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The Last US Soldiers Left Vietnam 50 Years Ago Today!

Real Estate Agent with Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) www.Progressive-Realty.info DB-17066

Did you know that March 29th is National Vietnam War Veterans Day?  How do you even being to approach this topic?  Happy National Vietnam Veterans Day just doesn't seem right.  Do you offer condolences to those that lost friends and family during that war?

I lived in Vietnam during that war.  I spent 3.5 years there.  However, my experiences were totally different than most. I actually started Kindergarten in Saigon at the Phoenix Study Group. My father worked for an international engineering and construction company, Morrison Knudsen International.  He didn't want our family separated when he was transferred to work on the massive RMK-BRJ contract.

I loved the country, the people and the food.  I do have a few unique memories to share however:

  • I didn't realize till recently that I am in fact a Privileged Old White guy since this was a private school.
  • My dad asked my brother after the first day of school "How was it?" My brother replied "Dumb!" Some of the teachers were Catholic Nun's (although we were not raised Catholic) and they told my brother to call them sister.  He replied "No, my sister lives in Oregon." Hence, it was "Dumb".
  • Our maid had a son that was my age so I would accompany them shopping.  Her olive skinned son came home looking the same and yet my skin looked like a lobster due to my horrible sunburn.
  • One day at school, a helicopter accidently dropped a case of tear gas grenades into the campus.  It is hard enough to get elementary aged children to line up single file at the water fountain . . . it is even harder after being tear gassed!
  • During the 1968 Tet Offensive, military intelligence anticipated some problems so we let them use our house as a lookout and we went on a family vacation to Thailand.  When we came home, we had lots of bullet holes in our house; paintings knocked off the walls and an unexploded mortar in the back yard.  My father had it removed, de-actived and turned it into a GI Joe fort complete with a flashing red light when you opened the hinged door. For some reason he wouldn't let me take that out of the country when we moved to Korea.
  • We would go to the beach to relax and it was at a US POW camp.  Safest place in Vietnam at the time since we controlled all the guns there.
  • One one trip to the beach, the Viet Cong were shooting up at our military helicopter.  Our GI's thought it would be funny if my brother and I were placed at the hard mounted machine guns returning fire, so we did.  Fortunately, there was so much vegetation that we will never know if we actually shot anyone or not.
  • On another trip to the island, we were shot again and some of the bullets had tracers.  I just thought the red ones were pretty like the 4th of July fireworks.  My mother was worried and scared to death.
  • After we  left Vietnam, we would be asked about different things that we didn't have any knowledge of.  People would say "How do you not know that?" He would reply "Sorry, I was in Vietnam at the time." He used that excuse for way longer than he should have been able to but people didn't know how to respond back.

I still have lots of old photos and old reel to reel film canisters that I will need to watch one of these days.  Then I will figure out which to convert to digital.

For never having served in the military, I spent quite a bit of time in war zones.  I ended up moving all over thanks to my father's job.  I graduated from High School in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah in December 1978.  I was fortunate to have been already planning to graduate a semester early since no-one knew at the time, that would be the last semester of Tehran American School. But those stories are for another day.



Comments (25)

Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

I did not know that about you but that is really cool, what an experience from a totally different perspective than I am used to hearing about.

Mar 30, 2023 05:34 AM
Jim Paulson

Brian England this is why I want to be more involved in teaching some NAR classes like At Home With Diversity (AHWD).  I have been a minority in many countries outside of the US, so I can empathize.

Mar 30, 2023 01:25 PM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Jim... what an amazing story... I had to read it twice. I've been to many war monuments all around the world... the only one that always makes me cry is the Viet Nam Wall. Technically I lived in a war zone during the first Gulf War... but compared to what you lived through, I was living in a resort.

Mar 30, 2023 06:02 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker

Jim Paulson hi Jim... we were in Abu Dhabi, which was the staging point for US forces. To this day I can remember the sound of all the jets taking off after dark at night to Saudi Arabia and the hum of planes all night. They would return by daylight and all would be quiet again.

Sadly, I don't see that schools are doing a very good job of teaching history or geography. Our older daughter is a history and geography professor and now they don't even offer geography as a college major for many years.

Mar 30, 2023 01:40 PM
Jim Paulson

Nina Hollander, Broker where were you during the first Gulf War?

