Depot there from 52-53 when the US was shipping in arms at a tremendous rate due to fear of an imminent Russian invasion. One of my sons wants me to accompany him and his family on a similar itinerary as yours of the major battlefields.
    Have fun with Silas at the Military Tattoo and Godspeed!
    Mary Lou

  • Frank

    Mary Lou, I looked up Bar-Le-Duc. It looks like a very pleasant French village. I bet it looks very similar today as it did in the 50’s. I will think of you and your family. How are you doing? It must be difficult my friend. Yours, Frank

  • frank

    Theo informed me that one of his friends from the Father Crawford Airlift died. Duong Huynh would be an inspiration to us all. He went back to Vietnam to visit family and do volunteer work last month when he became ill and could not recover.

    Vietnamese-Americans Hold First NGO Conference
    By Jackie Bong-Wright

    An Inspirational Account

    From a wheelchair, Huynh Phuoc Duong told his story. “In 1968, I was shot by a stray bullet from an American military base in Hoi An, central Vietnam. I was 11 and still in first grade, my education had been interrupted for many years after I was taken from my parents’ farm to a refugee camp in Cam Chau commune. After going from hospital to hospital, I was fortunate enough to be put in the care of Father Robert Crawford, an American priest who ran a house for handicapped children in Gia Dinh, near Saigon. He brought me and other handicapped children to the U.S. in 1975.
    Duong continued. “After undergoing major surgeries over two years to heal my severed spine, I started 5th grade at the age of 19 in Long Beach, California, and then went on to College at California State University, ending up with a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in1992. I took my post-doctoral training at the Neuro-Genetics laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at UCLA in Los Angeles, studying how neurons in the brains of Parkinson and Alzheimer patients die. I am currently Assistant Professor at the UCLA Davis Geffen School of Medicine.”
    Right after his graduation, Duong had gone to Vietnam to visit his family. “I was amazed to meet many children and adults who never left their house because they felt ashamed at being handicapped, as I used to be. According to the Ministry of Health, there are about 5 million Vietnamese who suffer some type of disability.”
    Back home in California, Duong joined, in 1993, the Social Assistance Program for Vietnam, SAP-VN, whose sole mission is to provide free medical and educational services to needy and handicapped people in Vietnam. The organization has been operating in 12 provinces in Vietnam, and has delivered so far 226 wheelchairs and tricycles. Their largest program is in orthopedic corrective surgery, handling about 600 children a year. Their Mobile Healthcare Unit consists of Vietnamese doctors, dentists, pharmacists and volunteers who annually go to Vietnam to provide their services free. They contribute funds to health centers in villages and build schools in rural areas.
    “We raise around $130,000 a year with 90% of the contributions coming from Vietnamese individuals, and the remainder through United Way and matching funds from various companies. Our only goal is to help our own compatriots become independent and happy. The fact that we go to Vietnam to help doesn’t mean that we are sympathizers of the Communist regime or that we are Communists. We are human beings who want to make a difference by giving a ray of hope and a smile to some of our own people,” Duong concluded at the three-day conference. His talk was on “Personal Commitment from Personal Experience.”

  • Mary Lou Berven

    I expect that you are correct about Bar-le-Duc being similar to what it was in the 50s except that Trois Fontaines is only a distant memory. It closed in the 70s and the last time I visited there was 1968 but hope to return sometime in the next several years.
    Next week, I depart for northern Europe with three friends–two Brits from the Manchester area and another American. We will be in Denmark for a week and then take a Baltic cruise to Estonia, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, and Germany. Although I lived in Germany, I never had a chance to visit Berlin so I am looking forward to that, too. Originally, Jeff was supposed to make this trip as well but he will be with us in spirit instead.
    It’s good to hear from you. Some of us still want to return to Saigon for one more trip down memory lane . . .
    Take care, Mary Lou

  • frank

    Mary Lou, Berlin is very different from the days before 1990. Check Point Charlie is like a tourist area today unlike the serious times. There is much to see and do in Berlin, but if willing to do the nowhere, and if you like chocolate, please go to.. Please keep us informed about your adventures. The other places you are going are places I have never been to. Enjoy life my friend, Frank

  • Depending on health issues, I would be willing to meet up with Saigon kids in 2020. That would be 60 years from when I first arrived in Saigon. If anyone is interested… P.S. you know if we have a get together, it does not matter what month, but it has to be on a full moon. HerHee

  • Frank

    I am talking about meeting in Saigon!

