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     1/50th Infantry Association Ironies and Paradoxes

Rigo Ordaz and Roy Valadez
Rigo Ordaz and Roy Valadez did not know they lived in the same Texas town for 33 years!(story below)

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"So isn't it ironic?"

"It's like rain on your wedding day
"It's a free ride when you've already paid
"It's the good advice that you just didn't take
"Who would've thought... it figures"


The concept featured in Alanis Morissette's song ( Ironic, Jagged Little Pill Album) pops up pretty often in most people's lives. One of the biggest ironies of all is that we often tend to miss it when it happens... or we fail to appreciate it! But irony is often something to ponder, to savor, to share.

"Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
"And life has a funny way of helping you out
"Helping you out."

More than thirty years on from our war, many of us have seen life's little ironies played out. Have you got an irony that you'd care to share? Just email Irony.


It's a Really Small World!

Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

As your Webmaster, I probably see more irony than most and I've grown to appreciate and look forward to the twists and turns of fate. A few months ago, a lady named Jan Byron in Canada wrote and asked why the website's R&R page didn't have more on Sydney, Australia. She'd dropped out of college to work in Sydney's Kings Cross during 1967-1970, when our battalion was in Nam. In the ensuing correspondence, she offered to write an article for our website about those days, and our website gained a great article.

A few days ago, my wife and I were having lunch in Brisbane (1,000 miles north of Sydney) with fellow American Vietnam Veterans John (173rd Airborne) and his wife Toni (see "What are the Odds" below), and Glen (1st Cav) and his wife Liz. Both couples had met in Sydney when the guys took their R&Rs there. Glen returned to Sydney after his ETS and worked with Liz in Kings Cross for a few years. Ultimately he and Liz were married.

Anyway, as we were breaking up after lunch, I casually discussed the Sydney R&R article and said, "You'll find it really interesting!"

[Shift to today]. When I got home I had this email in my inbox, "Unbelievable! Ray - just a quick note to say UNBELIEVABLE!!! I just sat down to edit - that's how I'm spending my summer - checked this email and good grief - an email from Liz and Glen who worked at the coffee shop thirty something years ago and had lunch with you yesterday - I can't believe it! What are the odds? Wow, wow, wow and thanks for your website! I have a lot to share with them! I can't wait to talk to them - I never imagined I would! Thanks again! Jan."

It seems that the three of them worked together in Sydney, where Liz and Glen were an item. When they broke up, Glen and Jan started dating but they all stayed friends. Liz and Glen got back together and married, Jan married and moved to Canada, and three decades passed. When I called Liz to tell her about the email from Jan, she laughed, "Imagine going to your website and seeing a photo of my husband's old girlfriend!" Then she added that she and Jan had been best friends and she is really excited about making contact.

Isn't life wonderful? What a small world.


Wheels Within Wheels!

Ray Sarlin.

I had been having a brief but interesting email correspondence with Vietnam and CNN Veteran John Puzzo which included reviews of several Vietnam War films that he had professionally discussed on Larry King Live. John then wrote an article on "Hollyweird" for our website which we published on 2 May 2002. At around the same time, an AIT buddy of James Strano, one of our Honored KIAs, enquired to find people who knew Jim. Jim Strano died in combat on 23 January 1968 while in the 2d Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry. In a cruel irony, he died the very day that his brother Angelo was captured by the North Koreans when they seized the USS Pueblo.

Only a month later (4 June 2002), John got in touch again saying, "I thought you'd like to see this. Small world. I went to High School with Jim Strano. I enlisted in the Army shortly after he left for Viet Nam and I went in just after graduating in 1968. Our yearbook ("Maple Leaves" (1968)) is dedicated to him. The Memorial Dedication (click on thumbnail for enlargement) was written by students who knew him. I did not know him well, but I knew what kind of man he was. A hero. We all heard how the North Korean communists used the news of Jimmy's death to demoralize Angelo, who was their prisoner. Sincerely, John Puzzo, Bulkeley High School, Class of 1968, Hartford, Connecticut. K Company, 75th Rangers, US Army Republic of Viet Nam, 1970."


There is Always Something Amazing!

Toby Jordan, 2002. All rights reserved. (Reprinted in part from The Right Track, April 2002.)

Greetings to everyone, and a hope that each of you are in fine health and great spirits. I had something happen to me that proves that no matter how late in life we find ourselves, there is always something that will happen that will amaze us.

