A Major Influence on My Life – Thailand
I was born in 1949, raised with my 3 brothers (Jess, John, Jerry) in Southern Idaho. Everyone who knew us thought of us as angels (heh, heh, heh). Mom remembered it differently, but then this is my story and I’m sticking to it. Most of my upbringing was in the farmlands of the Treasure Valley and in the capitol city of Boise. I went from riding my mini-bike to school in the first grade in Homedale to riding my bike as a teenager all over Boise and Meridian. I hadn’t traveled much outside of our local communities except to visit family in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah or Washington. Wow I guess I sort of got around huh? I graduated class of 67 at Kuna High School. I was 18 when I went into the Army in September 1967.
As I look back I can see two major influences in my life. The first and most important was the hand of God directing my path and keeping me safe. The second was during the Vietnam War when my first overseas assignment to me to South East Asia with a stop in Vietnam, then on to Bangkok, Thailand. My journey didn’t end when I arrived in Bangkok it was began.
I’ll be honest when I received orders I had to ask someone where I was going. Everyone else had orders to Vietnam but mine were different. When they told me Thailand, I thought it was an island like Okinawa. I still had no idea where I was going as the plane lifted off from California.
I was still 18 when the plane touched down at Tan Son Nhut AB in Vietnam during the 1968 TET and continued on to Bangkok, Thailand. I was ultimately assigned to an army transportation unit based at Camp Khon Kaen in Northeastern Thailand. My job was driving a tractor-trailer hauling all types of cargo to various army and air force bases in Thailand. What I learned about the army and about transportation began here and has stuck with me ever since. During my tour I met and later married my wife Montian from a village in Khon Kaen. I ended up spending 2 ½ years in Thailand. The influence of the Thai people on my life continues today as we recently celebrated more than 50 years together.
Over the years I have been back to Thailand a number of times. I choose to visit, not live as many expats do because every trip opens still another adventure. I don’t want to change that feeling. Initially I would find ways to get out to the old Camp Khon Kaen, looking at the buildings and the ground we walked on so long ago. With each successive trip I saw changes as more buildings disappeared and the site was re-purposed into a local government compound. Today there are barely any tell-tail signs of our having been there.
For many years I would see locals who had worked with or supported guys at the base. We would share memories and laugh. Then there was no one left to share. I still have my wife’s family in Khon Kaen and we still visit them, but for me it’s not the same anymore. We still have a place to come back to although it’s many miles from Khon Kaen. We have new friends nearby and we now seem to be at a different stage of life. The sights and sounds and even the people are constantly bringing us laughter and joy.
At home in Colorado we share stories of Thailand with our kids and grandkids. They have been able to visit and talk of going back for the places, things and people they want to see again – the illusive carrot on the end of a stick or another check mark off our bucket lists. As for me I can see that God has been good to me for the experiences and people in my life – the good, the bad and the ugly (sorry if I stepped on any toes – not). Without God I wouldn’t be here. Without God I wouldn’t have the family I have. Without God I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that have made me who I am today and without God I wouldn’t be sharing this with you. – I am the Real Truckmaster!