Recollections From the Ladies of the Class of 1961
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of 1961: What you are about to read are
responses to a pursuit in the making over the past few years. Aided by several
of our ‘mates and Ladies, we now begin to read “Recollections of Life with a
Graduate of the Class of 1961.” You’ll read stories, maybe with a special twist
and some personal viewpoints as authored by Ladies of 1961. Earlier in June
2021, Lucy Paone working with Ed Brown invited the Golden Girls [widows of our
deceased ‘mates] to submit their own Recollections: humorous, insightful, sad,
uplifting, challenging, exciting and the list could go on...
We guys have been doing this sort of writing routinely for over sixty years:
That is telling our own stories. As your Scribe, I believe, the Ladies’
Recollections will become a window that opens up onto our Class history which in
turn becomes part of West Point’s recorded history via the AOG. Perhaps as well,
the Ladies are passing along and reminding us of lessons about the Army’s
culture that we all experienced over these many years.
An FYI: Following distribution of Lucy's invitation there has been added
interest as well among the Ladies of surviving Classmates.
The Power of a Little Girl’s Smile
This is a story of our daughter Lisa and the power of a
little girl’s smile. As a young child, our daughter, Lisa, was a typical, active
little girl with a radiant smile. Her exploits were many, ranging from the
incredible to the hilarious, but at the age of 3, Lisa reached a new height.
During that time my husband, Pete. was working in the Office of the Chief of
Staff of the Army. That provided little Lisa an opportunity for a great
The event was the ceremony for Pete’s promotion to LTC. The
setting was the war room of the Pentagon. Attending were numerous Generals and
senior representatives of the Department of the Army. The General promoting Pete
was a grizzled warrior known for his toughness. He was feared throughout the
Pentagon and known to have never been seen smiling. This was a perfect setting
for a “Lisa moment.”
As the General began reading the promotion orders, Lisa
erupted from her front row seat. In her cute Polly Flinders dress she raced
across the stage to the podium, wrapped her little arms around the General’s
right leg and beamed her Lisa smile up at him.
The audience was stunned. They had all faced this General’s
ire at one time or another. How would he react? How should I react to my
daughter clinging to a general’s leg at a ceremony in the Pentagon?
The General solved my concerns. He paused and looked down
at Lisa. Lisa smiled up at the General. And for the first time in anyone’s
recollection, the General smiled. He reached down and patted her on the head.
Appropriately recognized, Lisa ran back to her seat.
Lisa moved on through High School and College, established
a lifelong love affair with plants and flowers, and attained a PhD in Botany
after 5 years of study in Thailand. She has never lost her radiant smile and
I’m certain that there are many who have been charmed by it over the years. But
I still look back at that day and marvel at the power of a little girl’s smile
and the greatness of an Army that can be strong, but still have a heart.
Katherine Ann Hoy
How Long Can Three Minutes Be?
The end of June, 1968, Pat and I with our two sons, Patrick almost five and
Tim almost 2, and a large St. Bernard dog moved to Arkansas to be near family
and friends while Pat was in Viet Nam for the next year. This was a particularly
difficult move for all of us, and we tried to get through it in our different
ways. Patrick seemed to have figured out first how he was going to meet each day
missing his daddy.
Every morning for the first three weeks, he would wake up and say, “Do you know
what I’m going to do today, Mommy?” I would answer him the same every day,” What
are you going to do today?” His consistent reply, “I’m going to miss my daddy.”
Having said it out loud, he could get on with his day. Then, it was OK to have
fun and be happy.
A few weeks after we had settled in, I played bridge with college friends and
was asked how long Pat would be gone. I said that he would be away from us for
at least a year, and one friend replied that the time would probably fly by. She
had never lived more than fifty miles from her childhood home and was separated
from her husband only when he went hunting for a few nights each year. After
thinking for a few minutes, I told her it would not fly by and that the boys and
I would miss Pat 365+ days until he came home.
The first of December a local TV station asked for anyone who had loved ones in
Viet Nam to send in a postcard requesting a time to come to the station and
video a three-minute-Christmas greeting. They would then send the greetings to
our loved ones. Well, I thought how long can three minutes be? I immediately
sent in my request.
