This is a report I received from John Sweet on his recent visit to the Thare Orphange near NKP, Thailand. It is a story of the American GI helping less fortunate people during wartime and later returning to see it 30 years later. It reminds me of the orphange run by Father Menger in Vientiane, Laos which we used to help with all kinds of things which we either borrowed, stole or obtained by whatever means we could just to help out these little people.http://home.earthlink.net/~aircommando1/X-Remail: http://www.Eddress.com/ -- Personal Addresses for a Networked World
From: "John & Nancy Sweet" <email@example.com>
To: "Gene Rossel" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 6 Nov 1997 23:18:29 -0500
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.71.1712.3
I am very sorry to learn of the recent loss of your brother. Your love for
him must have been very great. It was an added difficulty to have missed
the reunion which you have worked so hard toward. During the last year I
have enjoyed the articles you have written for the ACA and noticed the great
knowledge and sharing which is communicated within them. Your web site is
I have never written an article before so please bear with me. Below, I am
attaching (by cut & paste) the material which I had forwarded to you
previously in its orig. Amipro (Lotus) format.
Father Khai speaks seven languages fluently and has been to the United
States on several occasions. Without his abilities the orphange at Thare
would not have succeeded as well as it has, nor probably even survived. He
is a wonderful man and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to
Please let me know your thoughts on the enclosed when you are able. Will I
rec. a membership renewal notice?
(This was the memorial presentation letter, which was translated by Father
Khai to the children when the donation was made in 1997)
OF OUR BELOVED BROTHERS
We make this donation in a sincere desire to again assist the children of
this school Many years have passed since 1969, when Father Khai and I
worked on the Christmas celebration together. A celebration which is vivid
even now as my fondest Christmas. A celebration of sharing and love which
has never been forgotten by the children who were here, even after almost 28
years former students still remark upon that time with fondness.
Today a new generation of students are here, and the Americans serving in
the 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom have long since departed
home. Some of those who assisted and contributed greatly to the success of
that celebration in 1969 never returned home. Our beloved brothers
perished during the war, or yet remain Missing in Action. In their memory
we make this donation to renew their commitment of love and fellowship, and
they shall not be forgotten.
This donation has been raised by contributions of the men who were soldiers
in the 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom, and from the families
of those whose fate is still unknown.
Roger Herrick - In memory of his brother Captain James Herrick Jr. - 602nd
Fighter Sq. MIA
Colonel Jimmie Butler - FAC Nail 12
Dick Anderson - 23rd TASS
Kermit Wilkins - 23rd TASS
Paul Lee - 23rd TASS
John Sweet - Tactical Units Ops Ctr
A donation In Memory of Arthur Hardy by his friend John
A donation In Memory of Lawrence Crozier by his son Lawrence
A donation In Memory of Clarence Sweet by his son John
A donation from Mary Menner
A donation from Albert Grow
In Love and Peace
(Here is what I have written so far- for your editing)
Every once in a while I would stumble across the old shoe box full of
pictures while searching in the bedroom closet for something. My quest
would then become of secondary importance, and I would spend a few minutes
while sitting on the bed, pondering over the dozen pictures I always left on
top. Pictures of NKP, Nakhon Phanom - or "Naked Fanny" as we all called it,
and of the orphanage at Thare. Pictures taken just a couple days before
Christmas in 1969, and the years would pass away as the flood of memories
Another Buck Sergeant named Ted deserves the most credit, for he convinced
me to accompany him to the orphanage at Thare almost fifty miles away from
NKP near Sakon Nakhon. To this day I have no idea how Ted first met Father
Khai, nor how he managed to pull off teaching English to the children there
during his R & R time, instead of being required to go to Bangkok, but he
did! Father Khai picked us up for the journey and returned us after dark
that night, speeding in a cloud of dust over the twisting rut filled red
dirt road through the jungle. We used to say "If you didn't believe in God
before you got in Father Khai's car, you sure did by the time you got out."
My one day visit to the orphanage was enough to convince me that Ted was
right, the kids needed all the help they could get. So together we started
a campaign to raise money. The project began in October and took off like
wildfire. The men stationed at NKP gave generously and gathered assistance
By the time a week before Christmas rolled around there was $5,000 in cash,
as well as everything from baseball equipment to fingernail clippers.
Somehow, don't ask me how, there were over a dozen large containers each
four feet square filled with personal items for the children. Combs,
shampoo, scissors, sewing kits, handkerchiefs, soap, socks and clothes. I
was amazed because they were all brand new and individually packaged. It
certainly was going to be a great Christmas for the kids!