It is hard to believe it has also been 20 years since Operation Shock and Awe in Iraq.  That was a brilliant marketing (notice I didn't say military) campaign. We strategically had our two best known news reporters (Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw) strategically placed to catch the "bombs bursting in air" at night for maximum emotional impact.  It would not have been as impressive during the day without the cameras perched for optimal views.

It was that day that I learned none of my teachers ever told me where Mesopotamia was located on a modern map.  I had always learned it was supposed to be the birthplace of modern civilization.  As I watched the coverage, I notice one reporter overlooking the Tigris River and the other overlooking the Euphrates.  Both of which were in downtown Bagdad. Did you know the Hanging Gardens of Bablyon are also in Bagdad?  

Hopefully schools around the world today are doing a better job of disclosing historical data with modern interpretations and locations.

Mar 30, 2023 01:35 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services

Jim Paulson - it is not HAPPY War anything about Vietnam.  The only Happy thing is we finally got out of a place we never should have been in the first place. 

Yet, WOW, what an amazing story you have to tell about your family living there. 

I can relate to your mother being worried and scared to death.  She is a strong woman and a real trooper for sure. 

Thank you for sharing your story and for letting us know today is the 50th anniversary of the last soldiers leaving Vietnam. 

Mar 30, 2023 07:48 AM
Jim Paulson

Thanks Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist Yes, my mother was an amazing woman.  She was also at the US Embassy in Iran the day it was taken in 1979 as a civilian employee.  She was the one introduced to teargas first hand that day as I was already back in the US going to college.  That will be the topic of another blog on another day.

Mar 30, 2023 01:38 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate Services



Mr. Crappy Says

Holy CRAP!

What a Story!





Mar 30, 2023 07:49 AM
Jim Paulson

Thanks for appreciating my crap! :)

Mar 30, 2023 01:38 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Jim you got me beat I went to about seven schools before college and in three countries:)Endre

Mar 30, 2023 01:25 PM
Jim Paulson

Endre Barath, Jr. are you familiar with an organization called "Overseas Brats"?  It is run by a classmate of mine from Iran that used it to try to reconnect kids (mostly military dependents) that went to school all over the world. Here is the Website for it.  https://www.classcreator.com/San-Antonio-Texas-Osb-1925 They also have  a Facebook page.

Mar 30, 2023 01:46 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

It's hard to believe so many years have passed.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Mar 30, 2023 08:22 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

CONGRATULATIONS Jim, on having this blog FEATURED in the Old Farts Club group!  

Mar 30, 2023 08:22 PM
Jim Paulson

Thank you. I appreciate it.  That really helped boost the readership

Apr 04, 2023 11:07 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Jim Paulson I was not a brat, I was an immigrant moving from communist Hungary to Austria and then to the United States.... once I was commissioned as a US Army officer I was then stationed in Germany.....Endre

Mar 30, 2023 08:44 PM
Jim Paulson

I have been to a lot of countries, but none of those . . . yet.

Apr 04, 2023 11:08 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Jim Paulson - Congratulations on a well-deserved FEATURE! 

Mar 30, 2023 08:50 PM
faye schubert
Retired - Branson, MO
Living the Branson Lake Life

Thank for your story of as a child how you experienced that war from a totally different perspective. Many vietnam veterans who were there, refuse to talk about it. 


Mar 31, 2023 05:40 AM
Jim Paulson

faye schubert You are welcome.

It is a shame people don't talk about their first hand experience of life on the front lines.  If people understood it better, we might work harder at avoiding future wars.

Apr 04, 2023 11:10 AM
Doug Dawes
Keller Williams Evolution - 447 Boston Street, Suite #5, Topsfield, MA - Topsfield, MA
Your Personal Realtor®

Good Morning Jim Paulson 

It sounds like you had an interesting childhood growing up in Vietnam, during the war, and then moving to Korea. As a Vietnam Veteran, I thank you for sharing your story

Mar 31, 2023 09:11 AM
Jim Paulson

Doug Dawes I am blessed with a very unique upbringing that spanned this big blue marble we all call home.  I just pulled up your page and love all you do giving back to it.  Thank you for your past and current service!

Apr 04, 2023 11:13 AM
Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR
Desert Gold Realty - Mesquite NV Homes For Sale - Mesquite, NV
Mesquite NV Homes and Neighborhoods - Search MLS

My husband was a US army soldier in Vietnam in 1969-70.

You just told me more about that war time than he did in the 35 years we were together.

