47 Years Ago Today

Vietnam Mem'l Wall

By the time the war ended, 58,220 American soldiers had died in Vietnam. And, in a strange irony, 50,000 of the people they’d gone to save had been evacuated to the United States. It was the largest airlift in U.S. history.

I remember when the refugees arrived at the Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County, just minutes from where I lived and studied at the University of California, Irvine.

During the sweltering summer of 1975 (the hottest in thirty years), wave after wave of uprooted Southeast Asians settled into reinvented lives. “Little Saigon” in Garden Grove became the largest enclave of Vietnamese (over 200,000) outside of Vietnam. Nguyen Cao Ky, the former president of South Vietnam, ran a liquor store there.

I sensed some sort of circle had closed when, in the mid-90’s, I overheard a couple of teenagers drooling in “totally” SoCal girl accents over a dress in a mall window. I turned to see two first generation Vietnamese-Americans.

Today, while the airlift generation’s grandchildren play, the soldier’s grandchildren plan trips to the Vietnam Memorial.

Nothing happens the way we expect it to. Lives that were supposed to go on ended. And lives that were afterthoughts continued. I write this in honor of those who gave their lives…

And those whose lives were changed forever.


About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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37 Responses to 47 Years Ago Today

  1. Abe Austin says:

    That’s a very meaningful perspective. It makes me wonder who I’ve forgotten that made it possible for me to be here, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. anitashope says:

    The tragedy of war and the outlying hope of starting over. May we soon see and end in Ukraine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. beth says:

    beautiful and here’s to each and every one of them

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    We need moments of “looking back” perspective like this to remind us to open the aperture when we’re looking forward. I remember standing at that wall, so close to the Lincoln memorial, reading the names of friends who never came home. I think about the cost of that senseless war when I read about new electric cars that will be imported here from Vietnam soon. They may not have accepted our ideas about democracy, but they sure latched on to capitalism and marketing…a situation that’s all the more ironic as our own democracy is struggling with internal gamesmanship that undermines it.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. One of my son’s friends, who was in his wedding 10 years ago, was one of the last children out of Vietnam. A dozen years ago or so, the two of them (with another man) traveled through Vietnam (also visiting where my husband was stationed in 1969-70), made richer since Loc knows the language.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I entered Marine boot camp in 1968. Did 4 years. Forty years later I visited (online) the Washington Memorial– with my boot camp graduation book at hand. I was saddened to see one soldier from that time who was killed about 6 months after graduation in a firefight in Nam. He was only 19. I think of all that I have experienced since then– and all that he missed. Gotta stop here. Have a good one, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember the ‘draft dodgers’ being feted as heroes in university circles in the U.K. Many of them seemed to me to be from families able to help them with finances and contacts, rather than true conscientious objectors, and I remember that my sympathies were with those who did not want to take part in that war, but did not have the chance to avoid it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes indeed Mitch: A few of my high school guys came back under flags so, being painfully 1A, I signed up for the Navy. Got my draft notice at recruit depot in San Diego. Served two years over in the Mediterranean during the six day war that seemed to go on a lot longer than a week. We had two Russian guided missiles pointed at us in the middle of the night. A tomcat with a tactical nuke scared them off. Lost a few guys (about 60 or so when the liberty got sunk) sister intelligence ship. Usual Fubar war.


    Liked by 1 person

  9. ABoomer says:

    57 years ago today I drove from Fort Rucker, Alabama, to my home in Springfield, Mo. I was ready to enroll in college. After I graduated from high school in 1966, in my infinite wisdom I decided I would join the Army and go to Vietnam. My dad calmly suggested that I consider joining the National Guard instead. “Sign up, go for your six months active duty, and if you still feel the same way you do now, you can tell them you want to remain on active duty and go to Vietnam” reasoned my father. “If you don’t, you can come back home and go to college”. My Father and I bumped heads many times during my teen years. This time, thank God, his reasoning made sense to me. I took his advice. After six months in the Army, I couldn’t wait to get back home and go to college. In 1972, I graduated from college, got married, and moved to Kansas City to start a career.

    In 2013, when my father was on his deathbed, I thanked him one last time for gently steering me in the right direction regarding the Vietnam war. I have often wondered what would have happened to me had I ignored his suggestion.

    Thank you for sharing a positive perspective on the Vietnam War I had never considered.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this poignant piece on the effect of this war. It gives another perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Caroll says:

    Thanks for this important reminder, beautifully expressed. I graduated from UCI Irvine (English major) in the summer of 1975 and I remember this well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nancy Richy says:

    Such a senseless war. So many young lives lost. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have always loved that photo that is so beautiful and so sad. That war seriously impacted each of us who were adults in the late 60s and early 70s. It was an unforgettable portion of my own life. I was about to get my draft physical while a resident in pathology, and, received a letter from my local board that the doctor draft had ended and my physical had been canceled.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We grew up watching on TV as the war raged on during dinner every night.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. So incredibly said. My life was affected by a relative with PTSD from that war…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks, this was so beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. stolzyblog says:

    Best thing that happened from that whole mess is that Vietnam (not North or South) is now quite friendly with America, and a great place to visit. Luckily for me, the war years that corresponded to my ‘of age’ years were filled with student deferrals.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. craig lock says:

    Reblogged this on War and Peace: 'Fighting the war to <strong>win the peace.' and commented:
    Happy writing, Mitch
    “early bird sleepyhead” c


    Best wishes from the First City to see the light


    Don’t worry about the world ending today…its already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand

    Liked by 1 person

  19. revruss1220 says:

    Thank you for that powerful reminder, Mitch. I have seen the “mobile” version of the Vietnam Memorial on a couple of occasions and have found it very moving. I can only imagine what it might be like to visit the real one in person.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This war impacted our family in a way. We grew up (my husband and I) during it, and it profoundly impacted my husbands world view, and therefore mine. Made us much more aware of war, policy, sacrifice, courage, why we fight, and what happens when politicians lack courage. He had an uncle (who was absolutely wonderful) who died 3 years ago, after a hard fight with cancer. He did three tours. Point man. Miracle really.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Preeti Gautam says:

    Really it’s amazing

    Liked by 1 person

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