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A SAIGON KIDS™ REFLECTIONS OF LIFE IN VIETNAM

Submitted by Frank Stoddard (ACS)

I just read an article about my 1960 travel to Vietnam as a 16 year old. An ole family friend had this Anaconda, Montana article that I never knew existed.

Now what I really want to talk about is my military service time in Vietnam, and not so much about my 16-18 years even though they were my best. My Dad told me, in 1960, that I would be in a war in Vietnam. He died in 1962 and he was right.

Now, I was young and stupid (and smart at times), I ended up in South Vietnam on 16 December 1966. In November of 67, I submitted an extension so I could go home for Christmas 1967. The Marine Corps had a 13 month tour of duty. Well anyways, I was back in South Vietnam by the end of January 1968. Oh my, I felt the whole world fell in on me. Just me. I took it personable. LOL! Now my time in South Vietnam was in an area west of Da Nang called Happy Valley. I was also near a place called Dong Ha. A very ugly place near the DMC where I went for 36 days without a shower. I have no idea why I remember that number.

Back to Tet.

I arrived back in South Vietnam in Jan. 1968 and the first night back the whole world seemed to erupt. I became involved in what would be called the battle of Hue. I think, sometimes we think we may be a part of history, but maybe not. A grunt does not see much of the world. He only thinks about serious stuff … like do I go to the left of a bush and get shot, or should I go right and maybe get shot or not.

Old Bridge Hue VietnamMy son and I visited Hue in 2009. We came to an old looking bridge, and I told Silas this has to be the bridge I and others ran across. This bridge looked so old, but I said, no this has to be it. The bridge was blown up and wood planks had been put over the openings. As we ran, scared, the wood planks made us bounce as we ran.

We eventually found an older couple (not many in Hue today) who said that was the bridge and that the NVA had blown it. I never knew if we did it or they did it.

Later that year, I was fortunate to be assigned to being in a C-123. That is the same aircraft used for spraying Agent Orange. The Marines were moving out of a place called Khe Sanh. I helped communicate to the ground movement, call in Air Strikes and Artillery, but also the ever present “Dustoff Medivac”.

In a few weeks I will be traveling to Little Saigon,CA. I will meet with two “kids” that were part of Father Crawford’s children Airlift in 1975. I am so looking forward to it. My #2 grand-daughter Tavia who just turned 21 will be going with me. She will be spending a year in Spain next year doing her senior year in Madrid. After Little Saigon I plan to visit Mary Ann and Joe Smith in Temecula.

Now, this thing called Vietnam. If I ever was out of line (talking stuff) about this place we all were attached to, I am sorry.

When I came back from Vietnam in 1968, I worked so hard to get through college. I married and Had a child. I enlisted in the Army and became a LT. at 32 years of age. We ended up with three kids total. I retired as a major. I then became a middle school science teacher then a high school (social promotion) History and U.S. Constitutional teacher. I now work on restoring ole 560sl’s.

I go to the Tucson VA hospital in Tucson about once or twice a month. They have me at 100% disabled because of Agent Orange.

I guess, it must take older age to bring such thoughts that I have. Perhaps when I was young, survival mode was front and center.

3 comments to A SAIGON KIDS™ REFLECTIONS OF LIFE IN VIETNAM

  • Suellen O Campbell

    Dear Frank,
    Thank you for sharing your memories of VietNam with us. Mine are very different and much more pleasant from my husbands'(he was stationed in Pleiku)and so I understand many of us do not have the best memories of our time spent there.
    It sounds like you have lived a very full life and have been given time to reflect on it. Your children and grandchildren are blessed to have you in their lives; please keep sharing your stories(the good and the bad) with them. It is important for your legacy and our country’s history.
    My best.
    Suellen
    P.S. Charles has 75% disability due to Agent Orange. What we didn’t know CAN hurt us.

    • Suellen — The sad thing is that the manufactures, suppliers, U.S. Government and Military knew exactly what the hazards and long term health effects of Agent Orange were, yet, exposed our troops to it anyway. Not to mention what they exposed the Vietnamese too.

      Bob

  • Barbara L. Parker AKA Bootsie

    Yes Frank, it does take age to remember. Maybe it’s one of our old age gifts.

    Best to you,
    Bootsie

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