Thursday, October 15, 2009

Triple Deuce Reunion, Seattle, 2009

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.


Roderick Robinson said...

Your experiences in Seattle mirrors mine in a completely different context. Despite attending a ritzy sort of school (for which my father had to pay fees - confusingly in the UK a "public" school) I was a terrible student. At age 11 and then at 15 my father asked me what I wanted to do and in both cases the answer was the same - a journalist. Using his influence he got me a job as a tea-boy at the local evening newspaper and from then on, intellectually at least, I never looked back. I learned more in the first two or three years than I'd ever done at school and went on to progress in publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. Consequently when I was invited to a reunion of the evening paper staff twenty-five years later I accepted, keen to celebrate those important initial years. Except that when I got there, no one remembered me. It didn't matter really since I was by now an editor more or less dominating the field I was in but I felt rather cast down. No one to thank, no one to reminisce with.

With such an intense experience as a war the need for many ex-combatants to re-live things would, I assume, be far greater. The sense of union was after all a matter of life and death. Given your post-war experiences I can imagine your disappointment. A shame that there wasn't a long open-road blast afterwards on the Triumph to blow away the cobwebs.

Anne said...

Hi Joe... Ah, well. Nothing ventured, etc. Now you know, right?
I look forward to the Amtrak tales!
Enjoy your visit to Chicago, and seeing your mom. Peace.

The Crow said...

Sorry your anticipated reunion didn't turn out as you had hoped. Good that you met Jim Nelson and had an opportunity to talk with Mario. I visited Jim's website, and like his work. I think I like the watercolor, "Eagle Flight," best of all.

I'm looking forward to your Amtrak stories, Joe. Welcome home.

Mel said...

Maybe I'm silly--but I see this as a good thing, really.

You walked past the fear of showing up and were ready to face some things....I trust those things will avail themselves as they're suppose to. You're ready. That was a huge part of the undertaking--or maybe I'm ever the optimist? LOL This could be.

Welcome back!!
AWESOME artwork, btw.
I'm gonna haffta go check the link later this afternoon--but I will check out the link!!

Spadoman said...

Thank you for stopping by at Round Circle.

BB.. Interesting about your reunion. You reached a goal, and if anyone was paying attention earlier in your life, they'd have seen that you achieved it.
Thank you for your comments.

Annie.. It is extremely important to me that people I love and respect, like yourself, know that I wasn't going there looking for approval for the war. That war,or any war. Now I do know, as you say, and it is okay with me. But I was compelled to attend and see what happens. Very hard to understand the reason why for me. Thank you so much for caring enough to stop by.

Crow.. Not so much that it didn't turn out how I had hoped since I didn't know what to expect.It was more like seeking to be remembered, but not really all that important either. So hard to understand. I think I'll just chalk this one up to a learning experience. Thanks so much for your visit here.

Mel.. You, my dear friend, hit the nail exactly on the head. I couldn't have gone to any reunion for anything a few years ago. Most of this was stepping past my fears. There was a hope I'd see someone I knew and remembered from the past, but no one in particular. I also knew beforehand that groups of this type might not be people of my ilk, and I accepted that.

As far as Jim Nelson goes, I like his artwork. His web site has book covers he has been commissioned to paint and portraits. He is not at all just a military war creature. I feel fortunate to have met him.

Thank you all so much for being here. I love the conversation of it all.

Peace to all.

susan said...

As you frequently do you've reminded me of a story - this time about reunions and unexpected ones at that. My father-in-law was a soldier in WWII stationed in the South Pacific theater and among those present at Iwo Jima - or would have been had he not been shot in the head on Guam (he was very tall and so presented a good target - he was also very funny and self effacing). A passing officer in a jeep refused to take him to the base hospital so Ned sat bleeding while he waited for a truck. He talked to the guy on the gurney next to him all the way and only learned later the man had been dead - also that he was only still alive because he had stayed conscious. He was a very generous man.

Many years later he was in a VA hospital in RI dying of ALS but remarkably beloved of all who came in contact with him. For some unknown reason a group of his old platoon mates had got together and gone to RI (from far and wide across the country) for their own reunion. Maybe it was because hotels were cheap there. Anyway, they were at the VA and heard a doctor on the elevator mention his name - something unlikely to happen now, I agree. Anyway, they found him and spent hours reminiscing and laughing about the war, life and what fools officers still are.

He didn't like war either. You would have liked him.

Spadoman said...

Thank you susan, for stopping by and reading here. Great story about your Father-in-law. What a small world. Funny how things like that happen from time to time with people. What's the word for that stuff? Syncronicity?
Have a great day and thanks again.


Anonymous said...

You spoke of the disappointment of not seeing people that you knew and again later in your post of not taking pictures of people you did not know..ah, but here, I believe, is where you are incorrect. You did know us. We are the men that welcome you back, that reach out to you for support in our healing and offer you an understanding that is deeper than words. We are the buddies that went in ahead of you and those that came after you. We did not then know how much we cared about you but now we are as much a part of us as the buddy who walked beside us thru the jungle. We are one. We know each other intimately. We are your best friends, we are your buddies.

Spadoman said...

Anonymous... Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I believe you are right in some respects. I did meet some new friends, and we did connect on some level as Veterans, as Triple Deuce Veterans. I took the train home to have time to digest it all. It wasn't enough time. Long after I wrote the article here I had more and more feelings about the whole reunion. I wrote another article. If you scroll up, you'll find it.
I'm sure you can see that I felt bad as an intruder as i watched everybody making plans and being with each other.I also didn't know how the spouses would react, and I was without my soulmate and constant friend for the last 38 years.
Now, don't remain anonymous if you are my friend. Give me a call or an e-mail and let's really be friends.