Mar 31, 2023 08:17 PM
Jim Paulson

Virginia Hepp - Mesquite NV REALTOR It is hard for many of these veterans to open up.  When they do, it can bring back very painful memories that they have kept buried for way too long.  I love how some veterans organizations are doing video testimonials for archives of first person memories.

Apr 04, 2023 11:27 AM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD
http://www.medicalandspaconsulting.com - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

Hard to imagine it has been 50 years… great post . My uncle was a chopper pilot in VN … very thankful he made it home!!

Mar 31, 2023 09:36 PM
Jim Paulson

Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD ask him if he ever took civilians to Con Son Island.  If so, he might have met me.  

BTW, since you live in Vail, keep me in mind if you have buyers/investors looking at other ski resort properties that might be interested in Tamarack, Brundage or of course Sun Valley here in Idaho.

Apr 04, 2023 11:30 AM
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Wow!  What an amazing story and life you have lived through!  I was in high school at the beginning of the Viet Nam War and served in the Army Reserves in the mid '70's ... through to the end of the war.  To this day whenever I meet a Viet Nam Vet I shake their hand and say "Thank you for your Service" and "Welcome Home".  The one thing about that war was no one gave the "Welcome Home" Message to the returning men and women...  I had it so good here at home and only attending weekend meetings, etc. Those who were there?  I have total respect and honor! 

Thank you Jim Paulson 


Apr 01, 2023 12:37 AM
Jim Paulson

Diana Dahlberg thanks for your time in the Army Reserves as well!  I remember when I came home alone at age 17 from Iran after graduating from Tehran American High School when they checked my passport at JKF and said "Welcome Home".  I admit I got a bit emotional and shed a few tears of joy.

Apr 04, 2023 11:34 AM
Diana Dahlberg

And Jim Paulson emotional tears of joy were so perfect after your tremendous sacrifice of service.  Again, thank you sir! 

Apr 12, 2023 02:13 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I've learned throgh experience that the Vietnamese people are intelligent, hard working, resilient and fearless and most importantly, they are survivors. They have prospered well as a community despite the hardships they had to endure when they fled Communisim and migrated to America. I admire their community because of their strong family culture unlike many of other cultures in our nation. 

Apr 01, 2023 01:02 AM
Jim Paulson

Kimo Jarrett I truly enjoyed my years in Vietnam.  You are correct, the people are amazing.  Speaking of hard work and culture, check out this documentary on Siracha sauce:  https://youtu.be/tXOAx58LBDo

Apr 04, 2023 11:38 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Time really goes fast. But memories retain in our head as we pass through history.

Apr 01, 2023 07:06 AM
Jim Paulson

Sam Shueh I am blessed with a huge variety of memories.  I know many people who have lived a very sheltered life and therefore have a much more difficult time empathizing with other people's viewpoints.

Apr 04, 2023 11:41 AM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

I do.  As a veteran I also tend to know these things.  My wife's uncle came home in a flag draped box, I'm sure she went by this week to have a chat with his gold star at our town memorial.

Apr 01, 2023 10:52 AM
Jim Paulson

Don Baker I offer my sincere condolences!  Life is very precious and to give yours at someone else's directive is not something I would welcome.

Apr 04, 2023 11:52 AM
Don Baker

Jim Paulson lots of members of our family served during the Vietnam War, my father, my step dad, my father in law and three of my wife's uncles. Fortunately all but 1 came home with all in tact physically, although I am pretty confident my father suffered mentally for the rest of his life.

Apr 04, 2023 01:53 PM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

Incredible stories. Thank you for sharing your perspective as this is not what we typically hear from those times. 

Apr 01, 2023 04:33 PM
Jim Paulson

You are welcome Dr. Paula McDonald There were very few American children living in Saigon at that time. One of my high school classmates from Iran wrote an interesting coming of age book in Iran during the overthrow of the Shah entitled:  "Sons of the Great Satan".  

Apr 04, 2023 12:01 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Jim time for you to do a food post with all the photos you shared with me:)Endre

May 16, 2023 09:20 PM
Jim Paulson

I can do that. They were all delicious.

May 20, 2023 12:38 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jim, not sure how I missed your post, but what a heartfelt post, and many don't want to talk about their time.

May 24, 2023 06:30 AM
Jim Paulson

I am actually planning a trip back in April 2024. Not sure if I will be doing the Mekong River cruise or just touring on my own.

May 26, 2023 11:36 AM