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Old 03-12-2009, 05:22 AM
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Re: Chaplain Larry Haworth

SPENDING MONEY

These days money is prominent on our minds. The other day the subject of Vietnamese money came up. I have no idea why. I donít even remember who I was talking to (maybe myself). It got me to realizing that I couldnít remember what Vietnamese money was called. You might remember, but youíre probably younger than me and have a better memory. When I came home from Viet Nam I brought some of their money as a souvenir. Later I remembered what itís called. Itís called piastres for the small and dong for the big denominations. It came in paper or coins, didnít it? Maybe you brought some home, too.

I started thinking about how we spent money in those days in Viet Nam. Naturally, there was a lot of variety because different people were in different situations. Some troops were stationed at places like Long Binh or Da Nang where they had PXs and clubs where you could spend freely. Others were out in the bush where there wasnít much to buy except maybe gadgets or rice bread from the village mama-sans or the ďservicesĒ of the you-know-who girls that rode out on the back of the red Honda 50s to give you an opportunity to spend a quick five bucks. (Chaplains arenít supposed to know about boom-boom, but what can I say?) Fortunately, it wasnít every trooper who blew his bucks that way, but life was what it was and not something else. You know what I mean.

I just remembered MPC. Youíll recall that we had those US government issued wallet size certificates that substituted for American cash. They were called script in WWII. Is my memory serving me well? You decide. MPC meant Military Payment Certificate, right? I think the military didnít want us to scatter green-backs around Southeast Asia so we had MPC which the Vietnamese people werenít supposed to have. To make sure, the military would expire the MPC occasionally to make them harder to pass along to the Vietnamese people. If the people had MPCs they became worthless at the expiration date and theyíd have to start all over getting more from the GIs. On the other hand, GIs could get some of their pay in piastres or dong and spend it that way. It must have worked OK because troopers always had whatever the mama-sans sold and the red Honda 50s kept coming, especially around pay-day.

That leads me to another American money substitute: C Rations. ďWhaaat!,Ē you say? I say, ďThatís right.Ē Cs were like money. Not exactly money, but something to barter with, which means to trade, in case you donít recognize ďbarter.Ē If youíre cav, youíll recall that we had mucho C Rations. If youíre a grunt, you wonít know this but you can take my word for it as I make it routine to tell the truth. Cav (armored cavalry) troopers usually had Cs by the case on board their tanks and ACavs. Also, on board their M548s, M578s, M88s and other assorted armored vehicles. Iíll remind you now, not that you forgot, that it was common for troopers to trade Cs that they didnít want for things that they did want which the mama-sans, baby-sans and other sans had for sale. You traded C rations, especially ham and eggs, for rice bread or a mirror. Iím sure you remember because how could you forget?

Sometimes you could get to the rear to hit the PX (unless you, for some reason, were stuck in the bush without a break). PXs in those days had some wonderful bargains. I know because I took advantage from time to time. Two of the best bargains Iíve ever purchased in my life were in those PXs. Once I bought a great Seiko watch for $17.00. Thatís right, seventeen buckaroos! That watch was great! I wore it for a couple of years and gave it to my brother. When I went back for my second tour I bought another Seiko. This time it cost me $47.00, a lot more money but it had an alarm. I wore that one for years. Have you priced a Seiko lately? The main huge bargain I took a pass on was Noritake china. I was a bachelor and thought I didnít need fancy dishes. What a dumb thing to think. They were selling a service for eight (or was it twelve?) for less than $100.00. Thatís one hundred dollars, green backs, American money, not dong or piastres. Iíve been sorry ever since for that financial blunder. Oh well, at least you know what Iím talking about. Whether or not you bought any bargains, like maybe a camera, I donít know.

A different angle about money in Viet Nam, was most GIs didnít give it a whole lot of thought. Some did, of course. We had a great savings program that Uncle Sam was wise enough to provide. That was where we could put as much of our pay as we wanted into a savings account and theyíd pay ten percent interest as long as we were in country. You have to admit, that was a pretty good investment, even for those days. I took advantage of it. I hope you did too. After all, where else were you going to put your pay, not that it was so much. I know some of you sent money home to help your family. That was more important, of course.

I also recall that many troopers didnít really care much about whatever money they actually had. After all, no one knew what tomorrow would bring considering the circumstances. Once when I was at Quan Loi, our forward support base, I was in our helicopter pilotsí hootch. They were always friendly and let me sleep on someoneís cot whenever I came through overnight. Some of our pilots were playing their regular poker game and having a bit of relaxation. One hand got kinda out of control. The pot got so big that it made them nervous. It was really funny, at least I thought so, when they all decided to stop the hand and give everyone their cash back because the hand had gotten ďout of hand.Ē There was just too much money in the pot. So they made everybody happy by starting over. They might not have put a lot of value on money over there in the circumstances, but they were still friends, wanted to remain friends after the game was over, and they werenít stupid.

We all learned about life in Viet Nam where life was basic and money was not first priority. Surviving, looking out for buddies, remembering family at home, and taking care of hurting people, and such matters were more important. I wonít go on because you know. But Iíll point out that in the Holy Bible God has something to say about money too: ďCome, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:1-2, 6-7)

Someday Iíll get out my old piastre, dong and MPC souvenir collection again. It brings back significant memories for me. Mostly memories about whatís really important. Does it for you?

God bless you. God loves you. So do I.

Chaplain Larry Haworth
San Antonio, TX 78239
LEHaworth@aol.com
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