John Sweet upon return to "Naked Fanny" August 1997
One day while using my computer 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 eligible to win a prize in their contest. I was wrong.
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 that had come to America to finalize
negations with my company. 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 month later. So I got to thinking maybe we can go to Bangkok if were 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. 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 pending 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 Princeton 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 orphanage 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 money for the orphanage at THARE, which was to be donated in memory of the men from NKP
who never returned home. That same night I received e-mail 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, DC. 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 later I had raised a thousand dollars and Suttida's
sister had found Father Khai and 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.
Upon arrival, 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 usage.
The children wear red and white 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 remembrance 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 beneficial to the children. However, some still live at the orphanage as not
enough families have been located.
Making a difference in Southeast Asia today
Band instruments provided to Thare Orphanage
Our Current Thailand & Laos Assistance Program
NKP Pictures Page