Vietnam: Embracing seductive Saigon’s ‘time zones’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Embracing seductive Saigon’s ‘time zones’

Andrew Lam
Embracing seductive Saigon's 'time zones'

Ti Gong

Vietnamese American writer Andrew Lam at a dinner party with friends.

When I was 11 years old, I fled what was then Saigon, in Vietnam, with my family for America at the end of the Vietnam war.

Forty-four years later, I found myself moving back to the city now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

I discovered that I live in many different time zones all at once.

In the present: an energetic city where making money is the main preoccupation. I see it outside my very window. High-rises line the river, gleaming during the day and lit up at night with the promise of a prosperous future. You can also hear it, day and night, the din of construction and the roar of traffic.

If I once thought of Vietnam as backwards and America as modern, I now need to think of a new modern world versus an aging modern world.

In the coffee shop where I go in the morning to write, I spend quite a bit of time eavesdropping. The phrase — mot ty — is mentioned the most. It means one billion dong — or around US$42,000.

It is often used to describe prices of real estate, as in “that property is worth about 70 billion and you need to get it before it goes up in price.”

Most conversations somehow one way or another have to do with money, and money usually involves real estate dealings.

“Let me tell you how to get him to sell. I’ll get my company to back you,” is a sentence I wrote down after hearing someone saying it rather loudly at the next table.

I bask in this excitement. It’s an energy that is seductive and admittedly contagious. I watch with awe as the wealthy spend their money with such abandon at high-end nightclubs and restaurants.

Up the street from where I live, a shopping mall recently opened. It sells Lamborghini and Rolls Royce at its posh entrance. Always there are people taking selfies with the sparkly cars in the background.

Yet some nights strolling the darker alleys I am reminded that so many people are still mired in humiliating poverty — the hunched backs, the tattered clothes, the skin and bone bodies, squatters with cigarettes in mouth, a melancholic ballad on the radio.

Another time zone is the many memories I have of past Saigon, a sleepy town lost in time. Sometimes they arrive unexpectedly into the present.

A rush of memories

The other day on my way to a dinner party, my taxi drove past a building that I instantly recognized despite all the years.

“You came to this world at that hospital, in that room,” my mother had said many times whenever our car drove pass it during the war. There on that second floor, that room with its wooden shutters always wide open, I came to this world.

That moment in the taxi was odd — the past and the present intertwined. Old Saigon superimposed itself on New Saigon, and a rush of various memories of a tropical childhood overwhelmed and made me slightly breathless.

Vietnam is highly mobile now. The country is booming. It’s both a manufacturing hub and a hot tourist destination. And as it opens its doors wider many foreigners are making it their home, among them Viet Kieu — Vietnamese who live abroad.

Many have done well, too, investing and opening businesses, especially those who set up years earlier. To them I am a relative newcomer, and as such there is a lot of advice. Chief among them is: “Try your best not to live in the past.”

Easier said than done, of course.

Like many Viet Kieu, we are cursed with superimposed memories of this city. Sometimes we dwell on them.

The names of streets that have changed, which colonial buildings came down to be replaced by a high-rise, which restaurants once served the best pho during the war, which stalled the best Banh Mi, the dramatic evacuation at the end of the war, the bombs, the corpses.

The past can be a trap, a Vietnamese American friend who came back earlier admits.

The burden of memories keeps him from moving forward, from seeing and doing new things.

“I’m tired of the Vietnam story,” he told me over dinner one evening.

“Me too,” I said. Then we continued to talk about Vietnam.

Thus the future tense.

I carry memories of losses and exile — my childhood in old Saigon in wartime, my abrupt departure. I wear them all like a scar, or a medal.

But I am quite aware that I am also bringing the larger world back to my birthplace. Mine is after all a complicated sense of home.

Given that the bulk of my life was spent in America, writing in my third language (after Vietnamese and French), home is rooted in a sense of plurality.

And if there’s one set of self knowledge of which I am certain of after all these years, it is this: There is no such thing as coming home for those of us who were once exiled.

There is, however, something else the returnee can do — build a new one from scratch.