We are always talking about closure and how we can find it. Well it's not only something that we as veterans are looking for it can also be people that have lost a loved one and are looking for some answers. This all started with an email from Mick Hawkins, letting me know that he had just talked to Jim Ferguson's sisters and had a wonderful time talking about Jim. As close friends as Jim and I were, I had no idea that he had any sisters. So with the phone number from Mick I contacted the sisters and set up a meeting in Columbia, Mo. We had a wonderful time talking about a brother they had lost thirty some odd years ago but had not ever gotten to talk to anyone that was with Jim at the time of his passing, and had no idea how it happened.

I feel that the visit we had and the time we shared help bring some closure to the family that had been left in the dark for so long. But that's not the end to this story, after a lot of talk and sharing of old photos we found that Jim's father and my Grandfather were raised together, and as a small boy I had probably visited with this family and played with Jim as a child. So not only did we have some closure, we found some new friends that I'm sure we will visit with often in the future.


Chance Encounters!

Robert Melendez, 2002. All rights reserved. (Reprinted in part from The Right Track, April 2002.)

Have you ever had an experience in your daily life where you've encountered a veteran who either was in our same unit or was in the same area of Vietnam at about the same time we were? You just never know when you'll be surprised or reminded just how small the world can be. Here's what happened to me recently:

I belong to a running group, which is currently training for a marathon. During one of our long training runs, I began talking with one of our runners in our group. Since it was a long run and he seemed to be hurting, I came along side of him and asked him how he felt. He laughed and said that he had not taken care of his body earlier in his life and that "eating c-rations for 23 years" had taken its toll on his body.

Well, now I was really interested. As we continued to talk, I discovered that he was an Airborne Ranger and that he served in Vietnam in 1971. I asked what area he was in and he said, "...you probably won't know the areas since they were really small." He went on to say that he was in Qui Nhon, Bong Son and Phu My! As it turns out, he was attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade and even spent time at LZ Uplift!!! He also remembered that his company worked with a "battalion of APCs" and that their firepower was awesome!


War Buddies Meet After 33 Years!

Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

Rigoberto Ordaz Guerrero and Roy Valadez were both squad leaders in the 1/50(M) in Vietnam in 1968. They didn't meet again after leaving Vietnam for over 33 years, and then they discovered that they had been living in the same town, Mission, Texas, without realizing it.

CLICK HERE or on the picture to read the full story.


What are the odds?

Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

The first Australian combat unit sent to Vietnam, the 1st Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) was under the operational control of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, so when returning Vietnam veterans didn't find a warm welcome from existing Australian veterans' organizations, they set up chapters of the 173rd Association that they controlled themselves. The chapter in Queensland, where I live, is very active, but while there are half a dozen American Vietnam vets among the 200 members, only one other besides me actually served in the 173rd. John (a former platoon leader in the 1/503) is now Chapter President, ably assisted by his lovely Aussie wife Toni. We compared notes and had been some of the same places (like LZ Uplift), done some of the same things (I was one IOAC class ahead of him and we both snowbirded with the 197th Infantry Brigade), and knew lots of the same people, but we didn't specifically recall running into each other.

In late 2001, after I'd known them for about four years, I got an excited call from John and Toni. Seems when she had been sorting through boxes before moving house, she found an old diary (from 1971) and in it an invitation to my son's baby shower at Fort Benning. It turns out that we had lived just two doors apart in the same fourplex, Toni had been best friends with my ex, and we had shared many a BBQ. It's a small world.


Infantry Ironies and Paradoxes

In theory, infantry theory and practice are the same. In practice, they're not.

As a matter of fact, when someone says, "As a matter of fact," watch out for a lie.

If you have tried your hand at a task and fail, maybe you should try your head next time.

In combat, good judgement comes from experience; unfortunately, experience often comes from bad judgement!

War is a drama in which the stories stay the same, the scripts of those stories change to keep pace with society and technology, and the stage settings change all the time.

Statements by al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hard to understand. You can't tell whether they are clever men bluffing, or just idiots who really mean what they say.

The only problem with a 6 a.m. reveille is that it makes the day too long.

It's a well known fact that the older a veteran gets, the more perfect a soldier he was.

The longer a Vietnam Veteran wannabe remains unchallenged, the more medals he earns.

As any soldier knows, slacking off is most fun when there is plenty of work to do.

Sign on baby grunt's bib: "SPIT HAPPENS."


Play the Game (of Life)!

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

Kissing is where two people get so close together they can't see anything wrong with each other.

Romance is like a game of chess - one false move and you're mated.

If you don't enjoy what you have now, how could you be happier with more?

It's always easy to see both sides of an issue we don't particularly care about.



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