Chapter 2: The Visit
In the summer of 2007, I visited Viet Nam for the first time and traveled to Chu Lai, where my brother, Gary, was stationed during the war. Logic told me that I should find Chu Lai, as it existed in 2007, to have little in common with the place as it was when my brother saw it, yet I felt the strong desire to retrace his "footsteps". I knew that most of the people who now occupy the town were not yet born when the war took place. I also knew that very little of what existed during the war would remain, aside from the shape of the mountain range and the coastline. Chu Lai is no longer on most maps and it was difficult for me to find information about it.
I did not know what I expected to find on this trip. I hoped that I would be able to better imagine what happened in my brother's mental space while he occupied this geographical space. I hoped to witness some remnant of what he saw -- to see the "backdrop" or the physical area that "framed" his mental world of visits to the frontlines. I secretly hoped that I would have a synchronous moment and find his once-upon-a-time fiancé or someone who knew him. Of course, those things did not happen.
What I found there was a remote village with an abandoned airport, remnants of and old army base and roads that appeared to lead nowhere. The ocean was a beautiful blue color -- much different than I had imagined it would be from the faded color photographs I have. Since my brother was a crew chief on Chinook helicopters, I wanted to find the Chu Lai airport. The airport was used after the war by the Vietnamese government and was off-limits to visitors for years. I have not yet found information as to the reasons for its abandoned state.
While I was photographing, a great thunderstorm hit. The storm seemed to embody my tension and its release. The wind picked up speed and the sky blackened. It looked as though the sky was boiling. I had a difficult time steadying my camera against the wind. I continued to photograph in the rain.
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