The US War with Viet Nam was a period of time that was surely not our country’s “finest” hour. Ron Irwin is one of more than 2.7 million American men and women who went to war with 58,000 never to return, and many who did return permanently damaged. As a survivor of that war, Irwin has become sought after as a person who can shed light on that period of history. Irwin spent 13 months in service of his country and now, fifty years later he tells his story.
In his recent book, which is succinct and compelling, he tells how he managed to get to Viet Nam and shares some amazing adventures. And, along the way his writing exudes charm and humor while conveying some very unpleasant stories. I had the opportunity to interview Ron below.
B. K. Can you share a little bit about the wide range of experiences you have had other than your service in Viet Nam?
R. I. I have managed to travel extensively hitting every continent except the South Pole and that won’t happen. Two guys tried to rob me at a train station in Chicago. I arrested them. Ten years ago I flew my then 11 year old daughter Kari around the great South West in a Cessna Cardinal. Stops included Grand Canyon, Kayenta, Durango and more. On December 18th 2012 at 5:30 p.m. I dropped dead in my house. 26 days later most in ICU in a coma, I left the hospital only to shortly after be diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer. Beat that too. Was a trial lawyer for just shy of 10 years in Illinois. Moved to L.A. and didn’t want to take the California bar exam. About to leave on a 12 days family adventure throughout Western Europe.
B. K. What inspired you to write this book at this time?
R. I. In September of 2017 I went to MCAS Miramar in San Diego for the annual air show. I along with about 200 other guys received a pin honoring our service in Vietnam. After the ceremony I stepped out and saw an A-4 Skyhawk jet which I had last seen 50+ before in Chu Lai, Vietnam. It was NOT an airplane LIKE one I had seen in Vietnam it was THE airplane. Those ceremonies and then seeing that aircraft brought back a rush of memories and motivated me to write my book “51-50 The Book.”
B. K. What was the first thing you did after you left military service?
R. I. Took a job at the ticket counter for an airline at Chicago’s O’Hara Field. It lasted 30 days. I was surrounded by very immature co-workers who would dream of visiting a “stew zoo” [Apartments known to house flight attendants.]. Plus the passengers were very often A-holes. So on day 30 I offered to immediately resign but if my resignation was not accepted I would go back on the counter and the next SOB who pissed me off I would rip off his head and poop down his neck. He let me go. Wonder why? PTSD?
B.K. You are donating 20% of net sales to help American vets. How will this be actualized?
R. I. As each sale is made I simply set aside 20% of net proceeds. Once I have at least $1000 I will send a check for half of the total to Vietnam Veterans of America and the VFW. I would LOVE send many thousands and so not only from “51-50 The Book” but every book and all of my art all of which may be seen and purchased at the ronirwin website.
Photos: Courtesy of Ron Irwin