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24 January 2013 @ 03:51 pm
blast from the past/rocket from the sea  

Gay was cleaning out her desk this morning and came across this blast from the past . . . this picture was taken at the Red Cross hooch in the 6th Convalescent Center in Cam Rhan Bay, Vietnam.  It's Tony Leon, a CO who was assigned there in 1968-69.


Tony was a great guy.  He played all sorts of instruments, including the sitar in the picture.  We'd often borrow instruments after hours and sit down by the ocean and play and sing.  And drink and smoke substances – Tony wasn't exactly a dealer, but he did know where to find anything.  We were already strangers in a strange land, but he provided tickets to stranger ones.

We know now that there were Viet Cong hiding blacked-out on rafts within easy listening distance.  What did they think of us transplanted hippies?  They knew a lot about American culture, at least some of them.  Did they know we were not their enemies, or at least didn't want to be?  We never drew fire, sitting there strumming and smoking, though the enemy attacked from the sea a couple of times a month.

Tony's around seventy now, if he survived the seventies and eighties in Haight-Ashbury.  The Haight, as we used to say.

Can it be 44 years since I took that picture?  Funny how flexible time is.

And how charitable it can be.  I find it a lot easier to go back and join Tony than to go back to the mud and blood and gunfire. 

Going to the VA in a few minutes to have my hearing aid adjusted.

joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on January 24th, 2013 08:53 pm (UTC)
Hmm . . . that's spelled "Cam Ranh Bay." (Wondered why I couldn't find the message with Google.)
Luke McGuffholyoutlaw on January 24th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
This was a pretty moving post to me, for some reason. The charitability of long time.
Jeff: Mejeffreyab on January 24th, 2013 09:38 pm (UTC)
Nice memory Joe it takes me back to that period.

What does CO stand for? I ask because it looks like Tony is wearing Specialist 5 rank badges and they only rank buck privates.
EMT_Hawk: Pembridgeemt_hawk on January 25th, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
Conscientious Objector?
joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on January 25th, 2013 12:25 pm (UTC)
CO = "conscientious objector," or "conchie." I filed for CO status myself, but was refused because I couldn't get a letter from my pastor! I told them that atheists don't get pastors, but they weren't impressed.

In fact, once assigned to Vietnam, II tried to volunteer as a combat medic, unarmed. The army thought I must be crazy. Take the fucking gun!


joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on January 25th, 2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
Re: C.O.
Oh, and the army wouldn't let me put "atheist" on my dog tags, either. For religion I had to use "No Preference." I told them I did have a preference -- atheist. The guy typing them out said don't give me any shit; take it and move on.

I wonder whether they still do that. In fact, the constitutional guarantees of free speech and freedom of worship are suspended while you're in uniform. It would be awkward if millions of soldiers said, "But the Bible says Thou Shalt Not Kill."

Anybody know whether it's different now?

Jeffjeffreyab on January 26th, 2013 03:30 pm (UTC)
Re: C.O.
Got it, thank you, this is the first time I heard of the short form.
trebor1415trebor1415 on January 24th, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
I hope this isn't him:


Here's another mention of a Tony Lean who appears to be from California. He's not identified in any of the pics though

joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on January 25th, 2013 12:28 pm (UTC)
Tonys Leon
Thanks for sending those along, Treb. The guy in the obit is too young. The other one's a possibility, the heavier guy on the right.

Ed McDonaldEd McDonald on January 31st, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
Great memory. I was in the Marines in Okinawa in the late 80s and lost the names and contact of so many wonderful guys and I also wonder where they all are.