Monday, February 9, 2009

Afterword

Six separate flights,including flying over the North Pole twice, about 36 hours in the air, three different airlines, four different Asian cities, about 18,000 total miles, all to go back to a country that was in total chaos when I left there in October of 1970.

I never imagined that I would want to or could ever go back. A wedding invitation, finding Kim Long Orphanage again, an invitation from the sisters at Kim Long and the urging of my family to go back and for my younger daughter to join me in my journey were all indicators that I needed to do this. After reading the orphanage posting, if anyone is interested in donating to Kim Long, please contact me via a comment and leave your e mail. I plan on sending any collected donations on a quarterly basis. Past donations have been used to buy a washer and a stove -- or cooker -- as I was told. I have collected donations from friends, Veterans groups and families; no amount will be refused.


I feel that I had left no ghosts behind in Vietnam, although it did take time to readjust to "the World" again. I had no special closure to make. I had always talked about my experiences, the good times, the bad, the close calls and not knowing if the bullets that left my M-16, my grenade launcher or M-60 ever hit or killed anybody. I wrote about my experiences in a book, a play and my poetry. Ultimately, the rediscovering of Kim Long Orphanage was the most important factor in going back. My daughter's enthusiasm over the trip was a close second.

I found this wonderful place in early 1970 when our company clerk asked me to take a ride to drop off some laundry from the guys in our company (HQ 501st Signal, 101st Airborne Division, Camp Eagle).

I have never forgotten it. I never talked about it until the day I was asked, by my great-nephew, A J, some questions for a Veteran’s project he was doing. He asked me what the best thing I remembered about Vietnam and I told him about the orphanage. His mother, Terry looked at me in astonishment and said that I had never told her – or anyone else – that particular story. So, A J, thanks for that question. It made me realize how important those trips to Kim Long were and how much they did mean to me.


Will I return again? I sure hope so. If I hit the lottery, definitely. If I find the funds, possibly. I will continue to raise funds for Kim Long through friends, families and Veterans groups and I will continue to communicate with the good sisters of Kim Long and Trang, who was our interpreter during our visit.

I hope someday that Vietnam is a free country and with that free speech to be able to create and access blogs like these. (Since my return home, I have discovered that my Vietnamese friends have been able to access this blog) I hope, also, that the children of Kim Long find happiness and the families that they truly need, although they appeared so well adjusted and are a family in themselves. The Sisters of Kim Long and their teachers and staff have done a wonderful job. The experience has been heartwarming for both of us and very special, as well. The words of this blog cannot fully explain the feeling we had after our day at Kim Long (See January 19th entry), but the pictures do help in showing what we experienced.


When I left for Vietnam, there was one name on the Memorial in Philadelphia's Fishtown section – Charles Glenn III . Charlie was only 20 years old when he died. He was shot to death by a sniper in Da Nang, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam, on July 7, 1967. He was the first from my Fishtown neighborhood to die in the war and a monument in his honor was erected at Wildey and Marlborough Streets. The Corporal Charles J. Glenn 3rd Memorial also includes the names of 10 other young men from the Fishtown-Kensington-Port Richmond neighborhoods who died or were missing in action in Vietnam. Dedicated in 1967, it was either the first or one of the first memorials to Vietnam Veterans in the United States.




The other names include:
Bill Sessions
Ed Secrest
Joe Kull
Joe Monaghan
Harry Seedes
Ron Briggs
Butch McCuen
Lawrence Reichert
John Jolley
Albert Wall

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I would also like to salute members of my class of 1966 -- Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia who also gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. A heartfelt thank you to Brother Harry Schneider, OSFS and Mr. Walter Johnson, my former German teacher in my Sophomore and Junior year for gathering this information for me.

Lawrence Anthony Branigan
Anthony J. Metzger
Joseph T. Monoghan
Thomas F. Nilan
George Joseph Reed
Joseph Francis Schimpf
Patrick James Thiroway



I salute them all and appreciate their service and sacrifice. I was lucky enough to return home safely and fortunate enough to be able to go back.


For all my readers, thanks for sharing our experience. Please feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts.

In May of 2009, I was asked to write and article about Charlie for the Fishtown Star. The link has been removed-- see the text after the link below...
Here is the link: http://www.philly.com/community/pa/philadelphia/star/Remembering_the_day_Vietnam_came_home.html?viewAll=y


I will never forget my reaction to the news we received while hanging out at Allen and Shackamaxon Street on that warm July evening. The War in Vietnam had taken one of our own Fishtown boys – Charlie Glenn. I can’t remember all of us that were there out that night, but I know we were sitting on Be-Bop Brannigan’s step when his Mom came out and gave us the news.

The War had meant little to us until that moment. None of us knew what to say. We were all stunned by the news. Charlie would be coming home, but he would be in a pine box.


Many more of us went to Vietnam in subsequent years. Some of us volunteered, others were drafted. Many of us came home to our Fishtown neighborhood, but some did not. Ten more names were added to the original Charles Glenn Memorial. The Memorial was erected in record time all with private donations. I believe that it may have been the first memorial dedicated to a Vietnam Veteran in the United States.

Although Charlie was a year older than me and a year ahead of me in school , he was still a friend. I remember him as a kind and caring individual who always watched out for you. I can truly say that he was an inspiration to me. He has been in my thoughts since his death, but mostly around Memorial Day. His memory has helped me in some of my writings. Initially, in a poem that is posted at http://thewall-usa.com/literary/bobstara.html --“Away in a Bunker” was written in his memory.

I also wrote a passage in a play that I co-wrote about the “Wall” in Washington -- http://www.columbus.k12.nc.us/wchstheatre/etchings.htm In that play, one of the characters visits the Wall every year on Charlie’s birthday and talks about his Mom and Dad and how much they miss him

“Chuck” is also one the main characters is a book that I authored – Chapter One -- The Story of Vic Charles” is a “fictional” account of my experiences in Vietnam.

Charlie’s sacrifice for his country and the sacrifices of almost 58,000 other men and women who lost their lives in Vietnam can never be forgotten.



Bob

2 comments:

  1. Stephanie WittbeckerFebruary 10, 2009 at 3:11 PM

    Read the whole thing! I loved it! What are the odds that you would reunite with the two boys/men from your old picture, just proves what a small world we live in. Amazing trip! I hope you can go back again someday, it sounds like it was amazing. :)
    Stephanie

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  2. I met Bob on the web in May ’08 as he sent these 2 pics of our orphanage, taken in ’70. I’m so happy he fount us back via our website. After 100’s of mails, Bob and I get closer and he finally decided to come back where he once used to lose his heart.
    I’ve been so many times to Vietnam but never asked myself any question about the War.
    Bob opened my eyes on this subject. I opened his eyes on other subjects.
    Dear reader, as you can observe, Bob’s blog is a real story. More, it’s a testimony. Please try to find and to read his book “Chapter One”, which is definitely in line with all he writes in his blog.
    Bob is not an extravert person. He will never answer any questions about personal feelings. But read what this man writes. It all comes from the bottom of his heart.
    I know I will meet Bob someday, either in the US where he lives, or in Belgium where I live or … in Vietnam, where both of us left a piece of our heart and our Soul.
    Bob is a true committed friend of our orphanage.
    Dear reader, read his literature and try to follow his steps. Probably a huge human experience.
    Bob is a good man. Bob is my friend. Please join us and enjoy the real important things.

    Christian PHILIPPE
    Brussels, Belgium

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