Jim Mahon and Sonny Dam in Vietnam

Posted: March 5, 2018 in Life, Travel, Vietnam

Let me give you a little history of the two men whose pictures I will post and trip I will be writing about in this article. Also a little bit about me, the author.



These two pics are of  Jim Mahon, a 17-year-old Marine shipped out to Vietnam in the late 60’s. Yes, I said 17! Not old enough to drink or vote, but old enough to risk dying for his country. I don’t have exact dates, and Jim does not like to talk about it much, but I also joined the Marine Corps May 5, 1969, not long after he did and spent my first leave visiting him in the hospital in Bremerton Washington. He did not look good. He had been blown up by a booby trap, a high explosive device near Danang in the bush! He died twice in the field, but due to a Corpsman’s superhuman efforts was delivered alive ta a hospital and his life was saved. He looked like the victim of multiple shark attacks when I first saw him. Scared me half to death! He eventually, as many other wounds were attempting to heal, lost a right leg that just could not be saved even though valiant efforts were made to do so over many years! I myself served four years in the Corps, did two tours, parts of both were in Danang. However I was an avionics tech working on computer warfare birds, so never left the safety of the airbase at Danang. It was, however, not called Rocket City during that time for no reason! I was inaugurated within my first half hour in the country! I was a Sgt and NCOIC of crews running missions out of Danang and repairing aircraft in Cubi Point in the Philippines. I practically lived on a C-130 Hercules. But I digress.

After a period of adjustment, my lifelong friend Jim, we met freshman year of high school gearing up for football, basically became a professional student after he recovered from his injuries! He has multiple degrees, can teach, owns his own gym, worked with PTSD vets for the VA, and is my hero! He is in Nam looking into teaching English classes as I am writing this. While in college he met Sonny Dee Dam in the early 1980’s, a man born and raised in Vietnam.  He and Jim became close friends and roommates, both going to Boise State in Idaho. During that period of time Jim, always curious about the place he had fought and been wounded but knew so little about wanted to go back and start exploring! Sonny could not go at that time but told Jim his family would sponsor him so off he went.  So here is Jim, still suffering and torn up from wounds received fighting in Nam, going through all kinds of red tape trying to get into a country we did not then officially recognize! Vietnam had no U.S. Embassy back then, so he had to go through our Embassy in Thailand. He was successful after years of work and several trips! He was able to to get Sonny’s sister and children to the States, which was one of the tasks he intended to accomplish when he started his first trips back to Vietnam. He subsequently married the sister, who shall remain nameless for now. They subsequently divorced years later as Jim’s wanderlust and desire to travel was not a desire she shared. I believe they are still friends! During the time he was sharing a domicile with Sonny, his friend was a single parent, and Jim also single with twin boys to support. They shared good times, hard times, but this only strengthened their friendship. Sonny around 1990 moved to California to pursue his career and Jim had a new marriage and instant family, a new language to grasp, so they did not visit or talk much for a few years! After Jim became single again they reconnected. He now lives in Council Idaho with Jim when in the states and he and Jim are not in Vietnam.

This is a recent picture I took of Jim in my front yard. Just before we set off on our motorcycle trip through the Northwest. Jim and I have also shared some adventures over the years. We consider ourselves family and call each other brother! I am only one of many friends, but I consider him to be my best friend! As I said, my hero for many reasons. One of the most determined men I know!


Not long before this picture was taken Jim took another trip to Vietnam and the Danang area to see if he could visit places he had been, battles he fought in, bush he had traversed! Of course, it had changed so much over the years that nothing was recognizable, but still a cathartic adventure for him, in my opinion, anyway. One bridge he remembered as a one-lane wooden structure was now a four-lane concrete behemoth as one example! One of the things he mentioned stayed with me. When the people there found out his wounds were received fighting during the conflict, they treated him very well. He met no one holding a grudge, regardless of what side they were on. He had to get used to how things got done there, a kind of barter system with local authorities, but he navigated the whole thing with skill and good humor.

Drinking Coffee.jpg

This is a picture of the 2017 trip last year taken with Sonny and Jim drinking coffee and relaxing in Ho Chi Minh City! [Saigon] Sonny has relatives there, and now that he is retired he spends part of every year in Vietnam, and Jim usually travels with him! The next several pictures are from that same trip, they have not given me the pics from the current trip, but I am told they are forthcoming! I am told if the teaching job in Nam comes through for Jim, they will spend six months there and six months in Council. Sonny says they started talking about these trips 30 years ago! The subjects in the following pictures are Jim Mahon, Sonny Dam, and Lan Thanh. At present Jim and Sonny are checking into the teaching gig and a permanent residence.

The trio.jpgSightseeing.jpgRestuarant.jpg

A little sightseeing with Lan, Jim, and Sonny. Lan Thanh is Sonny’s girlfriend of several years. You will see her in most pics with Sonny and Jim.

Cake time.jpgRestuarant.jpgJim and Lan Thanh.jpg

They all love to eat. These are all from the last trip in 2017.



This is a video of Jim cycling in Nam, I assume the video was taken by Sonny. this was a 23-mile ride on a hot day. And I complain about my daily treadmill walks! This is current, the video was sent on March 4, 2018. You can see why motorcycles and scooters are so popular. I should be getting more pics of Jim and Sonny’s current trip and will add them and post as soon as they send them.











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