Sunday, May 4, 2014

Precious Pearl

There are many stories of valor and compassion- this one is particularly poingant, and is a shining example of what some caring people did that allowed others to make a life after Viet Nam. 

So many have paid it forward that the original acts have accrued interest, growing in magnitude with time, their effects rippling out to positively affect many, many more.,0,7936718.htmlstory#axzz30n7S5L82

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Greg Tobias

I met Greg at the United Sportsmen Shooting Range in Concord, CA where he assisted me in assembling my Dad's AR-15 rifle.  It was rather serendipitous as he happened to have years of experience on the subject.  Greg had served 2 tours in Viet Nam totalling 22 months primarily servicing and repairing rifles for US Troops.  He was hardly on base as weapons malfunctions were on the regular given the terrain and climate, so he spent most of the time out near where all of the action was. 

Greg is originally from Chicago, Illinois and had moved to California when he was 4 years old.  He is married with 1 son and retired, only working part-time at the shooting range.  He enjoys to hunt and has a laid back, happy-go-lucky personality.

I had the honor of shaking his hand and thanking him for his service in VN and also for helping me sight and shoot my Father's rifle for the first time.

I'm sure I will be seeing him at the range soon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Project Aims to Add Educaiton Center to DC Vietnam War Memorial

Jan Scrugs, the man to founded the current Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, is enlisting the help of people around the country to add faces to the roll of names of people who lost their lives in the Viet Nam War.  The woman pictured above, Janna Hoehn, has helped collect dozens of pictures from her current home on Maui and her native Bay Area.

The full story printed in Contra Costa Times article can be found here.

The planned Education Center that will house the pictures will cost an estimated $100 million to build, and will be constructed underground adjacent to the current Memorial Wall.  So far, $15 million has been secured.  It will not only host the photographs of fallen soldiers, but be a display for many of the more than 200,000 items left at the wall, telling countless personal stories.

To see the pictures collected to date, and to donate to the project, click here.

Looking at the pictures is striking.  In my mind, today, a Viet Nam Vet is someone in his or her late fifties or even older. These pictures belay a harsh reality however- those who gave their lives in Viet Nam never had the chance to grow old.  Many of the pictures are from high school yearbooks or even prom pictures. Images of my dad come immediately to mind- the dad who looks back at me from the few pictures I have from his youth- lean, energetic, with a determined, wily smile.

The video below illustrates the vision of the Education Center's supporters.

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Monday, November 25, 2013


Art was a translator/interpretor in during his time in Viet Nam. Even more than 30 years later, he could still call up few key phrases. 

Raised in the Richmond district of San Francisco, after his tour he and his wife relocated to across the bay to the small community of Rodeo. They started a family in that house, and still live there today. 

Retired now, both Art and his wife had long careers teaching in Catholic schools in the city of Richmond. Art worked at Wells Fargo for a stint, but returned to teaching youth. 

If he looks extra happy in this picture, that's because he's looking forward to seeing his 3.5 month old grandson over Thanksgiving. Congratulations Art- may you and your wife be blessed with many more beautiful grandchildren. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

In Memorium: Douglas Michael Baisch

My friend Randi recently lost her father.  My family is familiar with the heavy-hearted feeling of that loss, and though it is not as fresh with us, it is remains sorrowful.  After Viet Nam, Douglas built a thriving life and surrounded himself loving family and friends.  Thank you for your service, Douglas; you've positively affected many people around you and even more you've never met.  A true testament to what a veteran can achieve long after his enlistment. Rest in peace.

Below is his family's memory of him, posted with permission:

A great man passed away on Monday, November 18, 2013. He wasn't famous or a billionaire, he was simply a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend that no one had a single bad thing to say about. For forty-four years of marriage, Douglas Michael Baisch was a devoted, loving, supportive husband. As a father, he never missed any opportunity to be with his children and he always set a great example of what a real man should be. He had the same love and commitment to his three grandchildren and would have had even more to give for the second granddaughter he was expecting. He was a lifelong Dodger fan that frequented Chavez Ravine, loved hitting the poker tables and was always up for a vacation whether it be to a far off destination or simply a weekend away. He was very proud of the four years he served for his country overseas in the Navy during the Vietnam War and was very patriotic.

