Memorial Day

I still think about my Dad.  A lot.  It’s been almost 3 years now since he passed away and it seems like yesterday.   And here it is Memorial Day weekend and it all comes back full strength.   My Dad and his brother Paul, Uncle Paul, were both in the Army.  Dad was older and was drafted but became a lifer.  He retired as a full Colonel after 30 years.   Pretty good run.   His first major tour was in Korea.  I always thought he fought in the Korean War but during his final months I interviewed him and asked him about all of the medals so nicely framed in his office.   He told me then he had never killed anyone.   He also told me that he was in Korea after the war was over.   He flew dignitaries around in a chopper!   But he was in Korea for 18 months doing that.   My brother Tim and sister Judy were born during that time.   My poor Mom!

Dad’s second and third major tours were both in Vietnam.  He went twice –  a year each time.   In 65-66 he was in Nha Trang with the 14th Transportation Battalion which provided maintenance and supply of aircraft to the US Army.  Then in 71-72 he was deployed with the 765th Transportation Battalion to Vung Tau where he was the commanding officer.      Crazy times.

At one point Uncle Paul was in Vietnam too and they got together.   Not sure where or when but it happened.   I’m just glad they made it out alive and relatively unscathed.

In the summer of 1975 Dad was the commanding officer of Operation New Life which help with the evacuation and processing of 100,000+ Vietnamese refugees into the US.   They had a base camp in Guam where the refugees came by aircraft and ship and lived in an “tent city” while awaiting their processing and transportation to America.    Pretty much everyone came with the clothes on their back.    The Red Cross provided clothing for them and some of the men came in their Vietnamese Army uniforms where they promptly changed their clothes as soon as their feet hit the ground!

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but in the final year of his life Dad worked with a man that had gone through that camp in Guam.   Full circle!

Love you Dad and miss you every day.

14th Transportation Btn

Dad & Uncle Paul

Vietnam

Operation New Life, Guam

Operation New Life, Guam

 

7 Responses to “Memorial Day”

  1. Paul McCarthy says:

    Hi Cathy,
    My name is Paul McCarthy. I was stationed with Maj / Lt. Col. O’Donohue first in 1966-1970 in Nha Trang
    where I worked on some volunteer projects he was heading up. We worked at orphanages doing all sorts of repairs. Your father was a major then. I think I worked with him about 4-5 times. I was sent to Qui Nhon about 270 miles north of Nha Trang. I was there for about 9-10 months and when I was returned to Nha Trang I found out he was reassigned, that’s how things were, one day here, next day gone. I was assigned to AVEL North later that unit became the 614th LEM CO in the 14th Trans Battalion. In 03/1970 I was reassigned to Germany. I hated that duty so after awhile I convinced myself to volunteer to go back to Vietnam. I ended up in Long Binh. One day I had to go to the 317th LEM CO in the 765th Trans Battalion in Vung Tau to get parts for some aircraft. When I got there, all the people I met were from the 614th in Nha Trang, I said to the first sergeant “Can I come home” within two weeks I was reassigned to the 317th. Now comes the good part. One day on the way to formation my boot heel got caught in porch stairs and I fell and twisted my ankle very badly. The medics said I had to see them every day for 2 weeks. On the second day I had to walk 2 miles one way to see the medics. Well while I was hobbling along I heard a Jeep horn beep, the driver asked if wanted a ride. When I looked up to answer I saw a Lt. Col. driving. When I turned around He asked me “Mac is that you?” I looked closer and said “Major O’Donohue er excuse Col. O’Donohue. I was so surprised. And you know I never had to walk to the medics again because he saw to it that I had a ride every day til my ankle was good enough to walk on. We started up our friendship again, I did some more volunteer work with orphans again. Your father was very special to me and a lot of other people in Vietnam especially the orphans. I was very proud to be his friend. I am very sorry for your loss. Sincerely Paul McCarthy (paulmax3@comcast.net)

  2. Paul McCarthy says:

    Hi,
    My name is Sp5 Paul McCarthy. I was stationed with Maj/Col O’Donohue first in 1966-1970 in Nha Trang,RVN where I worked on some volunteer projects he was heading up. We worked at orphanages doing all sorts of repairs. Your father was a Major then. I think I worked with him about four or five times. Then no more volunteer work I found out he was transferred, that’s how things were, one day there next day gone, I mean new assignment. Myself, I was sent to Qui Nhon,about 270 miles north, I was there for about 10to11 months then back to Nha Trang all in the 14th Trans Bat. My unit was AVEL North/ 614th Maint Co(LE).
    In 03/1970 I was sent to Germany. I hated that duty so I made up my mind asked to be sent back to Vietnam. I ended up in Long Binh, RVN.
    One day I had to go to Vung Tau, RVN, to the 317th LEM CO I knew everybody they were all from the Nha Trang area. I was able to get transferred to the 317th. Now comes the good part. On the Way to formation on day I caught my boot heel on some stairs and fell twisting my ankle very badly. The medics said I had to see them every day for 2 weeks. On the second day I had to walk two miles to see them. Well who ended up giving me a ride some Col named O’Donohue he yelled at me “Mack is that you” Was I surprised of course I never walked again to the medics, he made sure I had a Jeep everyday. We started up our friendship again I did more volunteer work wit orphans again. Your father was a very special to me and a lot of other people in Vietnam. I was very proud to be his friend. I am very sorry for your loss. Sincerely Paul McCarthy paulmax3@comcast.net

    • cathymerenda says:

      Paul,
      Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful story about my Father. I am happy to say that I’ve heard many stories like this and it warms my heart every time. I will make sure our family reads your story as well.
      Cathy

  3. Nathan Baer says:

    Hi Cathy,

    My father was also a Vietnam vet and a pilot (Bruce W. Baer). He died a couple of years ago, thought to be from Agent Orange poisoning. I have the little bit of memorabilia that he had from Vietnam. One item is a yearbook from the 765th Trans. Battalion, Vung Tau, Vietnam 1971-1972. My fathers picture does not appear to be in the yearbook, he must have gotten there after it was sent to the printers, and it also was his second tour in Vietnam. Now, your father’s photo is on the 3rd page, the entire third page. I can’t help but think they probably crossed paths. As I looked through the yearbook, I couldn’t help but think where these men are now. Just thought it was interesting.

    Nathan

    • cathymerenda says:

      Nathan, sorry for your loss. Thank you for letting me know about the yearbook. I never new it existed. I am sure however our fathers crossed paths – it was not that big of a place. Thank you for keeping the memories alive.

  4. John Wulf says:

    I served under your father as the battalion flight operations clerk (Vung Tau, 1971-1972) and also served briefly as crew chief for the battalion huey (“Straight Arrow 172”) and Kiowa (OH-58). It was, indeed a crazy time – a time when discordant action and subversive protest (as well as rampant disrespect of “lifers”) was the norm within enlisted ranks.

    Although my personal contact with the Colonel was limited – a few flights and some interaction at headquarters, I always felt that his character and integrity engendered respect beyond that mandated by military protocol. As a young soldier, confused and unsure, it was comforting to know that such a man was at the helm.

    I stumbled across your site while searching for photos of Vung Tau. Thanks for sharing the pictures and I hope you find comfort in your loss. The bottom photo – with your dad talking to the little girl – is precious. You must have looked up into those kindly eyes many times as a child.

    My memory says he had a bit more gray hair – after all, he was the “old man!”

    • cathymerenda says:

      John – so nice to hear from you. I seldom get the opportunity to hear from people who served alongside my father. Thanks for letting me know and yes indeed he got much more gray hair as time went on!

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