Making A Difference—In Vietnam
I occasionally ask many of you to provide me with a story or two of when you were in Vietnam or even afterwards,
a special memory that is pleasing for you and others that may want to hear about. Here is one from a
good friend of mine, an officer of Chapter 432 named Jim McHaney. This is Jim talking:
I was completing our last tour point in South Vietnam in 2001. We had arrived at Hoi An. We will change guides today. Chan will take over. We will tour this area and spend the night in a Hotel near China Beach. It seems we have been in ‘Nam forever but at the same time it’s like we have just arrived.
Over the last few days I have became friends with our Vietnamese driver, because we both smoke we have taken several breaks together. I have shared my American cigarettes with him. We found out that my buddy (the driver) was a Viet Cong from 1969 to 1971 and drove a truck with a 151-mm Howitzer platoon. His unit lost over 50% of its force to Kaman Rouge.
I was in the hotel room and got a call from Dick Kloppenburg, One of my units (183rd Aviation Company, the “Seahorses”) pilots. When he called from the other area he said they had Cuban cigars. I went down to enjoy and it was great! While we were there I talked to a lady that worked there. She worked with the Americans from 1968 to 1973 and said she had an American boyfriend that had to go back to the states in 1969. After the Americans left in 1975, she hid in a small village for several years. She said, “if you worked for the Americans and the V.C. found out, you would be killed or put into a Re-education Camp”. In the late 80’s, she heard that if you could prove you worked for the Americans for at least 4 years you could get a passport to go to America. She sold everything she had and went to Saigon and stayed for two years waiting for permission to go to the U.S.A. It turned out she was not granted permission and she lost everything she had. As trade between English speaking countries improved, she was able to get a job at the hotel because she could speak very good English because of her work with the Americans.
While she was telling me these things she would hide her lips. She told me “to be very careful because people do watch the visitors”. At that time I realized just what hardship the Vietnamese people had endured after we left. This was our last stop in South Vietnam. As I left I had an American $100.00 bill. When I said goodbye to her, I placed the money into her hand, I gave a slight bow to her, and said “goodbye”. I watched her reaction in the mirror above the bar as I walked out and saw I saw a stunned look on her face and then tears in her eyes. In 2001, an $100.00 of American money was almost equal to a year salary in Vietnam”.
It made me feel good to give her something back for the pain she and her family had to go through.
: I appreciate stories like this because, Jim made the effort to go back to Vietnam back in 2001, however, he did not know this lady during the war, but saw then, that she was under some distress and very afraid for her life. $100.00 is a lot of money, but to them, it is a fortune and making a difference in their lives goes to show me the caring end of Jim. Thank you very much Jim for this story and your heartfelt attitude for someone you didn’t even know.