For twenty years, Doug loved his work at Quality Packaging & Supplies in Oxnard as both an owner and a salesman. He truly enjoyed the people he worked with including his vendors and customers. Sales was his calling and he was great at it. He never met a single person he couldn't talk to and he was quick to make a friend. He had a story or a joke for every occasion. Everyone he met not only felt important to Doug's life, they were important. Doug was always willing to lend a hand in golf tournaments, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus and many local charities. 

He will truly be missed by his wife Andrea, children Randi Friday (Brad), Curtis Baisch (Frances), grandchildren Ethan and Alicia Baisch and Casey Friday. He was preceded in death by his son Christy, his mother Elsie and his father Ewald. He is survived by his three sisters: Sharon Morris, Lynda Baisch and Paula Wood as well as two nephews, a niece and many aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Doug's name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research ( There will be no funeral per Doug's last wishes, however, there will be a celebration of his life on a date to be determined.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mr. Wilson

I bumped into Junius Wilson in Pinole on morning while he was on the way to see his doctor.  I immediately noticed his Viet Nam flag pin with the year '69 on it.  What I didn't notice right away was the purple bar on his hat, a Purple Heart he was awarded after a shootout in Cu Chi where he was hit in the foot while diving over a barrier in attempt to escape gunfire.

Mr. Wilson was raise in Louisiana, drafted into the Army, and served one tour. He was one of the numerous US servicemen to receive a decoration from the Republic of Vietnam.  He shared some stories with me about handing out rations, candies, and cigarettes to the kids in Viet Nam and how the local Vietnamese would call him "#1 G.I."

After Viet Nam, he went back to Louisiana, but found that he couldn't make a life there, so he come out to California, where he's been for the past 40 years.

Like many veterans of all ages, Mr. Wilson is having some health problems, and was seeing his doctor to schedule a shoulder surgery.  He has also been diagnosed with prostate cancer and has had trouble getting his full benefit from the VA, problem all too common for veterans who have served in their country dutifully.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Steve was a firefighter in Moraga when he was drafted to go to Viet Nam. He spent a year in active duty as part of a Huey rescue team. Upon retiring, he moved back to Moraga, where his family has been for almost 100 years, and spent the next 38 years fighting fires there. 

Past 70 now, he's still active in the Viet Nam Veterans of Diablo Valley (, who meet on the first Thursday of every month.  One of the members of the group has an operable Huey that they take out a few times a year.  The Huey and its crew were pressed into service recently following the tragic crash of a P-51 Mustang at an air show in Sparks, NV.  These veterans remained ready to serve, long after Viet Nam.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I met Bill at the Walmart in Rohnert Park. He grew up in Pennsylvania and was in the Navy during Viet Nam. He told me that I was the 49th person to thank him for his service.

After he got back from his tours, he became a sheet rocker, working all over the country. He's now retired in Santa Rosa with his wife and two dogs (he had Bridgette in the cart with him). Thanks Bill.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Capt. Herbert Crosby

New Embry Riddle Army ROTC Scholarship Fund Honors Captain Herbert Crosby

From the AP:

Relatives of an Indiana-born soldier killed during the Vietnam War will receive his posthumous Purple Heart more than 40 years after his death.

Fort Wayne native Capt. Herbert Crosby was 22 when his helicopter went down in southern Vietnam in January 1970. His remains were returned to the United States in 2006.

Crosby's sister had campaigned for her brother to receive a Purple Heart, but the military told her he wasn't eligible because his helicopter didn't crash while in combat.

But Marylou Wade discovered in 2011 that her brother's co-pilot, who also died in the crash, had received the Purple Heart.

The Journal Gazette reports she learned this week that her 94-year-old mother will receive her brother's posthumous honor at the Florida nursing home where she lives.

(Copyright ©2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Marylou Wade also worked with friends and family to establish a scholarship in her brother's honor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  More details about that, including donation information, can be found here:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Petaluma Plaque Honoring Veterans Stolen

Public response to the recent theft of a memorial plaque honoring 15 Petaluma veterans who died in Vietnam has been "incredible," Petaluma Historical Library and Museum president Joe Noriel said Thursday morning.