Since Patrick was going to pre-K, he had a wealth of songs and poems that he
rehearsed over and over to show his daddy what he was learning. Even at that age
Patrick was an entertainer. Then all three of us worked on our best Christmas
greetings and sang over and over a birthday greeting for Pat’s Christmas Day
At this point let me digress. The beginning of November my mother let the boys
each bring home a small, painted turtle in a plastic bowl. The rule was that
Patrick and Tim could not play with the turtles and absolutely could not put
their hands in the water bowls without my supervision. They then had to
immediately wash their hands. Tim did not follow the rule and in about two weeks
started breaking out with horrible boils. After many trips to the doctor and
doses of antibiotics, it was the consensus that the turtles had been infected
with a tropical disease, and that was the reason for boils. Needless to say, the
turtles under mysterious circumstances disappeared.
Now back to December, 1968, and our big TV debut, and I’m still thinking how
long can three minutes be? I had timed our message to Pat over and over, and we
were right on the mark. The problem was that Tim had a large, ugly boil on the
left side of his face. Since Pat knew nothing about the problem, I decided that
Tim would sit on my lap with only his right side facing the camera. Patrick
wanted to stand on my right so he could do his thing.
We arrived at the studio on time and learned what all the hand signals
meant--pointing to us when filming would begin, three fingers held up when there
was only 30 seconds left of filming, and slice across the director’s throat to
mean that filming had ceased. I was also told there would be no stopping and no
retake. We settled in our spots for our big moment.
When the hand signal to begin was given, Tim immediately slid off my lap and
turned to the camera and pointed to his facial boo-boo and to where he had other
boo-boos. Trying to divert attention from Tim, I turned to Patrick and asked him
if he was ready to do his show. His answer was NO. Didn’t he want to sing his
special song with all the movements, and the answer was still NO. After a lot of
prodding and a big smile that I hoped would convey to him that this was the big
time, and he needed to rise to the occasion, I began to sing “The Itsy, Bitsy
Spider” and both did join in. But Tim continued to move around paying no
attention to either one of us. Patrick did manage a few more songs.
At last, I saw the three fingers go up, and we proceeded to our big finale, a
big Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas with kisses! The boys did do well on that
At last, the slice across the throat. I immediately pulled the boys close to me
and chastised them for being rotten little boys for not following with the plan,
and that I was not happy with them. I guess that I was throwing a hissy fit.
After the dust settled, I heard a great deal of laughter coming from the crew,
and was told that it was so funny that nothing was working out for me, that they
tricked me, and that “chastising the boys” was the best part. I pleaded with
them to erase that part, but it was sent on to Pat uncut.
When it arrived in Viet Nam, Pat had to play it on the projector that was used
for movies during evening entertainment. The troops loved it and requested it
every time the projector was set up. Much laughter came from the viewers, so our
big flop spread a little joy in a most unusual place.
Many times I have asked myself, “How long can three minutes be?”I always answer
myself: “A life time when little boys unconsciously turn to sabotage.” And yet,
we’re still laughing about it more than 50 years later.
Katherine Ann Hoy (843-437-2142)
Karen Urette’s Recollection of Mike’s Secret Mission
The following is by Karen Urette whose marriage to Mike Urette K-2
is approaching sixty years.
Remember the 60s? No cell phones, long distance calls were expensive, no
email and the Signal Corps communicated via line-of-sight antennas. Mike, like
most of his class had completed Officers Basic Course, Airborne or Ranger school
and was on his first assignment in Germany stationed at Goeppingen with the
144th Signal Battalion of the 4th Armored Division.
We loved living in Germany and were fortunate that my family was then living
in Verdun, France where my dad was the Command Engineer for the 4th Logistical
Command. No stateside phone calls needed! And though not right next door, my
family was close enough to spend Christmases together and to baby sit our two
little ones when Mike and I explored Europe. An added bonus was that I could
“run home” with kids and German Shepherd in tow when Mike headed off to Graff
for field exercises – preparing to protect us from a Russian invasion. It was a
wonderful first tour until...
One lovely late spring day in 1964, Mike came home unexpectedly early with
the news that he had to leave the next day! He had been selected for – well, he
couldn’t tell me that, he couldn’t tell me where he was going, he couldn’t tell
me how long he might be gone, he couldn’t tell me if he could call or write me,
he couldn’t tell me if he would even come back to Goeppingen. He couldn’t tell
me anything except that if he was gone for very long then the Army would send me
“home”. They wouldn’t let me go to my family in Verdun but the Army “would take
care of me”. All I could imagine was being off planed at McGuire AFB with an
infant, an almost two-year-old, a dog and nowhere to call home. Plan A: put up a
brave front and trust in the Army; Plan B: start saving change for a stateside
pay phone marathon to find a “home”.