Diverse, pluralistic, complex is what Saigon has become. A “multi-verse.” A city of multi-ethnic enclaves. A city of immigrants. And a city full of returning Vietnamese. And it is full of young people, eager to surge ahead. Saigon is therefore both forgetful yet secretly longing for its history.

Growing more complex

In truth her nature has always been feminine and individualistic. Her power is alchemy. She turns foreign ideas into local fare.

She seduces stern conquerors and over time turns them into businessmen and epicureans with savior-faire. She takes in their ideology and idolatry, gives them back a tad of hedonism.

Standing in contrast to the public narrative of itself — the male version of events — are the stories of desires and ambition — thirst for knowledge, yearning to travel, wanting to better one’s self, dreaming of owning a house, working toward sending one’s child to study abroad, a kind of American dream.

Such as it is, Saigon, growing ever more complex, is in desperate need of a new framework.

That is my guidepost, my re-entrance. A professor at a college here recently asked me to give a talk about the history of the Vietnamese people in America. Another teacher at an international school asked me to teach a writing workshop to her students.

“Tell them how to think outside of the box,” she said.

A cafe owner who organizes talks invited me to read from my work. I tell listeners of my American life, my adventures abroad. I show images of myself as a child in this self-same city. I share my discoveries of the self. That it is multi-layer, and not etched in stone. Slowly, it feels that I am of use here.

Soon, I will make my pilgrimage. I will enter my old school. I will walk around the old courtyard, finding shade under the tamarind trees, and listen to echoes of my childhood.

I will stand in front of the old house, too, which have yet to visit, and in whose verandas I once read my books and whiled away the hot afternoons, my three dogs at my feet. I will mourn what’s lost and gone.

I will incorporate all this into a new story.

I will try to build bridges of all these fragments, across time zones and languages.

I will try my best to not recreate nor stay mired in the past. Instead, I will marry the tenses as if they are bricks and mortars and build a new home here.

Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Donald Trump, All Racist Bitches?

Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Donald Trump, All Racist Bitches?

 

If you have been paying any attention at all lately to the U.S. news then you have heard a lot about ‘race’ or racism in the conversations within the news programs. First I would like to talk with you about Senator Kamala Harris who is now considered to be one of the front runners (top 5) in the Democratic Presidential debates. Ms. Harris up until the first debate was nothing much more than a ‘also ran’ but it was this debate that has propelled her upward on the ladder. Mainly there was just one question, one moment that did this for her. She was able to slam the front runner Joe Biden on his record about bussing fifty years ago. I am not a fan of Mr. Biden but when a person has been in politics for the past 50 years there are going to be plenty of areas to be critical of a person’s record, it’s just reality, in 50 years a person is going to change their opinions on different issues sometimes. Ms. Harris is a first term Senator from the state of California, her political record is much shorter.

 

This one question was a trap for Mr. Biden for someone to use as being a race issue whether race had anything to do do with his vote back then or not. Ms. Harris was able to use this as a race issue and the media, correct or not, jumped onto the side of Ms. Harris. I had heard of Ms. Harris ever since she became a member of the U.S Senate, but, basically everything that I had heard from or about her has had to do with race. It seems to me via the things that I had heard from Ms. Harris is that she is like a one trick pony and that the pony she is riding is race. I consider myself a moderate, sort of like an old southern conservative Democrat mixed with a liberal Republican. In other words I don’t like either political party at all, this is why I have been a registered independent for decades now. I had always taken Ms. Harris to be a Black person, just a lightly skinned person but evidently I was wrong on this issue. I can’t stand the Trump family but Don Jr. posted a tweet about her race so I started to check out her linage a little bit. Turns out her Mom is from India and her Dad is from Jamaica, so, if this is the truth, she isn’t Back at all. Yet she does seem to cater to the base of the Black voters. Yes she is a ‘person of color’ as is every human on the planet, even White is a color you know. But I do understand where that term came from as racists Whites used to call Black folks ‘colored’. Stupid of them then and now as is reversing the term. Personally I do not care what paint job a person has on their bones, I only care about what is between their ears and if any racism is there, I do not want them to hold any political position, especially not the Presidency. To me, I believe that Ms. Harris is a blatant racists so I would never vote for her.