The bronze and copper plaque, which is believed to have disappeared from Walnut Park sometime after Dec. 21, was likely stolen for the value of its metal, Petaluma police Sgt. Ralph Evans said.

The plaque measures 25 inches by 30 inches, and is an inch thick. It had been placed in a concrete base near the park's gazebo sometime in the mid-1970s, Evans said.

Noriel said the thief or thieves may have removed the plaque from its base with an electric saw because electricity is available near the memorial.

Petaluma Parks Department employees working in the park on Tuesday discovered it was missing.

Local veterans are raising funds for a new plaque that will be better secured in a new memorial. The replacement will cost about $1,000, Noriel said.

Already, the managers of the Les Schwab Tires stores in Petaluma and Santa Rosa have pledged a total of $1,000, and Powell's Sweet Shoppe in Petaluma has pledged to match donations up to $500, Noriel said.

The Petaluma Firefighters Local 1415 union also offered to donate money, and a veteran has pledged $1,000, said Liz Cohee, the museum's coordinator.
Police are contacting local salvage yards to see if the thief has tried to sell the plaque, Noriel said.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call police at (707) 778-4372 or the museum at (707) 778-4398.
Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Petaluma Museum at 20 Fourth St., Petaluma CA. 94952.


Marvin walked up to me in a Safeway parking lot on Castro Valley and asked me for some help because he was down on his luck. A Marine Corp veteran, he was in Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.

He has the smooth, lyrical Creole cadence that so many from his native New Orleans have, but like many others he was permanently displaced after Katrina. He came to California to live with family, but that hasn't worked out like he'd hoped.

I asked him to wait for me and I'd get him some food from the supermarket, but when I came out with some sandwiches, he was gone. Good luck Sir.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fred & Ellie

I met Fred and his daughter's dog Ellie outside of the Whole Foods in Berkeley on Halloween. He's been in Berkeley for years, after studying architecture there.

During the war, however, he was drafted into the Army and worked in a helicopter crew stationed at Binh Hoa, a very large base in Dong Nai province that served as tactical and training station for the US Army, Air Force and Marines, as well as the first air base for the Republic of Viet Nam Air Force (VNAF). It was there that the VNAF's 1st Fighter Squadron was formed (later renumbered the 514th SF). Binh Hoa grew to support the greatest number of air combat units of any base in South Viet Nam.

Fred said something to me that I've never heard before, much less from a veteran. He said that after all that, he believes that the US came out ahead after that war because of all the Vietnamese who came to America and have contributed so much. That wa an amazing idea to me, and one that I'd never considered. I'm sure that there are plenty if people who would disagree with him, but that thought strikes me as amazingly generous, forgiving, and kind spirited. Yet again, I am humbled by a complete stranger. Thank you Fred.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Edgartown Martha's Vineyard

 Martha's Vineyard is a small island community on the Massachusetts coast.  Largely known as a preppy summer gettaway for well-healed New Englanders, its year-round (permanent) residents currently number approximately 15,000.  Despite its small size, the community of Edgartow, one of just six towns on the island, sent 78 servicemen and women to Viet Nam. 
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Roy and Mary

Roy was the crew chief of an Army helicopter unit based out of Ban Oi, though he did see a lot of action in central Viet Nam we well during his tour.  After returning from Viet Nam, he met Mary while he was working for Cal Fire in Fountain Valley, CA.  They had their son John while in Fountain Valley (born in the same hospital that  Nhuanh, Johnson & Jonathan were!).  They moved with Cal Fire to Chico, where they lived until Roy retired, after which they moved to the cooler climate of Santa Rosa.  Their son John still lives in Chico, working for Cal Fire and raising Roy and Mary's two grandkids.  

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I met Lou and his wife Harriet at the Costco in Rohnert Park, where they've retired after being long time bay area residents.

Lou was already in the Navy and stationed in Japan when the US officially entered the war. After his tour, he and Harriet married and initially lived in San Leandro. Later, they moved to Pinole, where Lou served his community a mayor for four years beginning around 1984.

Lou credits his time in the Navy for forming his perspective and forging his desire to be involved in the world around him.

