Clouds over the Cascades in Washington State.
For those keeping up with the happenings of the last week, I’ve returned from my trip to Seattle. I went there for the annual reunion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society, of which I am a member. This regiment is the unit I served with when I was in the American war in Vietnam in 1969. The Triple Deuce Vietnam is the designation for the group of people who were in Vietnam, where the regiment society as a whole is everyone who ever served with the 22nd through all time. So, there were some old folks there from WW II and some young folks from Iraq and Afghanistan. A quick note: I did add the link to the Triple Deuce site, but it has been erratic and sometimes does not work. Sorry for any inconvenience.
The Vietnam Veterans there were numerous and out numbered the rest. All in all, I believe there were over 200 attendees which included the Veterans themselves and their spouses. My wife did not go to this reunion with me, but many did have their wives with them. There were no women Veterans attending the affair, although I believe there might be a few women members.
After the train trip from Minneapolis, I arrived on Thursday and rented a car. I drove around Seattle and found a good little 50’s style diner for some lunch. After eyeballing where the ferry terminal was and a little sightseeing from the drivers seat, I went South of the city towards the airport and settled in at the Marriott where the reunion festivities were to take place for the next few days.
I checked in and found great accommodations. I went to the hospitality room and found many people gathered around talking. There were snacks and beverages of all kinds available. I registered and got my name tag and took a seat. I didn’t recognize anyone either by their face or their name. In fact, the entire weekend went by and not one of the people who were in Vietnam when I served there showed up.
I was in Company B. There were some “B” guys there, but they had served before I got to Vietnam in February of 1969. I sat with them, for the most part, and we talked about places where we all had been, but no one knew any of the names of people I mentioned. I sat around for quite a while Thursday, Friday and Saturday in that hospitality room and listened. I met a few other guys here and there, all from the Vietnam era, and talked a little about when I was there. Scheduled dinners were on the agenda for Friday and Saturday evenings, with the Saturday dinner seeing most guys dress up a bit with suits and ties. I wore a clean button down shirt that needed some ironing. I did hang it up in the hotel room and hoped the wrinkles wouldn't be so bad. No one noticed at all, to my knowledge.
The B company guys were great hosts and invited me to have dinner on Friday as well as Saturday with them. There was but one other guy who came there without his wife besides me in the B company group. As you can see, there isn’t much to say and this account is quite a bore to read. That’s because the whole affair was a bore to me. Not connecting with anyone I served with was a huge disappointment, but I stayed and listened and watched and found out that this society is not anything I need be associated with in the future.
At first, I had found the organization on line while looking for information about the unit in Vietnam. I did put my name on the locator and pay the yearly dues as a member. I did get in contact with many guys I did serve with through the group. Some of them, I still E-mail and/or talk with on the phone occasionally, but none of the people I had connected with came to this reunion and many never became members. The organization finds and contacts these guys in hopes they will join the ranks of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society. Most don’t join, but they allow themselves to be found by the people who work very hard at doing so.
All in all, I can see where I would have enjoyed myself if I had met up with any of the actual people I was in Vietnam with, but since I didn’t, It was not a great experience for me. I learned that if I wanted to have this happen, it would be up to me to contact those that I do already know and ask them to join the society and come to the next reunion which is 18 months away in April of 2011 in Atlanta. I decided that I wouldn’t talk to my friends about joining, but rather just talk to them.
I have met a few of the guys I personally knew and served with outside of any reunion gathering in the past. Those times were great! At this reunion, I came away with the personal feeling that the majority of the members who came look at war completely different than I do. I cannot embellish the ugliest part of my life on this planet and make it good for any reason. The war talk, attitude, dress and politics of the attendees, from what I saw and heard, will keep me from attending another reunion and will probably result in me not renewing my membership in the society.
There were a couple of high points, so the whole affair was not a bad experience. One is that I did meet one man, the guy who does the website for the Triple Deuce Vietnam. He is also a Facebook friend of mine. On his Facebook profile, he listed himself as a pacifist. When I met him, I mentioned that to him and we sat quite a while aside and by ourselves and spoke to our respective one man choir about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other social problems that could be solved with the billions of dollars we spend on war. His name is Mario. We connected largely because I have submitted articles to the quarterly newsletter the Triple Deuce puts out and he has seen my name. Other than Mario, I saw no outward sign of anyone who might be a peace activist.
The other good thing to come of this for me was the random pairing of me with a fellow named Jim Nelson as a room mate. Jim wanted to save a few bucks and share a room and so did I. I had never met Jim before. Turns out that Jim is an artist of some renown. Before I left for this trip, I took some pictures, audio and video and made some CD’s and a DVR to share with anyone interested. Jim got wind of this and wanted to listen to the CD’s and see the DVD. I had the laptop with me, so I played them in our room. Jim enjoyed them so much, I gave him a set of the recordings. He said he would send me some prints of his work in return as I refused any money. I didn’t make the recordings to sell, but rather to share. Here’s Jim’s website. Take a look at his gallery and the paintings he did of wartime in Vietnam in the late 1960’s. I've posted a couple in this article.
A painting by my randomly selected room mate, Jim Nelson. It is entitled "Eagle Fight".
Jim is a great guy and a damn good artist. He also has done artwork for many book covers. I’m looking forward to getting some prints from him. Jim appreciated my efforts with the recordings and was a gracious room mate. He is from Kansas.
I did receive an award. Everyone does the first time they attend one of these Regiment Society reunions which are held every eighteen months. It is The Order of the Red Ant. Seems that when the first troops from the Triple Deuce were sent to Vietnam by boat in 1967, they encountered many red fire ants in the area where they were deployed.
The Order of the Red Ant
Story after story emerged and the guys decided that if you were there, you had a run-in with these biting nuisances. To be honest, I don't remember the red ants. I do remember scorpions and have a story or two about them. To add a little excitement to the reunion, all newcomers are to tell a red ant story. They then receive the award. A Proclamation and a medal depicting the Order of the Red Ant.
When I was asked to tell my story, I mentioned the red marks and scars I have on my ass from jungle rot and ringworm. The group accepted that as just as bad as any red ant encounter.
I’ll leave it at that and tell you about my experience on Amtrak another time. The trip there was one experience and the trip back completely different. I’ll explain in another story. I took some pictures while on the train. I didn’t take any at the reunion. They would be nothing but people smiling for the camera, people I did not know. I also had one full day with the rental car from Sunday to Monday. I took a ferry across Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula and went back to a place I hadn’t been to in a long while, Port Angeles.
In the meantime, I’m home for a couple of days and leaving for Chicago on Friday to visit my Mom. I’ll return home Sunday evening.
Peace to all.
This painting, done by Jim Nelson, is of Battalion Chaplain Toban, who was in attendance at the reunion. Chaplain Toban was much liked by the soldiers, shown giving communion at the battle field.