May 16, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Her name is Lynn. Her real name is Lin Thi Dang. Being Vietnamese, I am sure they pronounced that Dang Thi Lin as the given name comes last over there. She was born in 1962 and as a child in Vietnam lived the hard times of the war along with a pretty tough early life. She came close to dying a few times, and while our paths crossed years ago and miles away, we did not know one another. That is until yesterday. And now, hopefully, we will be friends for many years to come having witnessed one of the most impacting events of the last century from two totally different angles and directions.
You see, she was a part of my Vietnam experience when my ship took on 4500 Vietnam refugees from Vung Tao (not to far from Saigon) at the end of the war. We were not sure that she was on my ship until we met one another, shared our story, looked at pictures, and realized that we were at the same place at the same time over 35 years ago.
As I waited for her to arrive, I sat with a few of my buddies from the Band of Brothers. They laughed at me as they saw how distracted I was, starring at my pictures that brought back so many memories and constantly looking at my watch as I waited for the exciting meet. "Lyle", they laughed, "are you here?" "Hey, is there something or someone you are waiting for". I am not an excitable guy but they could all tell that I was on pins and needles.
Lynn brought her family with her. Her adopted parents, Lyle and Barbara, with Lyle not only having my name but looking somewhat like me (without the beard). We exchanged hugs and greetings and then took some pictures before sitting down at the big table in our back room to begin sharing . Lynn and I sat together with her daughter, Sara and Sara's husband, Matt on her other side.
I had a few pages of the event and I showed them to Lynn as I told her my side of memories. We seemed to go back and forth and soon realized that our memories were very much alike. Lynn said that as she looked at my pictures (her first that she had seen since it happened) she began having memories of the time that showed her that it must have been the same ship.
They warned me that Lynn was a very quiet woman so her grin and talkative nature showed me that she was just as excited about this as I was . As I shared things, she would say, "Oh yea" and I found myself doing the same thing as she spoke. I said that the boats full of refugees came on the ship like bees. "Yes", she explained, "It was like they were swarming. Everyone wanted on the ship.". She told of waiting for the ship that they were told was out there and I told her how we were out to sea but were not allowed to come in yet.
When things happened , they happened fast. The Viet Cong were attacking the city, and the people were trying to get out. We only had two days to pick up as many as possible. We saw, heard, and felt the same thing from two totally different angles. I told her of seeing what I felt was a church attacked and she explained of the large Catholic group that was in the area. We both spoke of a point of land that must have been the headlands that were just south east of the town.
A bond of friendship seemed to grow between my family and hers as I fielded questions from her various family members. Then her son in law, Matt, thanked me. He said that if we had not saved her life, his wife would not be here today. As I listened to him, I saw tears in his eyes, along with Sara and Lynn herself. I was so deeply touched that I fought back my own but I am sure they could see them welling up.
I informed him that Lynn was the story here. Not me. I was merely someone there doing his job. I was not the one who was struggling for their lives. I had a bed to lay in, food to eat, and the freedom to move around.
We talked so long and deep that I didn't realize that they had also came in for lunch and soon had Cindy taking orders for all as we continued to reminisce.
Jay seemed excited when he found out that Lynn was quite the fisherman and Lynn asked him if he would like to go fishing with her some day. His face showed me his excitement there.
We spent nearly the entire afternoon together and left with even deeper hugs as friends. And I hope we remain that way for a long time. Thirty five years ago, a scared 13 yr old girl and a young sailor confused by what he saw. Today, Adults and Americans with proud and happy families around us both.
I guess you could say that yesterday was sort of healing time for both of us.