Sunday, May 05, 2013

Dispatches from Vietnam and Laos -- The End of the Runway

I've been posting a lot of stuff on facebook and have neglected the people to whom I promised I would send updates and photographs. We're so busy here in Vietnam that I'm always too tired to compose posts to the blog. So I'm testing to see if I can paste the facebook postings. Will people who are not subscribers to facebook be able to go to the links? Please e t me know if it works.

This first set of posts is about the journey I've dreamed of taking --- I've dreamed of it for the past 45 years. But first, I'm giving you a link to a short film I shot of the Soc Trang Army Airfield in 1968. If you were to stop the film at about eight seconds into it, you'll see the place I would end up at all these years later.

 Here are the related facebook posts in the order that I posted them. Please let me know if I should include the people's comments after each post. I plan to send more dispatches --- each with its own theme. Feedback, please.
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  • Linda Chancler As the foodie that I am, this day has surely gone on too long without a meal, please tell us about the food.
  • Linda Chancler Holding breath about what happens next, a wifi signal that gives you gps coordinates?
  • William Prather Great picture for the story. Those expressions on their faces are worth 1000 words. Odd outfit on the girl, looks like a shirt with a bib on top of it - probably a sloppy eater.
  • Susan Roberts Prolly need to smoke some ganga and chill Don Ray. Next thang ya know, that airport will appear like a mirage in the desert. Lovin' the travelogue.
  • William Prather Don, you have some strange friends. Somehow I doubt she's kidding.
  • Don Ray You're talking about Susan? I don't understand what she's talking about. I don't smoke anything. But probably everyone else knows. Hoa was wearing the traditional Vietnamese outfit. I'm not sure if it's an apron as well.
  • William Prather That picture belongs on the cover of your book
  • Dave Williamson Susan was talking about smoking pot! Not sayin I know anything about that, But the big boys in the Barracks said it was fun!
  • Don Ray Hey, we're in Laos now and I'd hate to have the authorities grab my computer and see all of this talk about illegal activities. Like, chill, man? You got my groove? Right arm!
  • Jim Comer La-os! Laaaaaaaay-os! DAYLIGHT COME AND ME WANNA GO HOME!
  • Don Ray Jim, you slipped up here a little bit. You're thinking Harry Belafante. In Laos, it's more likely to be Hairy Elephant Day.
  • Marshall Thompson Interesting trip Don! Be well over there.
  • Don Ray Thanks, Marshall!!!
  • Jim Comer Actually, I was making fun of people, most of whom speak English, who think that Laos has two syllables.
  • Don Ray Diphthong song.
  • Michael Torres Enjoying your adventure!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    April 30 at 2:21pm · Unlike · 1

    1. 3Like · ·

      • Laura Rae Hulka Beautifully expressed, Don, very evocative!
      • Elaine Bro Elliott How blessed, could one man be????? To have the opportunity to re-live the loss you felt and to finally, move forward!!! This creative passion- a life long possession that has survived a horrendous war, none of will forget!! You have a unique ability to make friends, the best a man could ask for in his lifetime!!!!!!!!! I can't wait to see it all come together! Edge of my seat, Don Ray!!
      • Marshall Thompson OMG...... speechless.
      • Diane McWilliams Powerful. I am glad you found that peaceful ride back, and were able to revisit. My brother was in VietNam that year, so I am following your journey encased in my own memories as his sister. Travel well...
      • JoAnne Clark Great, So cleansing to the heart and yr mind. Keep up the good work.
      • Dave Williamson I repeat what I posted on the last one!I surely hope it helps! I'm so glad you were stubborn that time! What a shame had you missed it!
      • Perdita Brown What a powerful story!
      • Dawn RT DeBois I'm with Marshall. I'm speechless.


Efrem said...

Don, all I can say is you are an amazing human being and I am so very fortunate to be a part of your life and to share some of the most incredible experiences that any one individual can possible dream of. I believe that there are some wonderful things still coming up in the near future for you and I am convinced that you will be able to share with the rest of the world some of your most precious experiences. I love you buddy.

Anonymous said...

Don, I have tears running down my face reading your blog. I bring back many memories since we have been there. I would like to see your pictures of the air field when you return. Have a great trip. Marty Maier

Don Ray said...

I have to tell you that it felt wonderful to read these first two comments to this post. What we experienced in those forgotten times in a place that is now just a memory touched Efrem --- even though he wasn't there. His empathic nature gives me encouragement and inspires me to move forward with the projects of my life. I am especially thrilled that Marty Maier was able to take the journey --- by way of my silly blog --- and revisit Soc Trang. He was the most welcoming of the guys at Soc Trang when I arrived, and I missed him terribly when he left and things for me there went south. He left a vacuum that, I'm sad to remember, got filled with negative spirit. How selfish of me to wish that he had stayed longer instead of going home. Marty, I'm embarrassed to show my tears to someone to whom I looked up so much. To know that you too are shedding tears for your own loss makes me feel less alone. I've been doing oral history interviews with so many veterans of WWII and I envy them for being able to have lifelong buddies from their time in the service. So many of us came home alone --- without anyone with whom we could share the laughter and the pain. Marty, it's been 45 years. Let's plan on meeting for a hug, a handshake, some laughter and a few boxes of Kleenex. Thanks so much!

fran serafin said...

Since we spoke just prior to you leaving, I had no idea how I looked forward to your every post....and was disappointed they were so short..I questioned myself "Was this because we were friends"...that question took all of a quarter second to answer....No, I found myself intrigued, and invested in your wished for more. Talk about being teased. I believe that a person would have to have been aware of Vietnam at that time, to get what I got out of your words...but, this is just my opinion,,,,just as I believe that those same people would love every word you've written....and be disappointed that there wasn't more. it screams "Book", or Documentary. I just hope today's classic "Target group : the 18 -39" could appreciate it.

Don Ray said...

You're already a part of this. You became a part of it when you reached into your pocket when we met for lunch and slipped me some money. I knew you couldn't afford it, but you volunteered it to make sure we didn't get stranded there. It came in handy. Thanks again! This is, indeed, about friends.
Don Ray

Emil Mitchell said...

I too, miss those days and the people I spent three tours with. Came home alone to much misery when all but a few including my wife now and immediate family would acknowledge me as anything near human. I slipped into a two year long attitude and re-entered the Army retiring in 1993 and moving to Florida for 18 years before the passage of time finally let me realize that I had created my own misery and sought to end it. I feel more human now and returned to KY to reconnect with family in IN. Since discovering your blog the feelings of a need to revisit Soc Trang Army Airfield have returned and maybe before I leave this world I will make a journey as you did to find my youth left behind as I watched the airstrip disappear from the ramp of a C-130 as it climbed in the sky headed for Long Binh and shipment back to the US.

Don Ray said...

Emil, it's remarkable how a young man's experience in a war zone clings to him in so many ways. Now I know that ignoring it is impossible. Oh how I wish that young ears were able to comprehend what we old guys have to share about war --- once we figure it all out. Thanks for the poetic and tear-inspiring comment.