February 2024
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Before Sagion: Ken Yeager

by Admin and Richard Turner, Contributing Editor
© SaigonKidsAmericanCommunitySchool.Com

Ken Yeager

Ken Yeager (1961-64)

My mom, dad, sister and I were living at Fort Rucker, Alabama when dad came home to inform us that he had orders for Vietnam. Like most at that time, we had no idea where Vietnam was and so out came the atlas. Seems like whenever dad got orders, it was always to some place no one had ever heard of at the time….in 1954, dad got orders to go to Baghdad, Iraq to start a MAAG unit there. Who, in 1954, had ever heard of Baghdad, Iraq?

In all honesty, I cannot remember having regrets about leaving the US at the time. I was new at the school in Ozark, having been bused to the school from Rucker (as we all were) and home again in the afternoon. Kids that I knew on the base were constantly moving in and out so no real strong attachments there. I was in the middle of the year in the 10th grade at the Ozark, AL. high school in 1960 but orders are orders as so we packed up and drove to San Diego, CA where we stayed with an uncle and his family until we could locate an apartment for mom, my sister Debbie and myself while dad took off for Saigon. I enrolled at the San Diego high school and was taking classes when mom got notification that housing had been located for us in Saigon and we were to fly out by a certain date. My mom spoke with the principal of the school about my leaving early and how it would affect my schooling. The principal could do nothing for us but suggest that I transfer to a school across the street (Synder high school if memory serves me correctly) where I could work at my own pace. It turned out that Synder high school was for kids who had just been released from juvenile hall and was full of young thugs. Wonderful! Anyway, I transferred to Snyder where I was told what I would have to accomplish in order to be promoted to the 11th grade and I got to work. My sojourn at Snyder was not without problems. I got into a fight with one of the esteemed hoods at the school, and after LOSING the fight, got suspended for a week. Still, I did manage to complete the necessary schoolwork and was promoted to the 11th grade.

My mom and I drove the car to San Francisco where we turned it over to the shipping company and soon we were on a plane to Saigon. I cannot remember the flight at all – the route, the type of aircraft, nothing. But we did land safely at Tan San Nhut airport where we were met by my dad and some of the Smith family. Larry asked me if I wanted to ride in with him on a borrowed motorcycle, which I agreed to do. Our housing was located on the 3rd floor of the commissary/PX building at 17 Phan Dinh Phung Street, which is the same building where the Smith family lived, along with at least two other families whose names I do not recall. Larry soon introduced me to his lovely sisters, Cheryl and Donna, and the rest of the Smith clan and his gracious mother, Mrs. Smith, who told me I would always be welcome in their home.

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