The Pivotal Event
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball that you never saw coming. In my life I’ve had quite a few. I was raised with my three younger brothers on the poor side of town (figuratively speaking) in Homedale, Idaho. Our home was an old chicken coup on a ditch bank not far from the city park.
I could be seen riding my 20” high bicycle to school most every day. When my brothers started school we most likely walked to school together. Our family centered on crews traveling the migrant fruit-picking circuit throughout the Treasure Valley Idaho area and beyond. When not in school we worked alongside other families. We were paid by the bag, box or bucket. We worked hard, played even harder, but Saturday night was a big deal with a coke, a burger and fries at the Dew Drop Inn or a huge chocolate covered ice cream cone at the Frosty Palace.
We moved around a bit, but always stayed in the Homedale – Wilder area. We were in Wilder when dad hurt his leg and was transported to the Boise VA Hospital. Because it was a service connected injury the VA removed his left knee, fused his leg together and sent him through rehabilitation. It was then we sold the farm and moved into the city to be close to dad when they discharged him. He was a disabled veteran.
I went into middle and senior high schools in Boise and was introduced to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) where I learned about air force style discipline, curtesy and the military. We moved after my junior year and I graduated with the Kuna High School class of 1967.
After graduation I moved out, got my own apartment, job and a car. Life was moving right along for me until I was introduced by a friend to Steve Jones. A few months later Steve came to me about joining the army as helicopter pilots no less and in September 1967 we were in basic training together at Fort Lewis, Washington.
I never made it to helicopter pilot training school, but signed up to be an army truck driver. After basic I went to the army truck driver training at Fort Ord, California where I learned about international road signs, hauling cargo, convoys and doing it under combat conditions because we were told Vietnam was in our immediate future.
Now you might think that the army was a pivotal point in my life and you’d be right. However when life throws a curve ball it’s not always what you’d expect, and being a farm boy from Idaho I had never heard of a place called Thailand, but that is where I was sent in 1968 and that proved to be the pivotal event in my life for a number of reasons.
The army was my first time away from home. In 1968 going overseas to Southeast Asia and into the Land of Smiles would change my life forever. I found myself with other guys my same age, doing the same job and most of us had no idea where we were or what we were doing there.
It wasn’t love at first sight but one local Thai girl captured my attention and I became focused on getting her to like me. It was easier to get her folks on my side, than it was her older brother, but eventually he too came around. It wasn’t until September 1969 that we were married in a civil ceremony in her village in Northeastern Thailand.
After doing the paperwork to bring her to America we settled for a time in Boise, Idaho. I worked various odd jobs and she began working at a leather factory until the birth of our daughter. By early 1972 we went back into the military and once again I was at Fort Lewis, Washington, only this time with a family.
I spent the next 27 years trying to get stationed back in Thailand, but ended up taking my family to Panama where our second daughter was born, and back to America where we moved around to different military bases before going overseas again, only this time to Germany. After Germany we came back to Fort Carson, Colorado and made plans to retire from the army.
Instead of quietly retiring I received orders to go alone to Japan for 2 years. This meant leaving my family in Colorado.
In 1990 after returning from Japan I retired from the army. My eldest had finished school, the youngest was almost ready to graduate and my wife was operating her own beauty salon. We surrounded ourselves with retirees who were married to Thai women and we had kids all in the same age group. Our life revolved around Thailand for obvious reasons. Our wives traveled yearly to Thailand to visit with family and on occasion I managed to go back as well.
Every trip I made back to Thailand was a time for me to go out to our old camp to walk around and take pictures. Year after year the old camp footprint grew smaller and smaller until it virtually disappeared.
Over the past 20 + years I have created and been actively involved with Thailand Veteran’s groups online with a focus on education, reuniting old friends and making new ones. Now as it has been since leaving Thailand in 1970 my focus continues back to those good old days when I was just a kid in the army in Thailand.
My children and grand-children have been to Thailand and look forward to going back again soon. –