The units were competing amongst themselves in a friendly way to outdo each
other. The most astonishing gift was the first one delivered. A huge pile
of snow from Colorado with a Christmas Tree stuck on top. The kids went
wild because they had never seen snow before. But I have to admit, when
Santa showed up in the 21st SOS Jolly Green Giant, they had tied for first
Father Khai had not been idle either. The Bishop had come up from Bangkok
for the celebration, which was an eleven hour drive each way. Somehow
Father Khai had "found" a case of cold American beer and provided a feast on
the verandah for Ted, myself and several of the officers. The older girls
performed Thai dancing as entertainment while the other 1200 orphans
watched, lined up behind them facing us.
Passing out those gifts to the children is the fondest memory of Christmas I
have. As they passed down the row of boxes holding out their newly acquired
shopping bags (with handles) I wondered who had connections with the bag
manufacturer. The faces of the children portrayed the true meaning of
Christmas in ways I am not capable of putting into words. I always
remember that day filled with joy in celebration of love and peace. I
always wondered what happened to Father Khai and the orphanage at Thare.
One day while using my computer last Feburary I decided to test the claim of
a new Search Engine on the Web. Entering the words "Nakhon Phanom" I was
sure nothing would be found and I would be eligable to win a prize in their
contest. I was wrong. I found the wonderful Web Site of the Air Commando
Association, submitted my application and joined.
Funny how your plans change isn't it? I was headed to China by invitation
of a Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party. A guide and translator, along
with transportation was to be provided with permission to travel anywhere I
wanted. The offer had been made over dinner a year earlier. My wife, Nancy
and I had assisted a delegation which had come to America to finalize
negotions with the company I work for. They would never have the
opportunity to be in America again and were staying in a motel alone for two
weekends, so we escorted them around Boston and Southern New Hampshire. I
never thought they were serious when we were told "You are welcome to come
to China" until I received a phone call from Sashi concerning the details a
So I got to thinking maybe we can go to Bangkok if wewere going to enter China
from Hong Kong. Then I discovered that Thai Airways is now flying up to NKP
several times a week. When that worked out I knew I was going up to have a
look around. Then in late June I left a posting on the United Stated Air
Force 50th Anniversary Web Site - PACAF as well as another on the VietNam
Vets Message Board, about my return trip to Nakhon Phanom.
A week or so later I received e-mail from Suttida and David Brown. Suttida
is from NKP and now teaches Thai at Princton University and her sister is a
school teacher in NKP. Suttida kindly offered to assist me in any way, and
offered to have her sister meet us at the airport. I then asked her if the
orphange at Thare was still there, and if they could locate Father Khai. I
received e-mail back that Suttida would ask her sister to try to locate him
and that the orphanage was still there.
That same night I dreamed of returning to NKP, and maybe finding Father
Khai, who was my only Thai friend I could remember by name. I woke up when
I thought "If I find him what would I say, remember when we helped you?
The very next day I began raising mony for the orphange at Thare, which was
to be donated in memory of the men from NKP who never returned home. That
same night I received E-mial from Dick Anderson, a former member of the 23rd
TASS at NKP who responded to my posting on the VietNam Vets Message Board.
Dick had located several other members of the 23rd TASS over the years, and
held a reunion with them at the VietNam Memorial in Washington, D.C. a
couple of weeks before. He stated that it seemed like a good project for
the 23rd TASS guys and asked for my address. The next thing I knew, I had
checks in the mail from five men I had never met, including Roger Herrick,
the brother of Captain James W. Herrick Jr. of the 602nd, who became MIA in
October 1969 while I was at NKP.
Two weeks after I had raised $1,000 and Suttida's sister had found Father
Khai and Suttida e-mailed me his fax number. So I faxed off my old pictures
of him and I from 28 years ago and received a very warm response which was
signed "Your Old Friend in Thailand, Lawrence Khai" Seems he was now
ArchBishop of Thailand.
Father Khai picked us up at the airport at Sakon Nakhon and drove us to his
residence where breakfast awaited us. We then toured St. Joseph's School
which is adjacent. The school today is very modern including a room filled
with computers. All grade levels are taught English and computer useage.
The children wear red and whilte uniforms and are extremely well behaved.
The school also has a recent addition of a large gymnasium which has not
been enclosed on the sides.
The orphanage at Thare stands across the street from the school. The old
buildings I remembered in 1969 have been replaced, and a brand new church
has also been built. One of the Sisters who works at the orphanage was one
of the children present when Santa arrived in 1969. Father Khai informed
me former students still speak fondly in rememberance of the American GI's
visit to this day.
Most of the orphans who attend St. Joseph's School no longer reside at the
orphanage, but rather live with families in the local communities. A family
of their own has proven to be far more benificial to the children. However,
some still live at the orphanage as not enough families have been located.
As the children were all in classes, we headed out with a rented van (1,300
bhat for six hours) to see NKP.
.All those who have been mentioned have given me their permission to use
their names. I will try to complete the rest of the story this weekend.
Thank you for your help Gene. I look forward to hearing from you more about
your exploits with missionary in Laos.