I kissed my soldier a tearful good bye and concentrated on staying calm all
the while wondering “why my Mike”. Our little ones kept me busy and my mind
occupied -- except in the evenings. In the 60s, there was no English language TV
in Germany so after tucking the kids in bed I would listen to the American
Forces Network on our radio and read the Stars and Stripes -- all in the vain
hope that maybe, just maybe, there might be a mention of a “special mission” or
some clue as to where Mike was. But as expected the Army kept its secrets
The days, then the weeks and then the month passed. His commander would check
on me occasionally and the company wives almost daily. But still, I was so
tempted to just go AWOL and “run home” to Verdun!
Mail, as in snail, was a bright spot though the lack of a letter from Mike
always dimmed the delivery. And then, one evening I was reading our latest issue
of the US News and World Report – and there it was! A small news piece about
special training taking place at the John F. Kennedy Center for Special Warfare
at Ft. Bragg, NC. The report speculated on rumors that a special force had been
created of French speaking, Airborne trained personnel for an unknown something.
Mike spoke French – check! Mike was Airborne qualified – check! It had to be…
The relief was rejuvenating, if Mike was at Ft. Bragg he was safe and I knew
where he was!
Time then passed more quickly until the day his commander came to tell me
that Mike was coming back to Germany. He arrived a long week later after
visiting his parents in Monterey and yes, he had been at Ft. Bragg training as
the Signal Officer for a “Mobile Training Team” whose mission was to provide
communication support for contingency operations in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (now Zaire). His “secret mission” had been cancelled, he was thankfully
home and I promptly renewed our subscription to US News and World Report!
– After Word –
Several years later, Mike and I met a lovely couple at a small restaurant in
Alexandria, VA. The couple had just returned from a tour of duty in the Congo
and as Mike was considering an assignment to the Congo, we thought it wise to
find out more about the opportunity. It might be an exciting adventure to a part
of the world we had never visited! Towards the end of our evening, I asked the
wife what she had enjoyed the most about living there. After a rather long,
uncomfortable pause, she finally said “The strawberries are the largest I’ve
ever seen”. We didn’t go.
A Story from Cathy White
As an Army wife I have been afforded opportunities I could never dream of.
When Jerry received orders to Korea in the mid80s, my disappointment was
evident until someone said “ Oh, you must work at the Chosun Gift Shop”. To whom
I naturally replied “How do I apply and what do they pay?” Thus started the best
VOLUNTEER job I ever had.
The Chosun Gift Shop was the money making arm of the Seoul Area
American Officers’ Wives’ Club for its charities. We imported items from Hong
Kong, Thailand, Philippines, Japan and Taiwan. The gift shop board flew to these
countries to see what was available and appropriate to order for sale in the
The first year I served as the Secretary and spent my days typing (this was
time before everyone had computers) letters to vendors, placing orders and
damage reports after receiving shipments. The second year I was elected the
Manager. The duties really expanded, but so did the perks. The Manager and
Assistant Manager were only ones authorized to sign orders so we each took half
the year’s trips. We loved our vendors and they loved us. We bought lots and
they wined and dined us beautifully.
We were only open two days a week, but other days we were unpacking
shipments, working on displays, filing repeat orders etc. On the first day after
we received Chinese rugs the line to enter would wrap around the building.
Shortly after Jerry moved North to the DMZ to be Chief of Staff of the 2nd
Infantry Division, he asked if we could bring some merchandise up there as the
Division’s troops seldom got to our shop in Yongsan (Seoul) forty miles away. So
off we went to provide a shopping opportunity to those on the DMZ.
I don’t think any of us had a business background, but we were Military wives
and accustomed to learning quickly, taking responsibility seriously, supporting
our charities and caring for the troops.
