April 19, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

Thanks For the Memory

By Don Kane

T’was the night before Christmas and all through my house, not a creature was unhappy— except me. I had gotten orders for Vietnam 2 days before Christmas. I decided to not spoil Christmas for my wife and 3 sons by telling them until after Christmas. My assignment was changed to Korat AB in Thailand and my family and I prepared for the move off base (Shaw) and I prepared to fly to Thailand.

In early February we watched the Bob Hope show on TV and I was determined to see it and be seen by my family if it came to Korat for Christmas 1969. Off I went.

I learned in November 1969 that the Bob Hope show WAS coming to Korat for Christmas. When the “day” arrived, I was determined to take my truck to the Pax terminal to somehow meet him as he and his troop got off the C-130. Much to my shock, I learned that the entire area was tightly fenced off to all vehicles and individuals. But there was a reception line forming consisting of US Ambassadors to Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. Add in a bunch of Admirals and Generals plus the 3 Wing commanders. My chances to meet and greet looked impossible.

Because I was assigned to the base hospital, I knew there was one way to get close to Bob’s arrival – the Hospital Ambulance. The base was used to seeing it at emergency operations and at VIP arrivals. So, I took the Ambulance keys and told the NCO of my plans and my intent to take the Ambulance to the C-130 parking spot when it was on final approach. When I got into the driver’s seat, the ambulance was full of medics. No room for any casualties, let alone Bob Hope and his gang.

I did manage to casually walk to the end of the VIP line and as Julie said later “I could recognize your backside anywhere.” But then I got thrown out and went back to my Ambulance.

My attention was focused on a young-looking man in fatigues but with no insignia, name tag or any other identifier. Rather than stay with Bob Hope in the meet and greet line, he stepped away and watched the process as if he was not associated with Bob Hopes gang. He was just an observer.

The next event was for Bob and his group to get into open top vehicles and parade thru the base to be greeted by hundreds who stood along the route. The stranger was included. Again, the Ambulance was accepted by the brass, and I drove it last in the parade. It ended at the Officer’s Club next to the Hospital. I parked the ambulance and scrambled to the Club. Much to my surprise, when all of Hope’s troop went into the VIP reception room, the stranger didn’t join them. He just moved aside from the entrance, stood near me and watched the activity. I knew who he was, and we began a conversation. Today I have no recall of what we discussed in those minutes or so, but it made my day. I had just met and talked with the first man to step on the moon: Neal Armstrong. “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind” I had taken 3 of my business cards hoping to get his autograph for my 3 sons: But he was dragged into the VIP reception and my opportunity was lost. I knew that there was zero chance of getting Neil’s autograph during Bob’s show that night.

About 5,000 AF and 1,000 Army folks sat down on a dirt field for the show. It was wonderful. Bob Hope introduced Neil Armstrong. Neil got a standing ovation: a real loud one from me in the dirt. We laughed so much our sides hurt. At the end of his show, Bob asked us all to stand and join him and his crew in singing Silent Night. I don’t think any of us could sing Silent Night without choking up: I know I did. What an emotional change that was. We all knew that we were in the dirt for a year and those we loved were at home thousands of miles away.

Bob ended his show with his theme song “Thanks for The Memory.” So, from a grateful AF Captain and his family, thanks Bob, thanks for our memory of that day.

The next day, I wrote to Neil Armstrong and reminded him of our brief meeting and sent him my 3 business cards asking for 3 autographs. 2 weeks later I received 3 index cards each with an individual greeting by Neil Armstrong along with his signature to Kevin, David, and Mark. So once again, thanks Bob and Neil. Thanks for the memories.

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