  • frank

    In 1969 I was stationed at Lake Meade Marine Barracks. We were about 13 miles from Vegas and not toward Lake Meade. We guarded about 250 Nuclear bombs.(I don’t think the folks in Vegas knew that) It was the worst duty I ever had, even though it should have been the best. The first Sgt. and the Col were drunk all the time. We very seldom saw them. Two Staff Sergeants were in total charge. One was white and he was called Staff Sergeant Jackson. One was black and he was called Staff Sergeant Jackson. Actually, off the record, we called one cue ball and one eight ball. They were both mean assholes. They made our life miserable. The base was closed down in July 1969. I was so glad. In the short time I was there I volunteered to go back to Vietnam every month, The Marine Corps said that if I wanted to go back to Vietnam, I had a mental issue … “catch 22”. On the good side I was promoted to a Marine Corps Sergeant there. If our 48 hour hit on the weekend, we would get funeral duty. One Saturday we were allowed to drive our POV into the funeral parlor. Our weapons would be taken to the burial grounds in a military truck.
    We stopped at a 7-11 and had several Ripples. We did maintain enough to arrive at the funeral burial place in the appropriate Marine Corps matter. The guy we were honoring was Gary Judd. Now the Chapel was up above us with a circular path coming down. I was in the firing battery, the one that would give him the firing salute (we had M-1’s). Now does anyone remember Flip Wilson? Well, as the gasket was being carried down the hill, us in the firing battery (all of us were Vietnam Vets) started saying in unison, “Here Comes the Judge, here comes the Judd!” No one could hear us, but us. We did not mean disrespect. It was our way of copping. I think about that event more then I wish.

  • Frank

    My son and I had such a wonderful trip to Scotland. The Tattoo is only in August is so wonderful and is so worth going to.WOW! We drove over to Islay and like everywhere on Scotland the folks were so nice and the food and drink was spectacular. If anyone visits Scotland, I would put Sterling on your list. All of Scotland, with so much open space and friendly people was amazing. It was so clean and no bathroom was found to be dirty. Now with that being said..a day after I got home, I was checked into the hospital with pneumonia. This was the second time this year I have had it. Of course COPD and CLL (agent orange) does not help.I am still planning to be in Normandy for the 75 Anniversary of D-Day in June. My patriotism may be very different from many, but that makes our country great if we do not define our ideas of what patriotism means to someone else.
    I also wonder why more Saigon kids do not post or express their ideas on this site.

    • Frank – I wonder the same thing *why don’t more Saigon Kids™ post or express their ideas on this site*. In fact because of the LACK of participation I’m seriously wondering if it is even worth the time, effort and cost to continue to maintain this site.


      PS: Glad you enjoyed Scotland trip. Sorry to learn of you hospital visit. Wishing you well.

  • Frabk

    Bob, you and I connected in 1960. Music and many other things were our connection. Our parents also had great respect to each other. I do believe my Mom visited your parents in Honolulu in the late 1980’s. I even visited your Dad’s grave at the bunch bowl in the last fifteen years. I know some of us made very strong connections that perhaps others did not. Now I spent a courier in the military. I realize that military brats like organization. Movie theaters, teen clubs, etc. when you and I were in Saigon, there was none of that. Everything we did was developed by us kids. Hell, it was you and I and Larry that started and organized the teenager softball team. If it was not for us, it would never have happened. Yes, Robert, perhaps only you and I, and Bo Diddity know why those Saigon days even are important today.

  • Frank

    Bob, I would even be willing to host another reunion if folks cared. Ah, but of course, I would have the reunion in Cody, Wyoming. Don’t thing this is a joke…Cody is pretty cool.

  • Frank

    My Gosh (and old saying), I do struggle with health issues. Next year my friend Carlos and I ( his Dad was an immigrant from Spain who was a crew member in bombers over Europe and his Mom was. German girl who married during the accoupation) will be visiting the 75 anniversary of D-Day . We went to the 65th anniversary. Both Carlos and I are retired Vets.