 

Now I am going to gripe abit about the Bronx’s new Congresswoman Ms. Cortez or ‘AOC’ for short. She and a few of her Freshmen Congress ladies ‘of color’ have been playing the race issue to the hilt it seems, especially Ms. Cortez. She is in a running feud with the Democratic head of the Congress Ms. Pelosi who happens to be a White lady. I very much do not like Ms. Pelosi either but by all accounts I have ever heard including from other Congressmen and women of color, Ms. Pelosi is not a racist person. Yet as soon as AOC started getting shut down on some of her ideas she then went straight to calling Ms. Pelosi a racists because she wasn’t jumping on AOC’s ‘progressive’ bandwagon. To me, this is like the folks who talk about how much they hate haters, in other words, if you don’t agree with me, then you are a hater. Or, if you don’t follow me and my ideas, then you are a racists. Ms. AOC to me seems to be one of these people. To me, it appears that Ms. Harris and Ms. AOC have no other ideas or agenda accept race which to me is the bottom of the basement of human ignorance. Have you noticed during your life that the people who scream the loudest about racism are almost always extremely racist themselves?

 

Now, concerning our “racists, cowardly President”, Mr. Trump. First, I do believe that he is nothing more than a piece of trash as a person. I do believe that he is blatantly racists as well as a cereal rapists and a habitual liar and about as wise as a dead dog in the street. He always plays to the very lowest IQs he can find, it seems that they flock to this cowardly habitual liar. That the so called ‘Christian’ right support him or ‘Tea Party’ support him I find quite disgusting as he is anything but Christian. I call him a coward because of his Daddy getting him six deferrals from military service during the Vietnam war. He could have gone into a reserve unit like George W. Bush did, at least George W. didn’t seem to be ashamed to put on our Nations Uniform. Mr. Trump appears to not only have used his daddy’s money and influence to keep out of combat he didn’t even have enough guts to join the Reserve and with his College credits he could have gone in as an Officer like George W. did. Or is it possible that he simply loathed the U.S. military, or maybe it was just that the Uniform wasn’t “his color”?

 

Now in case you are wondering why I used the title that I did here are the reasons. One I guess was to get your attention, whether for or against my thoughts. Two, I do believe that all three of these people are blatant racists that everyone should totally discard as being credible. Three, from a Christian moral standpoint I believe that anyone who is racist has lowered themselves to the level of dead rabid dog. Also you may be wondering why I used the term ‘bitches’ for these three people is simple, in our U.S. slang it is common to call a hate filled woman a bitch, not meaning that they are actually a dog. Then why did I call Mr. Trump a bitch? That is simple also, in our U.S. slang it is also common to call a man who is considered to be a total coward a Pus-y, and that is exactly what I believe Mr. Trump is, a loud mouthed, racist, coward. Like it or hate it, this is my comment letter to you today. I know that some will hate what I wrote, some because they think I am to critical and some because they think I am not being critical enough. Either way, when I write these letters to you what I am mainly trying to get you to do is to think about the issues listed within the letter.

Fitting The Coward Bolton Works For Coward Of The Country: Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘TASK AND PURPOSE’)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 29:  Former United States ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

ANALYSIS
John Bolton, Trump’s New War Consigliere, Dodged The ‘Already Lost’ Vietnam War

on 

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“I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy… I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”

— John Bolton, 1995

The funny thing about relentlessly pressing for more war in America is that a lot of the most zealous warhawking politicians and pundits over the years — left and right — leaned on their privileges to avoid being touched personally by war. Dick Cheney never met an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation whose ground he didn’t want to siphon, but he had “other priorities” when Vietnam rolled around. Bill Clinton — the comparative “dove” who still managed to deploy U.S. power to the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, Haiti, and Sudan — also pulled strings to sidestep the ’Nam draft, as did current POTUS Donald Trump, whose bone spurs may have precluded wartime service, but not weaponized tweeting.

