Last Days in Vietnam

I am pleased to report that a new documentary featuring the story of the USS Kirk is set to begin showings soon! “Last Days in Vietnam” is directed by Rory Kennedy and depicts the chaotic events that surrounded the fall of Saigon and with drawl of US forces. Included in the documentary are accounts of the Kirk’s mission from several crew members, including Captain Jacobs himself. The following link is a snippet from the documentary:

Documentary Clip

Please stay tuned for further developments, including showings around you!

Remembering Doc Burwinkle

As we cheer in the new year, it is with heavy heart I must report the death of a USS Kirk crew member. Stephen R Burwinkel of Pensacola passed away Monday, December 29. He was born in Ohio in 1941 and joined the Navy in 1959. He retired in 1989 as a Master Chief Hospital Corpsman. Steve was the Command Master Chief at the Navy hospitals in Guam and Pautuxet River, Maryland. “Doc Burwinkel”as he was fondly called by fellow crew members of the USS Kirk was instrumental in the mission to rescue over 30,000 South Vietnamese, as he was the only trained medical sailor aboard. As documented in the documentary, he spent endless hours ferrying from boat to boat providing needed comfort and medical attention. May he rest in peace.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

I would like to take a moment to thank all veterans, past and present, for their service. Their honor, courage, and commitment to this great nation are unmatched throughout the world. Thank you.

Naval Academy Candidate

Hello all! It has been awhile since I have added new content, but I have begun updating things and will continue to in the coming weeks. Life has been very busy for me lately! This summer I had the privilege of attending not only American Legion Hawkeye Boys’ State, but also Summer Seminar at the United State Naval Academy.

Discovering the story of the USS Kirk started a journey of my own. It sparked my interest in service in the military, which gradually shifted to attendance at one of this nation’s finest educational institutions; a service academy. I am currently in the admissions process and have hopes of attending any one of the three main academies, and I will keep everyone posted as to my progress!

Thank you for your new and continued interest.

“Little Saigon 2012”

You are invited to the Vietnamese American-The Lucky Few on Saturday, April 21, 2012:

Honor the heroes of the US and South Vietnam Navies, who saved thousands of Vietnamese refugees in 1975.
A reunion of Vietnamese-Americans and the US Navy Veterans who helped them on their
journey to the United States, 37 years ago, in 1975.

In attendance: VADM Adam M. Robinson, Jr. MC, USN Retired, the Navy Surgeon General; the former Captains and crew members of US Navy Seventh Fleet, Operation Frequent Wind, VIETNAM NAVY RESCUE 1975; Mr. Jan Herman, Navy Historian and Producer of “The Lucky Few” movie, not to mention hear untold stories and witnesses of the Lucky Few.
Entertainment: Music and performances regarding the memories of last days at Saigon.

Where:

Crystal Cathedral
12141 Lewis St.
Garden Grove,
CA 92840

When:

Saturday, April 21, 2012.        3:00 pm PST – 6:00 pm PST

For more information, please go to:                                                                           http://www.fapac-sw.org/graphics/us-navy-flyer-front-3.jpg

 

Veteran’s Day in Decorah

As you may know, Captain Paul Jacobs of the USS Kirk visited Decorah, IA and spoke at several Veteran’s Day events. On the morning of Thursday November 10th, Captain Jacobs and I went around to the local radio stations.

I then continued on with my day and attended school. That evening, we hosted a showing of “The Lucky Few” at Luther College. We had great attendance; estimates were 90-100 people.

On Veteran’s Day, 11/11/2011, Captain Jacobs spoke at the Decorah High School Veteran’s day ceremony. In the afternoon, we hosted another showing of “The Lucky Few”, this time at the high school auditorium. We had good attendance, mainly students, but some community members.

       The Captain at the middle school. (Kent Foster, Fostergraphs)

During the showing, Capt. Jacobs and I traveled to Decorah Middle School, where he spoke, then returned to the high school to answer questions. That evening we hosted a “Meet and Greet” with the Capt. at the local Elks Club.

On Saturday, Capt. Jacobs was a special guest at the Vesterheim “Deck the Tables” fundraiser. A signed copy of “The Lucky Few” was auctioned for $425! It was a great event and a great trip overall. Thanks to the Captain for coming!

 

 

VAAFA Banquet

On September 11, 2011, and event was held at the China Garden restaurant in Rosslyn, VA, just outside Washington D.C., by the Vietnamese American Armed Forces Association (VAAFA) to honor their Fallen Heroes, and raise money for the scholarship fund.

The VAAFA also spotlighted the story of the USS Kirk at the banquet. I, along with the Captain and several other crew members attended as the USS Kirk delegation. The Captain and I both gave short speeches about the story and thanking the VAAFA for spotlighting it.

It was a great event and I look forward to posting pictures and videos as soon as I can.