  • Michael Dunn

    Hey, Frank,
    Great story about your trip and all the folks you met and had such good times with. I remember my Dad wanting to take me with him on a trip to Normandy, but I couldn’t spare the time from work (reminds me of a song…real nice talking to you, Dad…). As I look back on it, sure wish I’d gone with him. He was commanding the 4th Cavalry Task Force on their assault on the Isle de St. Mere E’Coufe, 2 hours prior to H Hour, on D Day. It was an island off the Normandy coast. Their mission: to clear the island of any German force that may be protecting and overwatching the beaches, in the event of an Allied invasion. They cleared the island, lost 44 KIA to booby traps, bouncing betties, and other mines, but there were no Germans. Lieutenant Colonel Edward C. Dunn called in, “Mission Accomplished”. The account of the action is on pages 54 and 55 of Cornelius Ryan’s, THE LONGEST DAY. They continued the action to the Rhine River; then Pee Wee Collier, or some other guy took over command, after all the action had subsided. Wish I could be with you on the 75th anniversary, but I can’t make it happen. Speaking of 75, Yen’s 75th birthday was today. As usually happens, she tore up my birthday card, in rage. Birthdays are not a great thing in the Dunn family, historically. Thanks for organizing the Teenagers Softball Team. We showed some of those grownups how to play ball. Nice to be young. You never get sore muscles, or pulled hamstrings. I have no idea what COPD is, but I’m glad you’re doing well. I hear it advertised everyday on TV. I’m playing pickleball 4 days a week, and bowling on Thursdays in a Senior league. My knees are just not as good as they used to be, so my movement has slowed to almost stationary. I remember that wonderful reunion you organized in Phoenix at the Wigwam. Massive and Awesome, man. I know you could do it in Cody, if you wanted to. By the way, we found a great Vietnamese Restaurant in Phoenix, not far from the Wigwam. If you go south on that road that takes you to Luke (if you were heading north), you go into the mall area, just prior to getting on the I-10, taking a left (heading east), into the mall. It’s called “Noodles”. They’ve got everything on the menu, man. It’s awesome. We ate there everyday during the reunion. You probably know this, but I’m also a military retiree and a retired teacher, as well. Taught Special Ed, K-12, in the same classroom for 15 years in San Antonio, TX, after retiring from the Army, after 24 years, 9 months, and 24 days. Still own the home in San Antonio, but one of my sons and my granddaughter, Tabitha, live there. We moved to Biloxi, MS, in June, 2009. Bought 2 houses here, side by side, both have 2 full baths, and 2 bedrooms, with a kitchen, dining room, and living room. We’re one block from the beach, and you can see the water from our yard. Yen has made friends with some of the birds that come to our feeders. We’ve had a bluebird family have several broods every spring and summer. I know you remember Yen’s brother Nguyen, who was known as “Jacques” or Jacques Nguyen, to the US teenage community. He was the guy with the Lambretta, who would let some of his American friends borrow it for a while. Yes, Saigon was a very formative part of my life, as well. Nguyen lives in Pearland, TX, now. He is a master at restoring antiques and art works. And it will always be “Saigon”. To hell with Ho Chi Minh Ville. Cue ball and 8 ball, awesome! We had a topkick in my first unit, at Fort Carson, 1SGT Jimmy Shatto, who had been busted to PVT for striking an officer, and killing him (not at Fort Carson, but earlier in his career). 11 lieutenants in the company, with a 1st lietenant as company commander. We were all doing our stateside assignment before going to our Vietnam assignment. I went to 25th Infantry Division, at Cu Chi. 11 km perimeter, 8 tenant units covering the bunker line. I was on R & R in Taipei when the VC or NVA attacked the base camp, in Feb 69, during the Tet offensive, destroying 9 of our Chinook helicopters ( $1 Million per copy ). Some of the GIs showed me pictures they had taken of the dead NVA. Back in the days when body counts were in fashion. At the O’Club, we used to sing, “Your son came home in a rubber bag, Doo-Da, Doo-Da…” to the tune of “Camp Town Races”. And don’t tell me you hadn’t heard it. One night, we were field testing some personnel sensors, called “dufflebags” in the Filhol Plantation (not far from the Michelin Plantation). We got a sensing of several battalions moving through the Filhol. Called in a total of 498 rounds of 155 mm. Trouble was, one of the batteries had an old target list, and one of the targets specified in the Filhol, was an FPF on the old target list, centered on the village of Vinh Cu (a VC Village, right outside the wire). They got a battery 6. And the G5 had to make reparations, big time. The lounge lizards in the O’Club were dancing on the bar. It turned out the battalions were actually a herd of cattle, according to the BDA. Speaking of Agent Orange, I was on a helicopter with Major Wyatt, a chemical officer, kicking out barrels (55 gal drums) of Agent Orange on a field test in the Filhol Plantation. Later in my career, I ran into Colonel Wyatt, at Ft Irwin, California. He was the NBC Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the training area, when I was working in the Operations Group. Life in Mississippi is very relaxing and peaceful. They have a lot of respect for veterans in this state. There are also beaucoup discounts for military folks. Another good thing is, even though there is a Mississippi state income tax, none of your retirement incomes are taxable, and your homestead excludes 10 % of the real estate taxes. And the real estate taxes are less than 10 % of the purchase price of your home, not the current fair market value.

    God bless you, Frank.

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