On May 7th, 2010, Nhan’s son, Hong Duc, wed Bich Ly in a ceremony at the Catholic Church in Ba Ria, Viet Nam. The church, itself, is new and very visually pleasing. It is a new structure and very modern and airy, a necessity in the humid climes of Ba Ria. The open area in front of the church is big and there are statues of various saints placed around the grounds.
While waiting for the ceremony to begin, we waited outside the church. Nhan is a highly respected and revered Scout Leader and many of his troop and fellow leaders were present to honor Nhan as well as Duc and Ly. A word on Scouts. Scouting is serious business in Ba Ria. Many of the Scouts are in their mid-twenties and the Leaders have been involved for decades. They are like a big family that plays and works together. I have met many wonderful young people. Nhan has much to be proud of in his Scouts and with his family. Nhan’s
daughters are sweet and attentive.
Nhan’s step-daughter, Nhi, is a breath of fresh air A sweeter, young girl I have never met, except for my own girls, of course… and my granddaughters. Nhi is 22, attends nursing school and speaks some English.
The halos on the statues of the Saints in the church are lights. They are turned on to signal that the ceremony will start shortly. The crucifix, behind the alter, also has lights behind it, these are red, and come on as the ceremony is about to begin. I found it interesting, it having been decades since I attended Mass. I may have to rethink that.
The ceremony is different from our American norm. There were three couples being wed at once yet no formal wedding parties of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Duc wore a nice white tux and the bride was radiant in her white gown. The priest wore a pink alb. Most stylish.
The wedding Mass was very nice and the newly weds signed the Church Registry, placed baskets of flowers to honor the Saints and the Grooms gave a short speech which I understood not at all, but I presume it had to do with their new brides.
Back at Nhan’s, the families participated in another, private ceremony honoring their ancestors. Every Vietnamese home that I was in had a special alter with a picture or pictures of honored ancestors, flowers and little pots to hold burning incense sticks. At this ceremony, the Bride, Ly, wore a beautiful red, traditional Vietnamese dress and head dress. Stunning!!! After Duc and Ly placed a couple of incense sticks together, the Groom and his family presented the Bride with gifts of gold jewelery. There were earrings, a necklace and a bracelet. The Pham family is Catholic but many aspects of life, such as the memorials to honored ancestors, have a Buddhist flavor. I find that Buddhism is more a philosophy of life than a deity worship protocol and not at all inconsistent with Christian beliefs. Dare to open your mind.
After THAT ceremony, we retired to the restaurant for a FAMILY reception and meal. Nhan’s daughters managed the guest registry and gift box while the Bride and Groom withstood the indignities that newlyweds have been putting up with since time immemorial, being ordered around by the photographer, relatives, pushy, fat, old Americans, et al.
I really believe that weddings are designed to test the patience of the wedded couple in preparation for a life of partnership after years of independence.
The next day, Saturday, was the reception for the rest of the known universe. I really believe that I saw two Andorians and a Klingon across the room. The restaurant was PACKED.
The Bride wore a THIRD gown of red… Hmmm, I wonder of the significance of that? Consider, it was AFTER the wedding night. ‘Nuff said.
I sat at a table with Bao and his wife, Nghia (Two old comrades from the day. I fell in love with Nghia back then, with her cammys, war paint, beret and CAR-15. Cammys and an automatic rifle still figure prominently in my standard of beauty.) Bao had a close call recently when he developed internal bleeding in his chest, possible from a piece of shrapnel that got loose after 40 years. The 9th Division LRRP kicked in and paid for his hospital bill, thus saving his house. So much for “… to each according to his need.” I am honored beyond belief to be a part of the Unit. More about that at another time.
At our table were some Vietnamese Special Ops types from the day. There was a Sergeant
Major from CCN (Command and Control-North (second from right), Special Forces and CIA), an old PRU named Kiet that worked with us, Nghia, Bao and other old war dogs. (The man in yellow was overjoyed when he found that his belly was bigger than mine.) All are doing well and we had a ball. Since I no longer imbibe, I had a hard time explaining why I wasn’t drinking my beer or Bac Si Dai (a rice whiskey also used as a paint and tonsil remover.) But the guys were kind and I was allowed to toast using iced tea and water. “một – hai – ba – YOOOOO“. (One-Two-Three YOOOOO). I had my picture taken with about a hundred people and, again, felt like a celebrity, like I had actually done something to deserve this marvelous treatment, rather than just having the good fortune to present a small target back when such things were determinate.
Lan, my Guardian Angel, stayed with me and made sure I didn’t accidentally give offense or eat the centerpiece. She helped keep my dinner bowl full. Serving ones self from the common bowls or platters entailed a boardinghouse reach with chop sticks and since I am barely proficient with chop sticks and have a tendency to launch morsels across the room and random intervals, Lan prevented an embarrassing circumstance by quietly selecting food for me and wiping the drool from my chin. Every boy should have one. Lan is a Pearl of Great Price.
I met a girl/women from Saigon named Van at the wedding. Van Rowe is Vietnamese/Australian, hence the given name first then the family name. She is an entrepreneur with a nail shop, a business making clay flowers (the Bride can be seen carrying yellow lilies. They are clay.), a financial business (not sure what that entails), and partners with her sister in a shop in Brisbane, Australia. She is a lovely person and I hope to visit her shops on my next trip. Her English is better than mine… but that ain’t hard.
Of course, my good friend, Mr. Le, was there. He is a warm, friendly, open guy living in California. I may go out to California and visit him on my next trip over.
There was a band and I observed that all bassists and guitarists swim in the same gene pool. They were good, though. Being a wannabe bassist, myself, I chatted with the bass guy in pidgin, air guitar and mime but declined an offer to sit in with the band.
The Bride and Groom poured champagne into a stack of goblets with dry ice that fumed and
billowed a white cloud then toasted while fireworks in front of the stage sprayed sparks. The traditional cutting of the cake followed, without the “cutesy” mashing of cake into each others face, which I really believe endows any marriage with instant resentment and reduces the probability of success by at least half.
…and so Nhan’s son, Duc and his Bride, Ly, were launched. Nhan was in his glory, I met some wonderful people and all was right with the world.
A quick note on meeting people. I was treated like a long lost brother, especially by Vietnamese veterans. People I never met THEN treated me like we had fought shoulder to shoulder. More people THERE recognized and acknowledged my LRRP t-shirts and hat (By the House of Tessensohn) then ever have here in America. When we parted I felt that this was not new friendships but that somehow they stretched back to 43 years ago, to when I first de-planed in Ben Hoa in February of ’67, a skinny, slick-sleeved private starting on the grandest adventure of my life. Meeting these people, these friends and comrades NOW somehow reached back to THEN and altered the perceptions, prejudices, fears and anxieties that I had carried for so long. I owe Nhan my life in more ways than one.
I am posting more pictures on Flickr. Please visit and feel free to comment… just don’t make I should come over there and hurt you… HOOAH!!!