I had heard many times, mostly from the Bible, about lepers and the dreaded disease that was so bad at one time. One of the girls that worked on the compound suggested I go to visit the lepers near the city so I convinced another guy to go as well. It was safe since you have to be around it for a period of time to actually develop the problem.
The residents here had to have a way to support themselves and this group made tiles for floors and walls. The colors were amazing and I was so impressed with how talented they were. It was kind of shocking to see people there with stubs where fingers and toes used to be. Probably the worst sight I saw while in Viet Nam was the man who had a hole in his face where his nose used to be. The specific area was so lovely compared to the city itself. There were palm trees and it was actually on the coast so the shore line was in sight and the beach made it look more like a resort than a leper colony. It made me think so differently after that whenever I would read anywhere and see the word leper.
After I returned from my 30 days at home that meant I only had another 5 months to spend there and then I could go home for good. Spending that extra 5 months over there allowed me to get out of the Army earlier that I would have ordinarily. Those 5 months really went by pretty quickly. I mentioned about not really being in danger which was not entirely true. I also mentioned about hoping that the locals that worked on the compound were loyal to us and didn't try to harm us. Besides the boy I mentioned that was captured while I was away there was also an incident where someone on the way to the mess hall found a trip wire attached to a hand grenade by the LP gas tank behind our mess hall. If that has gone off a lot of guys could have died. Some guys left the country in bad shape due to self inflicted problems like terrible strains of STD from having sex with prostitutes or overindulgence of alcohol. One of my friends, Chuck, was on the roof of our quarters where we had a flat roof for lifting weights or relaxing in the breeze. He was chugging whiskey and walked off the roof onto the cement below and had to airlifted out. Don't know what ever happened to him.
Towards the end of my tour over there as I neared June of 1970 the danger got closer to us and I will never forget the evening when a morter round went off close enough to throw rocks and debris into our compound. That was too close. So, even though I had made friends with some of the locals and the children at the orphanage, I was ready to get out of there. Even today I often wonder what ever happened to my friends and wish I could go back to Qui Nhon and see first hand how things have changed. I can tell from the internet that Viet Nam is a tourist destination today. I think that is a good thing.
So, arriving back at home for the second time finding my daughter, Pam, is almost 1 year old by then. Quite a change for this guy to take in. I made the transition and got on with my life. Like any marriage it had it good times and rough times. Along the way I had 3 more daughters, one that would only live 5 days back in 1971. Surely there were many times I thought to myself "What were you thinking" but I did have 3 great daughters that I am so proud of even though after 33 years of marriage my wife decided one day (2 days before the World Trade Center disaster) that she had had enough and left leaving me and our youngest who was 17 at the time to fend for ourselves. There has been so many changes in our lives since that time, fortunatly for the good. There is good in everything if you just look for it. That's my story and I am sticking to it.