Today, I met the President

In a small town like Decorah, IA, we don’t get much to get excited about. Sure, there is the fair, Nordic Fest, and the eagle’s nest, but by now, most residents of the sleepy town, are used to these things. So, when President Obama announced a visit to Decorah would be included in his three-day economic bus tour, the town was pumped.

His set route was to pass directly past our house. Naturally, being an Obama fan, in anticipation of his arrival, I had printed two signs, one welcoming Obama to Iowa and one pleading with him to stop to meet me (a future president hopeful) and learn about the story of the USS Kirk.

That day I feverishly prepared for his arrival. We placed the signs about two hours before his arrival, I grabbed a lawn chair and began my wait.

As I was waiting, I kept seeing law enforcement vehicles traveling north towards the border of which Obama would soon cross. This added to my excitement. Soon my father came out and we started waiting. Not long after a family friend arrived and we all began to wait. As we were waiting we realized, it’s too quiet, there aren’t any cars.

Then I heard sirens. Five cars barreled by, all assorted SUV’s and vans of all colors. A minute later another convoy of the same type rocketed past. My father, who had previous political campaigning security experience said he thought that was it. I disagreed, why would the media call it a bus tour, if there was no bus. Also, it didn’t seem as if there were enough vehicles, but then again, military helicopters had been passing over all week on their way to our local airport.

As we were about ready to go, I heard the sound of a helicopter coming our way. Sure enough, a military helicopter passed over, following the motorcades route. Not long after, a state patrol car passed, followed by another, and another after that. A total of 9 or so patrol cars passed before the first secret service, black stereotypical Chevrolet SUV passed. At this point they were taking up the entire road, clocking along at an extremely high speed.

After about 20 SUV’s, a completely black bus came into view, followed by a red one. Unfortunately, the windows in the bus were completely shaded, preventing us from seeing inside. After the two buses, more SUV’s then white press vans, and more SUV’s, then an ambulance, sheriff and police cars.

It was all over in about one minute. All that preparation for nothing. At that speed, he probably didn’t even notice the signs. Even though I hadn’t expected much, I was still disappointed. We went about our normal lives and I dejectedly watched a live stream of President Obama’s “townhall meeting”, which was happening just a couple miles south of us at Seed Savers, a local non-profit organization.

However, we had planned from this. We had a back-up plan. In the fall of 2007, then Senator Obama visited Luther College in Decorah and early the next morning, before leaving, he stopped by the local gym, Team Rehab, and worked out.

My father happened to be a member there, so we planned to go there early and see if he came. At 5 AM the next morning, we awoke. We eagerly prepared, and arrived at Team Rehab at about 5:35, five minutes after the gym had opened. We stayed till about 6:30, then decided he must not be coming because he had an early stop down the road from Decorah. As we exited the building walking towards the car, we noticed a DPD squad car pull into the parking lot. At the time, this didn’t seem strange, being the entire town was crawling with law enforcement of all kinds, and the exit route for the motorcade was probably going to be along this main route, which the parking lot was parallel to.

After grabbing a quick breakfast, we decided to park near the edge of the blocked off zone of Decorah to see if we could catch a quick glimpse. We stood at the corner of the street near Hotel Winneshiek, the hotel at which Obama and his entire entourage was staying. Not long after we got to the corner, a convoy made up of a state patrol, 8-10 black SUV’s, several press vehicles, an ambulance and a police car pulled out of the back parking lot zoomed out and down the street. We disregarded the convoy as the advance team for Obama, since the buses were still around back.

Just then, my TAG teacher, Janelle Keune, the teacher who was the beginning of the entire USS Kirk project, walked up to us and we began talking. She mentioned how she had heard the ambulance had to stay with the President at all times, no exceptions. She then asked a friend of hers what the deal was. The friend said that Obama had gone to the gym. The same gym we had just left 10 minutes prior.

Frustrated, we jumped back into our car, and raced back to the gym. Of course, the entire complex was swarming with law enforcement. I wondered how so many Secret Service agents could fit into those SUV’s. Because the parking lot was blocked off, be parked in a neighboring parking lot.

We walked to the door, were patted down, scanned with a metal scanner and allowed in.

Instantly after walking in the door, I saw him. The President of the United States, was in our gym. Yes, our gym, in the small Iowa town of Decorah. I almost fainted from excitement. After a quick discussion, my father and I walked up to him. It was almost surreal, I was approaching the President of the United States.

After introducing ourselves, we had a short, casual conversion. I then handed him the items I had prepared. I gave him a copy of my recent article from the local paper detailing my project and the story of the USS Kirk. I also handed him a copy of “The Lucky Few”. I quickly explained to him the story of the USS Kirk and my relation to it and said, “These men need to be honored for what they have done,” He replied saying, “Well, thank you. I’ll take a look at this, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Me with President Obama at Team Rehab.

That was that, we shook hands, snapped a quick pic, and we both continued our workout, upon Obama finishing his, he got into his motorcade, and he was on his way, as were we. That is the story of how the President of the United States of America received a copy of the story of the USS Kirk.