Lou retired about 12 years ago after a long career ar Ford in Richmond; he and Harriet have two kids and four grandchildren who also live nearby.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five Fewer MIA

Currently, there are still over 1,100 American soldiers still missing in Viet Nam.  A unit of the Department of Defense called Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) continues to try to find, identify, and return these soldiers to their families.  This past June and July, the JPAC was able to conclusively notify five families that their loved ones were finally on their way home.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Don Wann stands in front of an injured Huey helicopter during his first tour of duty in Vietnam around 1968.

Wann, a former pilot with the 101st Airborne Division, and 1st Lt. Paul Mager, were shot down on June 1, 1971 but their bodies were never found. Wann and Magers were both members of the 158th Aviation Battalion, 160th Aviation Group, 101st Airborne Division, now based at Fort Campbell, Ky.

That fateful day, the two were deployed in a Cobra gunship to extract a group of Army Rangers under attack, then destroy left behind ammunition and mines near Hill 1015, or Dong Tri Mountain.

Wann and Mager's remains were recently identfied and returned to their native native states- Wann to Oklahoma and Mager to Nebraska- to be laid to rest with full military honors. 

More details can be found at this Army Times article.

On April 11, 1965, Navy Lt. William E. Swanson was the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider aircraft and nearing the end of his tour, but he would never make it back home. His plane was hit by enemy fire over Khammouan Province, Laos.  Lt. Swanson was 27 years old.

The wreckage of his aircraft was found in 2009, but he was only recently positively identified.  His remains will be returned to his family in Crystal , MN, where he will be laid to rest with full military honors. 

More details can be found at this article.

Air Force 1st Lt. Robert E. Bennett III of Springfield had been missing since he ejected over South Vietnam in 1967.

Air Force 1st Lt. Robert E Bennett III from Spingfield, NJ, was listed as MIA in 1967 after his F-4C fighter jet was hit by enemy fire and went down in Tra Vinh Binh province on Dec 13.  Bennett and his aircraft commander Capt. William Sakahara both ejected and were seen going into the Co Chien river.  Though the co-pilot was rescued immediately, Bennett was never located and presumably drowned. 

In 2010, a Vietnamese man reported discovering human remains and military equipment while dredging sand from the river.  Using DNA evidence, the JPAC identified the remains positively as Bennett, and he has been transported to his next of kin, in Montrose, CO, for burial with full military honors.  Sakahara, now a retired lieutenant colonel, delivered the eulogy.

More details in this article.

Clyde W. Campbell.jpg

On March 1, 1969, Capt. Clyde W. Campbell, of Longview, Texas was a pilot aboard an A-1J Skyraider that crashed while carrying out a close air support mission in Houaphan province, Laos. 

In 1997, a joint team of U.S. and Lao People's Democratic Republic officials investigated a crash site in Houaphan province within 330 feet of the last known location of Campbell. In addition to human remains, the team located aircraft wreckage and military equipment, which correlated with Campbell's aircraft.

From 2009 to 2010, additional joint U.S.-L.P.D.R. recovery teams investigated and excavated the crash site three times. The teams recovered additional human remains, military equipment -- including an aircraft data plate -- and a .38-caliber pistol matching the serial number issued to Campbell.

Scientists from the JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools in the identification of Campbell.  Campbell was recently laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary; the service was attended by his widow, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012


After arriving in San Mateo from his native Peru, Eric was drafted into the Marines. He was a truck driver, based out of Da Nang.

After his tour, he came back to the bay area, where he now lives with his wife with whom he has three kids, and through them three grandchildren.

Eric interacts with a number of Viet Nam vets through a group of vets who meet in Oakland to talk about dealing with PTSD. There are many groups like this throughout the nation and they have been critical in helping vets cope with very serious consequences of war.

Eric is a retired probation officer, and he is active in a catholic missionary group that takes trips to Mexico and South America- this summer they will be going to Chile.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bambi Did Three Tours as a Marine

Yes, that Bambi!

Courtesy of

Donnie Dunagan was only 6 when Walt Disney hired him to be the voice of Bambi. He was discovered at a Memphis talent show, and actually performed in 8 movies as a little child. He had a promising career that was cut short because his family fractured. He spent his time as a kid and teen in different boarding homes, until he joined the military as a teen.