In this pantheon of chickenhawking old guys with money and power, few hawk harder than John Bolton, the incoming national security adviser, whose appointment is freaking out even level-headed wonks with a high tolerance for overseas power projection. Bolton’s politics gel with those of a lot of military hard-chargers: He believes dearly that blood makes the grass grow. First-strike on North Korea? Do it. First-strike on Iran? Do it now. Do it brusquely, with straight talk!

The distinction is, unlike the troops whose deployments he’ll have enormous sway over, John Bolton won’t brook the idea of his blood gurgling on any battlefield, especially in a losing effort. Bolton, it turns out, is known for bolting when the gun bolts start cycling.

Bolton said nuts to that, later writing in a memoir that he “wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle” in Vietnam. (The memoir’s title, by the way, is Surrender Is Not An Option.)

The Yale Daily News reported more than a decade ago how Bolton articulated his “war for thee, but not for me” values to his classmates when their 25th reunion came around in 1995:

Though Bolton supported the Vietnam War, he declined to enter combat duty, instead enlisting in the National Guard and attending law school after his 1970 graduation. “I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy,” Bolton wrote of his decision in the 25th reunion book. “I considered the war in Vietnam already lost.”

lot of people considered the the Vietnam War already lost in 1970 — including a lot of Americans who, you know, actually had to serve there. But Bolton is a special case: He’d spent his time in college literally cheerleading for moar war. “The conservative underground is alive and well here,” he reportedly said as a student in a public campus debate over Vietnam; “if we do not make our influence felt, rest assured we will in the real world.”

When the real world came knocking? Bolton said nuts to that, later writing in a memoir that he “wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle” in Vietnam. (The memoir’s title, by the way, is Surrender Is Not An Option.)

Now, joining the Guard isn’t nothing, especially not today, when OCONUS deployments are ever more common for weekend warriors. But in the Vietnam era, it was a time-tested means of avoiding wartime deployment, popular among the well-connected, and Bolton understood this well; he admits this was his calculus for joining in his memoir: “Dying for your country was one thing, but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me.”

Shorter John Bolton: I totally would’ve gone to fight the war I publicly advocated, but it was going to be lost anyway, and I didn’t want to die, like the 9,500-plus Americans who went in my stead and died between 1970 and the fall of Saigon. Now buy my book, Surrender Is Not An Option, which explains why we need war with Iran and North Korea.

With hawks like these, it’s amazing we haven’t lost more wars. But with Bolton coordinating White House security strategy, there are likely to be plenty of new chances to lose. Not for him, obviously; just for the troops he supports so dearly, at a safe remove.

Adam Weinstein is a Navy vet and senior editor for Task & Purpose. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Gawker, and the New York Times. Follow Adam Weinstein on Twitter @AdamWeinstein
 [email protected]

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The ‘Coward In Chief’ Calling The Kettle Black

 

Today I have been hearing some disturbing news from different news outlets about a Police Officer who was stationed at the school where 17 kids were murdered a week ago Wednesday. This Officer was assigned to this school as an ‘SRO’, school resource Officer. Evidently this Officer was outside the school when he first heard the shots being fired yet he waited for four minutes before he went inside. Some people (Mr. Trump) believe this Officer to be ‘a coward’, I am not him so I do not know if the reason he waited was from being a coward or not. Remember Officers are taught to ‘wait for backup’, is this why the Officer waited those four minutes? Put yourself in the Officers place, you hear semi-automatic rifle fire going on inside the school, all you have is a pistol and no bullet proof vest, so do you charge in, or wait for your backup? That would be a hard decision for most folks I believe and I don’t believe that any of us know what we would have done until we are placed in that position. Personally I believe that I would have called the gunfire in and then proceeded toward the gunfire, mainly because I would have known that these are children being shot at, I would have had to have made the sacrifice.