Connie Budge’ “Recollections” of meeting and marrying Larry
I met Larry Budge ’61 the summer of 1968. I had just moved to
Cornwall, NY as a Vietnam widow with an 18-month-old son. For some unknown
reason I was invited to West Point for the Thayer Award Dinner and was seated
next to Bill (’61) and Louisa Heiberg. Larry was supposed to be in
attendance since it was honoring General William Westmoreland (Larry had served
as his aide in Viet Nam.) But instead, Larry chose to have a date in NYC.
Louisa and I immediately became friends and she decided Larry and I should
meet. The date was set for a restaurant but changed to the Heiberg’s home (due
to their son Will’s ear infection), so Larry drove over the mountain to pick me
up. I had a friend visiting and she was watching my son for the evening.
For our lovely introduction--Larry arrives at my house---my out-of-control
basset hound, Demetrius, jumps on him, covering his lovely grey trousers with
white dog hair (which Larry tries to brush off all evening). We get in his car
and as we back away—the dog is barking and my son Chip is screaming and pounding
on the storm door—“Mommy, mommy, mommy.” My friend is telling me to just GO!
The twenty-minute drive over Bear Mountain to Louisa and Bill’s was nearly in
total silence! When we arrive their St Bernard, Gracie proceeds to get even more
dog hair on Larry. We do have a wonderful dinner and get to know each other a
little. The ride back over the mountain involved more conversation but I thought
I’d never see him again.
Fast forward two a half year of dating---and never mentioning marriage.
November 1, 1970---he came to my house for dinner---and asked if I’d like to go
skiing in Switzerland over West Point Christmas break. (He was teaching in the
Social Science Department.) Although I’d been a flight attendant in the
mid-sixties, I’d never been to Europe, so I immediately said, “that sounds
wonderful”. He said ‘State Department’ friends, the Francises, Al and Mary,
would go with us. (Al was serving at West Point at the time and we skied
That all sounded so wonderful BUT—I said, “my parents would never understand
taking care of my almost 3-year-old while I go skiing in Switzerland over
Christmas”. He said, ‘What if we were married’—I said, ‘Is that a
proposal?’---He said ‘I guess it is. I said ‘OK’---what shall our wedding date
We spoke with Chaplain Ford a couple days later and I had 5 weeks to plan a
It snowed so hard during the night before December 12, 1970---for the
twelve-noon wedding---we had to allow several hours to get over the mountain to
the Cadet Chapel. It was a beautiful snowy day at West Point.
Our honeymoon in Switzerland was wonderful. Although being a stewardess, I
wasn’t fond of flying coach on a charter flight, riding several trains to get to
Davos was exciting with very quick train changes, pushing skis thru train
windows and the guys running to catch the train, The Post Hotel was lovely, and
I tried not to spend too much time worrying that it would burn down with the
beautiful 20+ foot live tree with real lighted candles!
So many, many more adventures later and here we are married almost 51 years
(we celebrated our 50th with our family during the Pandemic).
Mary Frances Kenny
A wife of We Were Soldiers
In 2003 Hank and I went to see Mel Gibson’s new movie We Were
Soldiers. When scenes appeared of taxi cabs delivering death notices to families
at Ft. Benning, I shuddered. The scenes took me back to an identical experience
at our home on Carrollburg Drive just outside Ft. Bragg. Along with other wives
whose husbands who had deployed to Vietnam, I lived under constant fear of news
reports of heavy fighting and increasing casualties.
One early fall afternoon I returned home from shopping for a few things for
our two little children. I drove up the driveway, unloaded the car, and walked
to the front door. I was now ready to thank and pay the young girl from next
door for baby-sitting. I turned the key. Opening the door, I saw my baby-sitter
crying. Tears swarmed down her face. “My dad, my dad! My dad was killed,” she
finally said. I tried to console the girl, and shared her grief with tears of my
own. She told me a taxi had arrived at our house with a telegram for my mother.
The driver had asked her, “is this the house of Sergeant ___ (her father)?” She
told him no, that his home was next door. The driver then delivered the telegram
to her mother next door, who in turn had told her the sad news. I walked the
girl home, shaken by the closeness of death to her and all the young families in
the Ft. Bragg area. It was 1966. TV film and news reports were highlighting
intense battles and more casualties.
Leaving the movie theater, I was thankful that Hank and I were alive and well,
and prayerful for those less fortunate in that long and difficult war.
Life in Tokyo
We were living in Tokyo, where Hank was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Mike
Mansfield. A lot of people would come to the Embassy to consult with Mansfield.
