Ya Never Know Who You'll Meet Volunteering: Viet Nam Vets
by John A
I've mentioned in other postings on this site that I volunteer at a hospital a few days a week. I find it a pleasure serving others and bringing a smile to someone who is hurting from injury or ill. In my volunteering I have the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting folks.
Yesterday as I was working in the outpatient surgery part of the hospital, I sat down to take a break after being on my feet for most of the day.
Across the room sat a gentleman that I could not take my eyes off since he looked extremely familiar. But, I just couldn't place him. After all, he had a beard, long gray/blond hair and a few wrinkles that come with age and character and could not tell who he was. It was his eyes that looked so eerily familiar.
I'll try to keep the story short.
After a few minutes I struck up a conversation with him over some small talk; you know the standard stuff..where are you from, what do you do for work, etc?
We were about 10 minutes into the conversation and I asked about why he was in the outpatient surgery part of the hospital. I shouldn't have been so nosy since we're not suppose to ask. He said he had problems with the VA doctors and would rather use his private insurance for the surgery. Well one thing lead to another in the conversation and I found out he was in the Marines during the Vietnam era.
It turned out we both went through basic training at USMRD San Diego at the same time and served our hell on earth at Khe Sanh during the Tet Offensive in 1968. I vaguely remember sharing a hooch with him from time to time while getting cover from incoming small arms, mortar, artillery and rocket rounds for 77 days of @*!".
As I said, it was his eyes that gave me the urge to find out who this man was. His eyes now look the same as back then as a scared young Marine. We both were scared as hell and wondered if we'd ever make it back home. We both carry the same scars, though not physical, that hurt just the same. There's a piece of us still back in Nam fighting the war.
There aren't too many of us from our unit still around. Seems as though most of 'em are dead from agent orange or melted away into society as some of the older unseen street people.
I was happy to see Old Smitty (not his real name) again after 45 years. We plan to get together for a few beers and catch up on what we've done in life since.
Like I said, Ya Never Know Who You'll Meet Volunteering. Volunteering pays off in more than one way. I got my reward yesterday meeting up with an Old Marine buddy.
WOW, John, what a great meeting! You could simply have walked away -- but took the time to chat with him -- and found out you really did know him! I think that's absolutely fantastic.. you followed your gut instinct. Kudos to you!