 

It would be easy for the media to label this Officer (who I read has quit his job) as a coward, I don’t know the whole situation, I was not there and neither were you, nor was President Trump. What made me decide to write this article today was that on the front page of my Google news this morning was our “Coward In Chief” calling this Officer a coward. For Mr. Trump to call anyone a coward is extremely hypocritical. This is the same Mr. Trump who took 6 deferrals from being drafted into the Military during the Vietnam War. His dad got him these deferrals while he was in college, saying he had a bone spur in his foot. Yet this bone spur did not stop him from participating in college sports programs, how odd. Mr. Trump was to much of a coward to even go into something like the Air Force Reserve or the National Guard and he could have gone in as an Officer. Mr. Trump, a man who refused to put on any of our Nations uniforms should never ever be calling someone else a coward. This truly is a case of the Coward calling the kettle black.

Real Heroes ARE NOT The Frauds/ Cowards We Call Politicians, Like The Coward Trump

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE OFF OF A FACEBOOK POST)

You’re a 19 year old kid.
You are critically wounded and dying in the jungle somewhere in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam .
It’s November 11, 1967.
LZ (landin…g zone) X-ray.
Your unit is outnumbered 8-1 and the enemy fire is so intense from 100 yards away, that your CO (commanding officer) has ordered the MedEvac helicopters to stop coming in.
You’re lying there, listening to the enemy machine guns and you know you’re not getting out.
Your family is half way around the world, 12,000 miles away, and you’ll never see them again.
As the world starts to fade in and out, you know this is the day.
Then – over the machine gun noise – you faintly hear that sound of a helicopter.
You look up to see a Huey coming in. But.. It doesn’t seem real because no MedEvac markings are on it.
Captain Ed Freeman is coming in for you.
He’s not MedEvac so it’s not his job, but he heard the radio call and decided he’s flying his Huey down into the machine gun fire anyway.
Even after the MedEvacs were ordered not to come. He’s coming anyway.
And he drops it in and sits there in the machine gun fire, as they load 3 of you at a time on board.
Then he flies you up and out through the gunfire to the doctors and nurses and safety.
And, he kept coming back!! 13 more times!!
Until all the wounded were out. No one knew until the mission was over that the Captain had been hit 4 times in the legs and left arm.
He took 29 of you and your buddies out that day. Some would not have made it without the Captain and his Huey.
Medal of Honor Recipient, Captain Ed Freeman, United States Air Force, died last Wednesday at the age of 70, in Boise, Idaho.
May God Bless and Rest His Soul.
I bet you didn’t hear about this hero’s passing, but we’ve sure seen a whole bunch about the thug Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin,
The gov. shut down, “what difference does it make!!!?”)
and the bickering of congress over Health & OBAMA CARE!
BUT NOTHING ABOUT THE PASSING OF
Medal of Honor Winner Captain Ed Freeman.
Shame on the media !!!
Now… YOU pass this along.
Honor this real Hero.
Please

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Military Veterans Having To Hide In The Country They Served

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE)

Unwanted: An Army Veteran Hiding In The Country He Served
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A disabled Army veteran and illegal immigrant living in hiding in the United States shares his story.

David is sore most days. It’s his back and his hands, mostly, but to be honest, it’s all the joints. He’s deaf in one ear, blind in one eye, and walks with a cane. He’s 67 and has arthritis most everywhere you can have it. But there’s some pain that age doesn’t inflict. Terrible thoughts, the stuff of bad dreams. For him they’re memories, and all too real.

David, who served stateside in the Army during the Vietnam War, is clean these days. He kicked his heroin habit and stopped boozing years ago. He stays away from painkillers too, for a different reason: They don’t play nice with his dialysis treatment. He goes to a Department of Veteran Affairs hospital every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — three hours each time — and he can’t sleep when the needle is in him. It’s thick as a nail and sends shooting pain through his arm when he changes position. There’s a television in the room, but the volume is usually turned way down, so David just sits there in a recliner and tries not to move too much. It leaves him exhausted, sore, and hungry, and he doesn’t like to drive after he gets treatment. He rarely drives anyway.

David dialysis

“I’m scared to,” he says.

He could get pulled over, and then the cop might run a background check. David lives in Los Angeles, his home for half a century. He didn’t used to be afraid to go out on the road. Though he entered the country legally with his family in 1967, David — who asked not be identified by his real name — is now considered an illegal immigrant.

