Friday, April 06, 2018

Carry me back to old Saigon ...

My friend, Dennis, called last night and we had a long talk, the first I think in something like 45 years --- arranged by his wife, Betsy --- proving again the value of social media when those who use it behave themselves.

We'd corresponded for several years after coming home from Vietnam, then stopped --- for no particular reason; reconnecting was a very good thing.

Betsy found me via Facebook (Dennis, now kind of retired, too, interacts with the digital age at the office --- and leaves it there). He doesn't even carry a cell phone (neither do I). We're relics.

Both graduates of the U.S. Army Intelligence School, then at Fort Holabird, Maryland, we landed at the Combined Document Exploitation Center (CDEC) in Saigon --- above --- at slightly differing times during 1969-70, then spent many months working there together with warmly remembered Vietnamese, American and Korean colleagues.

Home was what had been an old French hotel some distance away --- the military provided beds, but not food. So we also shared many meals with our friends "on the economy" and drank any number of nights away in Sgt. MacLean's room, listening to music of the Irish uprising.

It was an entirely different world when compared to the present --- and even then, from that experienced by our brothers treated differently by luck of the draw who found themselves in combat units or support situations in the field.

After it was over, I came home to Iowa and Dennis headed back to Michigan, where he and his family still live on that state's western shore, in sight of Lake Michigan, closer to Chicago than Detroit, upstream from South Bend, Indiana.

A couple of years after we came home, Saigon fell and all but a couple of the Vietnamese civilians we had worked with --- valued friends, too --- fled. Dennis and Betsy served as sponsors for our departmental secretary and provided her with a home for six months until she was on her feet and ready to move to a warmer place --- Florida, now California. They're still in touch.

Those were chaotic times --- as I remember them. Too many died, too many were damaged, all for too little. I still don't understand. But for a few days, at least, I'm going to spend a little time reconnecting names and faces and thinking about it all once again. And promising myself to do a better job of staying in touch.

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