One of them was Henry Kissinger, who was enroute to China to help normalize
relations with that country. Before going to China, however, he needed an
injection of gamma globulin. At the time I was serving as the Embassy nurse, so
guess who gave dear old Henry a shot in the "you know what"? Afterward, people
asked me the color and type of his underwear. Top secret!
On another occasion I had the opportunity to meet then Vice President George
H.W. Bush. Although a Republican, he wanted to consult with the former
Democratic leader, and in the process took time to meet with some Embassy staff
at Ambassador Mansfield’s residence. He was very cordial, and when he learned
that Hank and I had lived at West Point and that Hank was a graduate, he
appeared enthusiastic, and recalled his visit and address there while he was the
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. I later learned that one of the purposes
of his visit was to decide whether to recommend that Mansfield stay on as
Ambassador in Tokyo during the Reagan Administration. He did.
Finally, there was the time when our son John got lost. He had just started
first grade when he hopped a subway hoping to arrive at a station near our home.
Instead, he transferred to the wrong train and wound up in Shinjuku, a city a
dozen miles from downtown Tokyo where we lived. Fortunately, he knew how to use
public phones, and so when he called, I told him to go to the nearest Koban
(police station), and ask for directions to Roppongi station near us. The police
heard the word Roppongi right, and less than an hour later he showed up at our
door. He never got lost again.
Rcollections of the Humorous Side of Life as The Lady of the Class of
I was an Iowa farm girl with little knowledge of West Point at the time Larry
and I met. I recall telling my Mom that Larry and I were talking about marriage
(after only 3 dates). She didn’t seem too thrilled or impressed with him being a
West Pointer but she made it clear to me that I should probably seal the deal
since he was a “Virginian”.
We were married in northwest Iowa during a blizzard which dropped over 6 feet
of snow. For some reason, Larry had to drive alone in the blizzard to a church
he had never seen. The service had to be held up a bit but he made it. Larry has
always claimed that the 5 parachute jumps at Airborne School were a piece of
cake compared to this 6th jump into marriage. Of course, it didn’t end there as
we had to spend the first 3 days of our honeymoon in my parents’ attic while my
Dad helped dig us out so we could make our way to California to Larry’s first
When we arrived at Fort MacArthur, CA, we were told we could stay in the BOQ
until we found housing. We were also told that the BOQ would be empty except for
us – WRONG!!! Larry reported for duty early the next morning and left me to
sleep in. When I went down the hall to take a shower in my flimsies, I heard
voices from the shower. I ran as hard as I could back to our room and I think I
made it just as 3 guys came out into the hall from the shower – WELCOME TO THE
Our first born, Kimberley, arrived in San Pedro, CA on Christmas Day, 1962.
The night before her birth, Larry and my Dad had more than a few drinks after I
went to bed. As Larry came to bed, I informed him that I thought I was about to
give birth. He tried his best to talk me out of it saying he was in no condition
to deal with this. I finally prevailed and we were off to the hospital. About a
block from our apartment, Larry announces that he left his eyeglasses behind and
cannot see well. His drunken state plus being half blind made for an interesting
trip to the hospital. He literally used the curb as a guide, in and out around
parked cars. When I arrived in the delivery room, Larry announced to the medical
staff that he had a severe case of hemorrhoids and suggested that he might just
require more attention than his wife. Larry made me a promise after this that he
would arrange in the future to be absent during any of my future deliveries. He
kept this promise.
Life in the Army world continued to be exciting and unpredictable but for me
Larry’s first job after retirement (Saudi Arabia) probably topped all of our
previous experiences. Larry worked for Vinnell Corporation, which was charged
with training the Saudi National Guard. I was given some good advice by a fellow
Army wife before going to Saudi Arabia. She told me the only way for a woman to
survive there was to ignore the Saudi police (Mutawas) and just walk a straight
line as if they didn’t exist. I never had a real problem shopping except when
Larry accompanied me. He was responsible for keeping me in line (no blonde hair
showing and no part of bare legs showing) and the Mutawas would give him “hell”
for not keeping me under control.
Larry was fortunate to be able to command both a battalion and brigade and
these opportunities allowed me to work closely with and assist the young wives
of officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers. This was my biggest thrill
as an Army wife.