These days, he spends most of his time inside, watching television, keeping up with the news and cooking. Occasionally he cleans, but he has trouble getting around, so he doesn’t do it often. It’s not fear of prison keeping David cooped up indoors. He’s been behind bars, several times actually. But the possibility of getting deported back to Mexico terrifies him.

If it happened again, it’d be the fourth and final time, he says. A lot of things would have to go wrong for that to occur, but the stakes are high, and very real.

If he’s caught, he’ll serve time — 10 years, the cops told him. In fact, illegal re-entry into the United States by someone previously deported for a crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. After that, he’d be deported, again.

“I’ll die if I go back.”

How would he survive in Mexico? His whole family is here in the states. He doesn’t work anymore, he can’t, but he gets a check from the VA — every first of the month — and that’s where he goes for his kidney failure treatment. He’s covered, 100%, but there are no VA hospitals in Mexico and David is uninsured and afraid that his health will worsen if he’s deported.

“I know I’m breaking the law,” he says, “but what else can I do? I’ve been here for 50 years already.”

David is one of hundreds of military veterans who have been deported from the country they served. In 2015, as many as 65,000 residents with green cards — which allow them to live and work in the states legally — were serving in the armed forces. And while the military can be a fast-track to citizenship, it’s not guaranteed. Service members still need to apply for it, and not all of them do. David never got around to it.

“I know I’m breaking the law,” he says, “but what else can I do? I’ve been here for 50 years already.”

Immigrants legally living in the United States who are convicted of what are called aggravated felonies — which can include anything from a bar fight or drug possession to forgery or any theft resulting in a sentence of more than two years — may lose their status as legal residents. After their incarceration, they are deported back to their country of origin. For many, it’s a place they haven’t seen since they were children. Once that happens, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever become a U.S. citizen.

For repeat offenders like David, it’s virtually impossible.

No one knows how many immigrant veterans have been deported in total — not even the Department of Homeland Security, the agency charged with handling and tracking these deportations. Deported Veterans Support House, an advocacy group based in Mexico, says it has helped 300 veterans who have been deported to 36 different countries. Other advocacy groups estimate that the number of veterans deported may be in the thousands.

David’s family left their home in Mexicali, Mexico, for the United States when he was 12. The states offered opportunity. It’s the whole reason people come here. “More work, more money, more everything,” he explains. “Everybody that came from another country, we came for the same thing. To better ourselves.”

David’s family lived in Calexico, California, for a time, then moved to San Diego, and finally to Los Angeles where they settled and put down roots.

“My mom and dad, they’re buried right here in L.A,” he says.

It was a family of 12 kids, five boys, seven girls. They’re all either legal residents or U.S. citizens like his four kids — two boys, two girls — and his three grandkids. David is the only one who isn’t a legal resident or citizen.

“I started using drugs, and that’s what fucked me up,” he explains. “Nobody used drugs in my family but me. I’m embarrassed. I’m the only one with a criminal record. The only one without papers.”

He’s also the only one who volunteered to serve during the Vietnam War.

He enlisted in 1974 when he was 19. Early on in his military service, David was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier.

David doesn’t like to talk about it. It brings him pain. He enlisted because he wanted to go to Vietnam, and instead this happened. “What kind of shit is that?” he asks. The guy who did it was older than him, and was kicked out of the Air Force before finding his way into the Army. That’s where he found David.

The trauma lingers.

“I was like a new fish in the tank. I was a kid … I was sexually abused. Ever since that shit happened to me I haven’t been the same. I know that.”

David doesn’t know if the man ever hurt anyone else.

“I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.”

The incident stayed with David for more than 40 years. Post-traumatic stress disorder, that’s what the VA diagnosed him with, along with other ailments relating to his sore joints and kidney failure.

David served during the tail-end of the war as a welder stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington state, and started using heroin shortly after being assaulted. He sought solace in getting high, because it felt good, and because it was available.

“The drugs were everywhere.”

By the time he left the military in 1976, David was hooked. For a while the money he made as a welder supported the habit. There was a lot of work — different jobs in a lot of different places — but after a while it didn’t pay well enough to keep pace with his drug use. Eventually, that led to run-ins with the police.