He had a pretty good career there too. He was the youngest ever Marine Drill instructor and served three tours during the Vietnam war. He said he was fortunate to be in a leadership position for over 25 years. However, his true identity as Bambi remained hidden while he was in a military. He thinks people wouldn’t have taken him seriously if they knew he voiced the famous fawn. It wasn't years later, until he was 70, that he made it publically known.

He was attending a banquet, when a casual comment tipped media off that he had been a child star. After that, Disney got back in contact with him and he participated in the DVD featurette about the Bambi cast. He's now getting DVDs from them to give to orphanages. Fans are ecstatic that he's come back into the spotlight, and he's now proud whenever someone calls out "Major Bambi" out on the street "I love it to death," he says.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Lloyd served on the USS Oriskany for three years from '65-'68, the height of the war.

The Oriskany was an Essex-class carrier that posted primarily in the pacific and earned distinction in both the Korean and Viet Nam Wars. In Viet Nam, she carried out over 12,000 combat sorties. Infamously, Orisansky was the carrier from which John McCain flew off on Oct 26, 1967 when he was shot down and taken as a POW.

After Llyod got out of the Navy, he settled down in Manteca. He eventually retired from Goodyear, where he put in over 16 years, and is now waiting patiently fo his wife to retire.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Tony signed up for the Navy while he was a junior in high school in New Jersey. He trained in San Diego, then was stationed at Mare Island.

While at Mare Island, he met a local girl and got married a day and a half before his first of two deployments to Viet Nam. They now live in Pleasant Hill, and have three beautiful grandkids.

Tony speaks very highly about his time in the Navy, when a lot important events happened in his life. He says it grew him up. And he still stays connected to the naval community by working to restore a WWII craft (LCS102) which was a heavily armored & armed craft used in the Pacific to give cover to personnel landing on the the beach. His group has access to the moth ball fleet in the delta, where they are looking for parts in an effort to have the craft ready for SF fleet week this year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I met Joe in Petaluma when I made a comment about his Cal sweatshirt and Michigan hat (two finest public universities in the nation!). He is from Michigan, and his son is in his senior year at Cal, after doing a few tour with the Army. He showed me a picture he carries with him of his granddaughter- an adorable little blonde girl, and I showed him some pics of Huelan. Joe did two tours in Viet Nam as a med tech.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Gary is one of the most jovial guys you are ever going to meet- quick with a joke and quicker with a smile. He was based out of the Naval hospital in Da Nang. He now works as a PA in an othropedics practice in Santa Rosa, doing what he's always done- help people.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Shawnie is from Tacoma, WA but I met him in Palm Springs, where he now works as an attendant at La Quinta. He definitely helped us get the day off to a great start with his warm smile and positive attitude. Thanks Shawnie for all you did and all you do. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Lucky Few

All of the refugees of the Viet Nam war can consider ourselves lucky, and we have all benefitted from the actions of thousands of people we will never meet.

But there is a particular story that encapulates the spirit of the Vietnamese refugee and the heart of the American sailor. It's the story of the USS Kirk FF-1087, and it's told very well a video called The Lucky Few. You can view it at the link below, where it is broken up into 10 short chapters.

The Lucky Few, from US Navy TV

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ken is retired from a career in the Air Force, and spent a lot of time at Da Nang Air Bass during the war. He has no doubt that the U.S. and its allied forces would have won war on the ground if they had not been pulled out by Washington. After Viet Nam, he settled in Chandler, AZ, but he and his wife spend the hottest part of the summer in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Larry flew 114 combat missions in Viet Nam with the US Air Force. After Viet Nam, he flew passenger jets for United Airlines. He has a daughter and two grandkids, and retired to Sonoma, CA. He has a very strong handshake. 
Al is a career Marine who did three tours in Viet Nam. Saw heavy combat in all three, and suffered a serious injury to his left leg.  Doesn't stop him from playing golf though. After Viet Nam, he trained as a civil engineer with the Marines In San Diego and recently retired. He has a son in the Army who is currently deployed in Afghanistan.