Coralinn Tuttle Maus:
Young Brides of USMA Class of 1961
So, can I contribute to this discussion? You Bet! First, I am steeped in West
Point. My dad graduated in 1939. From Ft. Sam Houston, TX, he was moved to
England to help plan for the Normandy Invasion. Mom was pregnant when he left,
so one of the stories in our home was that when he returned (I was 4) and Mom
told me he was my daddy, I said “no, my daddy was a picture of him on the
mantel”! We lived at West Point for 2 tours. The last one was when dad was the
first department head of the new Military Psychology & Leadership Department,
the class of 1961 was the first to attend those classes.
During that tour, in January of 1961, while I was a senior at Highland Falls
high school, I had a blind date with Mick Maus. I must have made a really good
impression as he traveled back that summer during graduation leave for a week
before going to Airborne School. He spent the time while I worked at the Thayer
Hotel, working out in the gym getting ready for Airborne. I am still surprised
that Mom & Dad let me travel to Ft. Benning during Airborne to visit him,
staying with Bob & Sally Potts. Bob was Mick’s room mate for a couple of years.
Mick went into Ranger School then and I started college at Rider College, now
Rider University. Not missing a chance, he did visit again after Ranger and at
Christmas and again before taking the USS United States to Europe.
Most will remember that the Berlin Wall went up in 1961 and Mick went to Germany
in 1962. Fortuitously for us, my father was transferred to Germany in 1963 to
head up the US Army Schools in Europe in Oberammergau. Because of nepotism, I
needed to find a job out of southern Germany and worked then for the Air Force
at Rhein Main AFB as a legal secretary. Mick was in Gelnhausen with a
self-propelled 155 artillery unit and would pick me up on Friday evenings,
rescuing me from the Air Force Zoomies at work. We made such dear friends with
the young officers and their wives there. We still visit with them. We were
married then in April of 1964 in Oberammergau (known as the abduction of the
child bride). We say that Jesus and his apostles attended the wedding and can
show the pictures from the reception as proof. Oberammergau is the scene of the
Passion Play every 10 years and the actors stay in “the look” that goes with
their part in the play.
When Mick elected to resign from the Army I was upset. It was the only life I
had really known. All has worked out wonderfully, however. We have stayed
closely associated with West Point. Our son, Michael, graduated in 1987 along
with Mick’s brother’s son. Mick’s sister’s son graduated in 1991. A grandson,
Caleb Kilpatrick, graduated in 2019 and a grandniece, Nicole Maus in 2020.
Civilian life has been an adventure. As Mick progressed thru the ranks, we moved
often and enjoyed most environs. We are now in the 9th home we have built and I
won’t mention apartments, flats and duplexes. Family, church, golf & travel have
filled any vacant times. With classmates, we have made the Danube Cruise, the
Russian River Cruise, the Elbe River Cruise, the China cruise/trip, the New
Zealand-Australia trip/cruise and the photographic safari to South Africa,
Zimbabwe & Botswana. We are looking forward to the Mississippi River Cruise and
the Mediterranean cruise.
“Recollections” of Mike’s First Parachute Jump
It was the day of Mike’s first parachute jump at Ft. Benning in October 1961.
Mike was especially “Out of Sorts” that day, what I thought was just nerves over
jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. So, I made him a big breakfast: eggs,
bacon, grits, toast and jelly. He didn’t eat a bite. Having been in the Army
only three months, I figured this was just the first of many strange experiences
that I was to encounter in the years ahead.
Our Camellia Apartment car pool arrived shortly and Mike got into the car
still looking a little bit queasy. As Mike then tells the story, he arrived at
the hanger, put on his parachute and sat for the usual hour waiting to load the
plane - all the time tightening his straps and thinking this was just nerves.
Eventually, he loaded the plane, took off and made the jump. By this time, I had
arrived at the drop zone to welcome him on the ground, along with other ’61
Of course, we couldn’t recognize our husbands falling through the sky, but I
was able to see that Mike was not leaving the drop zone with the other jumpers.
FIRST ALERT! As it turned out, Mike was still feeling very sick when he hit the
ground. A sergeant then ran up to him to check him out. And, of course, they
then loaded him into a jeep and off they went to some unknown location. My
reaction: “Hello, what about me? I am his wife. Where is he going?”
When Mike’s carpool arrived back at Camellia Apartments one of the guys said,
“They had taken him to the hospital.” Naturally, I hopped into our car and went
to Martin Army Hospital. I was totally freaked out, wandering the halls of the
hospital, trying to find my husband. Finally, this nice man came up to me and
offered to help. I later learned he was the hospital commander. I finally found
Mike and learned he was having an emergency appendectomy and was scheduled for
surgery in a few hours.
The surgery was successful but so much for that jump class. Mike was then
assigned to the training battalion for a two- month profile, waiting to enter
the next class to complete his jumps. Colonel Joseph was the training battalion
commander. For the next two months Mike and I made Christmas decorations for the
Battalion headquarters. We met with the Colonel and his wife for drinks every
afternoon at his quarters, cutting out and painting plywood Christmas elves to
place in front of the headquarters.
This turned out to be a fun time and a learning experience. I had come to
appreciate the prerogative of informality that we had graciously been given by
the Joseph’s and also recognized there were times, when formality dictated, I
remain quiet. (very difficult for my talkative nature).
“Recollections” of Their Early Encounters [Bruce: 8 February 1939 - 18 April
I met Bruce Shroyer '61 H-2 in a rather unique set of circumstances. I was
modeling for Mademoiselle Magazine, College Edition ,in the fall of 1958. Bruce
saw my picture and wrote to me at my College. I am sure Mademoiselle was not on
his Yearling year required reading list along with Paul Frey's Chemistry
Treatise . None the less, after checking him out I did write back.
As a counterpoint to this story following on the modeling theme, Bruce had
his own encounter with the NYC magazine world. On July 4th 1961, having just
returned from our honeymoon in Puerto Rico, Bruce and I were strolling along the
boardwalk at Jones Beach on Long Island.
We were stopped by a gentleman who handed Bruce his business card and asked
if he ever considered modeling ? “Wasn't that what West Point prepared you all
for, any contingency?” At first we thought it was a joke but soon realized he
was serious. Bruce spent the next 3 1/2 weeks of his summer leave going from one
studio to another, ultimately appearing in several magazine ads and a clothing
catalog. Bruce finished the last" shoot" with just enough time to get a hair cut
(the photographer had wanted his hair long for the shots) and to drive with me
to Fort Benning to begin Airborne School. His pay for this short lived career
surpassed his 2nd Lieutenant 's salary.
Bruce and I began our courtship and marriage with one or the other of us
modeling in magazines. “Ironic”
Sixty years [o/a 1962] ago Pat and I were invited to
a small party at a classmate’s Camillia Apartment. After
a few beers, the host asked if we would be interested in
playing the game “who’s the best bunny”? All agreed to
play. Next, our host told us to get down on all fours
and we got blindfolded. Then, he started with his first
commands “sit like a bunny” with each command he
whispered to one of the guests to stand and remove his
blindfold. One by one, all were eliminated except the
Best Bunny. He was given a few crazy commands like
“wiggle your ears... hop on one foot... shake your
booty”. The rest had been told not to dare laugh until
the Best Bunny was told to remove his blindfold. When he
did you can imagine how we all laughed... hilarious!
By the way, the Best Bunny was none other than the late,
great General Bob Frix. [1939-2011] Not only was he a
great officer, he was a great sport!
My Life’s Experiences: From Viet Nam to America, and Points in Between
My family background in North Viet Nam
My Mother was from a wealthy land-owning family. My
father was an officer in the Chinese Kuomintang Army
that came to North Vietnam in 1945 to disarm the
Japanese. Their marriage was arranged after the
commander of my father’s KMT unit (who was his father),
did a large favor for the family by saving my maternal
grandmother from the Viet Minh. My mother was reluctant
to marry because they had no common language and she had
never met my father. Her mother insisted, however, so
they married. When the KMT unit withdrew back to China,
my father stayed behind. I think he never saw his father
(my grandfather) again.
Early Life in North Viet Nam
My parents had 10 children, 8 of whom survive. We are
all in the United States now. I am the third oldest
child. We older children grew up speaking both
Vietnamese and Cantonese Chinese.
I have vague memories of Hanoi before 1954. For example,
I recall a drunken French soldier banging on our front
gate trying to break in.
Our Move to South Viet Nam
When the Communist Viet Minh defeated the French in
1954, my family went to the South as refugees. We were
flown on a US military aircraft (I remember someone was
carrying me on their back running toward the plane at
night time). Interestingly, in 2021, I met the American
official who was head of the team arranging the
evacuation flights. Unfortunately, he passed away a few
months after we met.
In Saigon, my father became a police official. He was
close to President Diem. This is a bit of a mystery, as
he was Chinese and not Catholic. He was assigned to
several provinces as police chief. Sometimes we followed
him, and sometimes not. He was once stationed at Con Son
Island, where the French had built the prison containing
the so-called tiger cages. Later the South Vietnamese
government used it to incarcerate political prisoners.
My sister and I accompanied him there. He was also
stationed in Long Hai, where our quarters were attacked
by the VC one night in the summer of 1963. It was a very
frightening night and there were close calls from being
killed by the VC, but we lucked out. God had protected
us. The next morning, many of our dogs were killed by
After I finished high school in 1968, I went to work for
American Express Military Banking Facility on the US
base in Vung Tau. This was my first contact with
Americans. I missed my mother, so I moved to American
Express in Saigon in 1969 when the Amex main office was
established. That is where I met Mike in 1970.
Mike and I are Married
Mike and I were married in Saigon in 1972. I then
accompanied him to his Special Forces assignment in Thailand where I started to learn
to speak Thai there and fell in love with the country.
My First Experience in America
My first experience living in the United States was at
Norfolk Naval Base, when Mike was a student at the Armed
Forces Staff College. After that, he was assigned to the
Pentagon and our two children were born at Fort Belvoir
in 1977 and 1978.
Before having children, I studied accounting at the
Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale while
working for in the Virginia Bank main vault, taking care
of distributing money to over 30 branches weekly. I love
working with numbers.
In 1980, we went back to Thailand, to the US Embassy in
Thailand, where Mike was in charge of the Indochinese
Refugee Program. I worked as a case worker in that
program. I interviewed refugees, mostly Vietnamese who
walked across Cambodia to Thailand, and prepared case
files for resettlement in the US. I heard many terrible
and heartbreaking stories, especially from the females,
but it was a very satisfying job.
After he retired from the Army in 1985, Mike entered the
foreign service. I was able to accompany him to various
assignments. Our overseas assignments included 5 tours
in Thailand (18 years, including Lop Buri, Bangkok and
Chiang Mai), 2 tours in Hanoi (6 years) and 1 tour in
Jakarta, Indonesia, for 2 years.
Luckily, the State Department had a program to employ
spouses overseas, and I was able to participate in that.
I was an escort for diplomatic pouches, an office
management specialist, and a linguist at various
assignments. There were some disadvantages to this life.
We missed our families in the U.S., and Mike worked long
hours and sometimes was gone for months. But we really
loved our lives working and living overseas where we met
so many great people and experienced so much of the
local cultures. Our boys grew up in these cultures and
attended international schools, which we think was a
good thing. At one point they were fluent in three
languages (Vietnamese, Thai, English).
At these assignments, we were privileged to get involved
with many Presidential and Congressional visits. One of
the vivid experiences I remembered was when President
Clinton visited Hanoi in November 2000. We were assigned
in Chiang Mai at the time, but were called back to
support the visit. On the day of President Clinton’s
arrival, I was assigned as the Control Officer at the
airport. After the President arrived at the airport at
midnight, his entourage of over 100 was whisked away
leaving me and my local staff staying behind to deal
with the Immigration officials processing the
entourage’s passports. The funny thing was that the
Vietnamese immigration officials were taking their time
checking and stamping the passports. Needless to say, I
was very tired and annoyed by then, having been at the
airport since 8:00 am. After asking them a few times if
I could help, to their amazement, at about 2:00 am, I
grabbed the stamp from one of the officials and started
stamping the remaining passports. I don’t think anyone
would think of doing it but I did. By the time I got
back to the hotel, there was no one around so I had to
safeguard all passports in our hotel room, including
Full Retirement Back in the States
Since Mike finally retired, we have lived in the house
in Arlington that we bought in 1984. I enjoy being near
about 30 family members in the DC area, where we have
regular get-togethers involving lots of good home cooked
food. I also enjoy get- togethers with classmates and
their wives. Since the first time I saw West Point in
1975, I have sensed how much it means to graduates and
their families, and the tight fellowship the Class of