One night in 1983, David was with a girl he knew, robbing houses. She’d break in and grab the stuff; David would drive. This time, although they got away as usual, someone got a look at his plates. That was enough.

“Heroin, it takes away your freedom, your family, your money, your job, everything.”

He was arrested for breaking and entering, which earned him two years in a prison in Tehachapi, California. His conviction meant he lost his status as a legal resident, so after he served his time, David was picked up by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents and deported.

After he was dropped off in Tijuana, Mexico, David turned around and came back the same day — he went right through the entry point into the United States.

“I crossed the border like nothing. Like an American citizen. They let me go right in.”

But by 1986, he was back in the same spot. This time it was for breaking into a car. David insists that he was just an unwitting participant. “I was hanging with the wrong people,” he says. “Every time that something happens to me, it’s someone else. It’s just the way it is with me.”

The second time bought him another two years at Tehachapi, but he was out in one. ICE agents dropped him off in Nogales. And just like before, he turned around and came right back across the border.

In between his visits to prison, David was in and out of the county jail — sometimes just for a few days, other times for weeks, occasionally months. One time, he went in for 90 days, got out and started drinking, and wound up with another 90-day hitch.

At some point after his second deportation, David did a six-month stint in the L.A. county jail. Finally, he decided he’d had enough.

“It was just too much, man,” he says. “I couldn’t even enjoy drugs anymore. So I stopped.”

By this time his first marriage was over and his daughter was a teenager. David went to a church in his neighborhood and told them he wanted to get clean, so the priest sent him to a Christian home for 15 months.

David arrest

“I got out and I was clean. I was working, I had my car, and everything. I didn’t have papers, though.”

From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, things were better. David didn’t use, didn’t drink. He found stable work in his trade, welding, and eventually became the foreman at a company in southern California. He worked there for 16 years. He remarried and had three more kids with his second wife.

Then one night in 2003, ICE agents showed up at his home. He doesn’t know how they found out he was undocumented, or that he had a record. He doesn’t remember much of what happened — just that it was late, and that they knocked first.

“I said I didn’t do nothing. They said, ‘You’re illegal,’ and I said ‘Okay.’”

David served another two years, this time for illegal re-entry, and was sent to a federal penitentiary in Arizona before being deported to Nogales. And once again, he came back, though the border crossing was more difficult and more costly than it had been in the 1980s.

David says he met a group of guys in Mexico who charged him $2,000 before taking him to an opening in the border fence. From there, he made it back to Los Angeles, but things were different this time. His work disappeared. He and his second wife divorced. And later that year, the health problems began.

These days, David lives alone.

He has a lot of time to think about the mistakes he’s made and there’s a lot of regret, especially about his drug use.

“That was my life” he says. “I messed up. What I was doing is heavy. Heroin, it takes away your freedom, your family, your money, your job, everything … It’s nasty man. I learned to stay away.”

“This is my country,” David says. “I know it’s illegal being here. I feel bad, but I don’t have a choice.”

An illegal immigrant in a country he once served, he considers himself an American, even if he’s not a citizen, or even a legal resident.

“This is my country,” David says. “I know it’s illegal being here. I feel bad, but I don’t have a choice.”

David doesn’t like to talk to his kids and grandkids about what might happen to him if he’s discovered, he says. It’s hard to explain to them that though he’s spent 50 years of his life in the states, he’s not supposed to be here.

“They don’t understand it. They know. They talk about Trump — that he’s gonna send me to Mexico, and they go, ‘Why? What’s he gonna send you there for?’ They know, but they don’t understand.”

So he stays at home, and he waits, anxiously wondering if he’ll hear another knock at the door, like last time. He even changed his information on his driver’s license recently. He used his eldest daughter’s home address — she’s a U.S. citizen. At least that way, ICE might show up at her place first, and he might have a head’s up that they’re coming for him.

“I’m mostly just waiting for ICE to knock on my door.”

His family lives about 15 to 20 minutes away in a nearby city. He visits with them when he can. But usually, if he leaves the house, it’s to go to the VA — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It’s a short trip by car, and he’s very, very careful to stay within the speed limit.

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