Location: Ninh Hòa, a district-level town of Khanh Hoa Province in the South Central Coastal region of Vietnam, 1968.
During my time in Ninh Hoa with the Koreans, my job was part of the night-time perimeter security team. That meant I worked at night and slept during the day. Well, sometimes I slept but as often as not I only slept for short periods of time due to the light, heat, artillery firing, and general activity around my cot.
As a result, I came to know the Vietnamese “hooch maids” we hired to help us with things such as laundry and general clean-up of our quarters. We all chipped in to pay for their services and the women did a good job. One’s name was Tay and the other was Bah.
Because daytime sleeping was difficult at best, I spent some of my waking time interacting with our “house-keepers”. They had questions about GI habits and preferences, and I had the same questions about the Vietnamese.
I taught them English words and they taught me Vietnamese words. In time, we became friends.
Before I rotated back to the real world, I told them I would return someday. I didn’t believe it and neither did they, but I did return -- forty-five years later.
What are the chances I could meet up with those two girls/women, unplanned, unannounced, and on a date and time even I couldn’t predict? In my personal opinion the odds were about one in a million, if not worse. Still, I promised myself that if I ever went back to Vietnam I would try to fulfill my promise to my friends.
Fast forward to 2013. For years I had toyed with the idea of making a return visit to Vietnam. It was on my bucket-list. Unfortunately life has a bad habit of getting in the way of personal wants and desires. Eventually I retired and had actually saved enough money to make the trip back to Vietnam.
Automobiles and motorbikes have proliferated beyond belief and vehicle traffic jams have followed suit. The older buildings in towns and cities look much the same but many have had face-lifts over the years. New buildings give the Saigon skyline a modern look. It’s a scene you have to see to understand.
One thing that hasn’t changed in Saigon is the heat. To me, early June in Saigon feels just like an August heat wave in the US – with 90% humidity. By the end of my second day in Saigon, I was ready to move on.
“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale