Thanks again for organizing such a wonderful event. I was one of the lone short boarders and younger guys in attendence. I was there for my father and for all of you.
Are there any good links or sites available with pictures from yesterdays event? Just wondering. Sorry to bother you and thanks so much!!!!
Vet: US Air Force 2000-2005
I just wanted to write this short note to both congratulate you and thank
you for putting on a great, first-class event yesterday.
I had a fun time but probably more importantly I came away with a new
sense of the sacrifices that so many paid, including the 58000+ who paid
the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam and those who continue to do so today. I
really enjoyed the photo displays - as they say, a picture is worth a
I cycled up to see your memorial paddle out and sat up on the bridge and cried Ų very moving. Wish I could have actually paddled out with you guys but my time was limited.
Awesome job! I hoped it helped a lot of people.
All the best,
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your fellow Viet Nam Vets and their families this Sunday. I could not make it but I will be thinking of you and your ceremony at 1:00.
Splash a bit of water on your board in memory of my cousin Robert "Mark" Mildner. Mark told me about splendid surfing, beautiful girls, cool cars and fine weather in Southern California while
he was back in Minnesota at a Zumberge family reunion while we were in our mid teens in the mid '60's. This was the first and last time I saw Mark.
Mark died while riding in a Jeep and hit a land mine while he served in the Army in Viet Nam. His family lived in Tustin, CA at the time. My wife and I did not move to California until 1977.
I still think of Mark quite often. His brother Rick Mildner owns an upholstery shop around the corner from your business. You have known Rick for some time.
I am honored to know you and am moved by your dedication to this event.
(I inadvertently left "USMC" as the branch of service that Mark served in the donation. He served in the ARMY if you could make that correction please)
Thank you for keeping the memory of our brothers who suffered and died in Viet Nam alive,
Congratulations! What an awesome event! I was so moved by the paddleout. Everything....music, exhibits, etc. were top notch.
I didn't sell many necklaces, but I gave the cash to the lady from the Chamber of Commerce. It was an honor and a pleasure to participate.
Now, go take a nap!!
Ruth O'Neil "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Hi, Jerry. I just spoke to you by phone regarding selling by necklaces, etc. at the paddleout for vets. This cause is very dear to my heart. My husband is a retired Marine, having been shot in
Vietnam. But I see the young troops as so courageous and amazing, as well. To reiterate what I said on the phone, I make the beads myself from paper (rolling long slender triangles of colorful
paper around a toothpick into barrel shapes.) Since my overhead is so low and I make them just for fun, it seemed to me I could donate all of the proceeds to a charity. I chose Freedom Is
Not Free...it seemed a good one for all those folks who say they support the troops but not the war. I invite people to make out their checks (ranging from $10 to $18, depending on length)
directly to Freedom Is Not Free. I've been in touch with them regarding ways to assure people that their cash donations also go to them.They said I should give the person a receipt, which they
in turn could mail in and get an official receipt from them. Since I've been selling the beads just to friends and friends-of-friends so far, no one has asked me to do that. I also display a small
poster from the Freedom Is Not Free website. I am attaching photos for you. I have about 60 necklaces in my inventory at the moment.
Thanks for this opportunity.
The Paddle out was a beautiful experience today. Thank you for organizing
it. I was there to support my nephew, David, who paddled out in honor of his
father, my brother, Bill Heep.
Thank you for all your efforts. Today was very special for us.
Thank you so much for letting us partake in the paddle out yesterday. It was a beuatiful event with really great people and we really apprecaited being part of it.
I hope that it will become an anual event !!
Best of luck
It was a wonderful day, respectful, colorful, emotional - healing!!! Everything you may have wished. I was honored to have been a part of it. I saw so many surfers I have known for years -
and never knew they were vets...for me, very humbling. I'll get back to you later with photos, and info on the board (where we can display, etc) - but I wanted to send my heartfelt
appreciation for your efforts.
I truly want to thank you for your efforts. Yesterday was one of the most moving experiences of my life.
Last night trying to relate my feelings on the event to my wife and father it was almost impossible to keep it together.
I'm glad you like the fins.
I agree with Ty and then some. This experience for me has been something that I could of never imagined for the last 37 years. My two worlds of Surfing and Veterans of Vietnam coming
together was a true cleansing of my soul. My wife and kids asked me how it was, and I could not fully answer. I said it was really good. But, we all know it was more than that. I've had time to
reflect on it all now and of course there are many moments that stand out. The meeting at Swamis, the dinner later that night, but more importantly meeting you all guys.
Although we didn't serve together, it felt like we did. Being a Vet is a special part of my life. Being a surfer is who I am, and what I'll always be. Finding all of you who share these two
experiences. Man, that's magical. Something out of a book, or a movie (Ty)...just insane. The paddle day itself, the speakers, the dancers and the actual paddle. Unbelievable. So good.
A true honor to our brothers who didn't make it back to the world.
We won't forget them. And we won't forget this weekend.
I think we all can agree that a warm Thank you and sharp salute to Jerry Anderson for pulling this event off. Jerry you're an inspiration to us all. Your insight and vision into putting this
event together was much appreciated by every one of us. You're the man and I personally would of been proud to "saddle up" go on another hump in boonies with you.
Ty we all look forward to your movie when it comes out, I'm sure it will be something special for all of us and the general public. It's subject matter that has never been covered in any surf
movie and it is right on the money in today's current GWOT. You know there are surfers serving overseas today.
I'll be in touch with you all in the days and months ahead. Thank God for email.
God Bless and Semper Fi
Congratulations, I heard that it was a wonderful event! You should be very proud and thank you for including us in your plans.
Congressman Brian P. Bilbray
5oth District, California
I just wanted to say that I‚m so glad we could be a part of the Paddle-out! Sunday was incredible and it was great to see everything come together so wonderfully. More than a few people
told me that they really hope you do it again, and the Navy Chaplain was really enthusiastic about helping if you do decide to organize an event for next year.
Freedom Is Not Free
11578 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 30
San Diego, CA 92121
Thanks for forwarding the article. Steve was committed to work at church that day so we couldn't make it. It looks like the weather couldn't have been more beautiful and cooperative also!
This is a nice reminder of our past and compelling example for how our present military should not be treated!
I want to give a big Mahalo to Jerry and his entire crew for all the hard work and sacrifices that they made to create and co ordinate this past week ends incredible event.
In life their are a few precious memories that find their ways to a special place in the heart. This weekend is one of those for me. So many magical moments with so much Aloha from so many
I was out Surfing Hanalei this morning chest to waist high inconsistent but perfect shape and before going out I found myself getting a rush of Aloha putting on my new white Memorial rash
guard.It must have been blessed in The Circle.
The memory of the Color Guard on the beach and The Circle (a symbol of eternity) was such an honorable experience for two groups I hold dearly... Vets and Surfers. Never in my wildest
dreams would I think that such a weekend could ever occur.
Ty Mahalo for all that you have done to bring us together and my warmest regards to all my new friends.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The special moments this weekend has brought to myself and my family are impossible to put into words.
My daughter Erika put it so well just before she sang the national anthem for the Long Beach Grand Prix in '92,"this is for my dad and all the other Viet Nam Vets who never got a parade".
I feel like we have gone full circle within ourselves. We never got the thanks and appreciation from the American people but we gave it to ourselves on Sunday. As long as we remember,
those we left behind will never be forgotten.
Jerry, you have done us proud! Your personal fortitude in bringing this event to fruition shows the kindred spirit we are made of. We are finally able to lift our heads up and be proud of what
we did as soldiers and as men. The political aspects of that war will be argued long after we are gone, but the courage and dedication we displayed can never be contested.
The best to my brothers,
Just a note to thank you for all of your efforts in pulling off such a flawless and well oiled event. Considering it was the first time out, it was very well organized. I wanted you to know that
my husband and I stood on the pier railing to observe the paddle out and were very touched and impressed with the solemnity of the ceremony and the patriotism of the participants and the
crowd. It was beautiful to see in the most ideal setting on a cloudless So. Calif. day. The soft sounds of the Hawaiian music and the leis added just the right touch.
I hope you will consider making this an annual event and broaden it's scope to include all veterans of all wars. Oceanside was the only city in the nation to recognize and honor the soldiers of
Desert Storm with a huge parade and celebration. Maybe we could become known for the Annual Veteran's Paddle Out? Your event was the kind of good news that should have been
televised and featured in every paper. Unfortunately, good and positive events never make the headlines, but this is a good place to begin to change all of that.
You have inspired us all with your heartfelt sponsorship of this event. It is obvious you invested a great deal of yourself in the planning and execution. I wanted to share my gratitude with you
and hope that this was not the first and last time we are able to show support of our troops in such an ideal setting and in a most touching and memorable way.
Charlotte Wells Dung
The event was complimented on radio 1000 KCEO Today at the "Dr Oceanside" show by Dr. Jessica (Walkers)...H
Last Sunday at the Paddle Out I had my first opportunity to meet Donna (Mercke) Gerorn's son, Randy. I looked into his eyes as I shook his hand..I saw Terry Mercke again, Randy looks just like
his uncle. It was a very special moment. Here's the note I received from Donna the day after the paddle out. I had sent her an email letting her know that I had some pictures that I was
trying to send her. That day was a day I'll never forget... All of our thoughts for all the years... At last, a chance to let it out!
Thank you! Steve Irvin
I got the pictures.... Thank you so much. I've been trying to respond to your comment regarding Sunday being a special day. (It may have been my e-mail acting up) It truly was for all us us.
Randy commented on when you and him were introduced and said that he "really felt something, a connection." And he wants to surf with you as well. That definitely was "a moment." I
felt it too. I am still trying to process it all. It was bitter sweet, warm and loving moments, some of regret, loss and sadness. And, a wonderful day that I have been privileged to experience.
All of you men were wonderful back then and still are. I too want to keep in touch. And bring back a part of my life that I have been away from for too long.
Thank you, Jerry Anderson, for organizing The Paddle Out. One of the men took with him my memories of my fiance James Anthony Cardinale, a Navy Corpsman, killed in Vietnam in 1968,
since I could not be at The Paddle Out this year -- I live in New Mexico. However, I will certainly be at next year's Paddle Out. Thank you -- all of you Vets who participated.
Thank you and Welcome Home.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
I cycled up to see your memorial paddle out and sat up on the bridge and cried - very moving. Wish I could have actually paddled out with you guys but my time was limited.
Awesome job! I hoped it helped a lot of people.
All the best,
WOW ! I spoke to you at the event..............and how after 40 years it finally felt COOL to be a Vietnam Veteran...............
the slide show is AWESOME ! God Bless You and Alex the Flag Man !
Danny Graves (The Phu Bai Kid)
Thank you Jerry. What an event! Speachless.
Absolutely stunning, remarkable, emotional - a terrific keepsake of an amazing event. You are to be congratulated on all levels. Thanks so much for sharing - I have sent this on to
others as well.
The best to you all,
Nice piece! Congratulations on putting on a great day.
It made me sad, I remembered Steve Petit, who I played Pop Warner Football with, who died in a traffic accident right after he got home from his combat tour- weird how life works,
he survives Hamburger Hill in Nam and dies at the El Segundo / Hawthorne Blvd. Intersection.
I had dinner with his sister a couple of times in the late 70s and she always called Steve a loser… made me mad. Like any of us had a clue what we wanted to do or where our
lives where heading when we were in our 20's.
Good seeing you, take care.
Hey Joe, Jerry, Ron and Tom:
I found this story I wrote back in 2001. It was during my yearlong fund raiser where I surfed everyday for one year (Here in NH). I did this to raise money for the ADA in memory of my
father who tuned me on to surfing back in the late 50's. The story is about my best friend Joe Somogyi. He's the guy I paddled for at the VVMPADDLEOUT. Hope all is well.
I miss you guys. (Actually Tom is down the street)...but I miss you other guys.
We're brothers in arms in and out of the water.
P.S. My mother passed away in my arms a week after I got home from my trip with you all. I asked her to wait until I got home before she went anywhere. After you read this...I'll send
you the Eulogy I wrote for my mother.
Subject: Nam Story...
Memorial Day 2001
I remember the day like it was yesterday. The first time I met Joe. It was a hot humid day during the summer of 1971. I pulled up to the Wall around 10th Street to check the Surf.
As I walked up to the cement wall, there was a young man leaning against the Wall. He looked to be about my age 20-21.
He had long hair, and had a bead of bear claws necklace around his neck. He was checking the surf as well. As I got closer, I looked down and saw a familiar tattoo. A panther
crawling up his leg. The claws dug deep drawing blood. He gave me an instant look of like "what the fuck are you looking at?" No words were spoken. But I smiled and nodded.
I had seen that tattoo before. For that tattoo was the sure sign of someone who had been to Vietnam.
It was small talk about the surf at first. I could tell this guy was not auditioning for any new friends. Slowly, the subject got around to the tattoo. I'd seen enough of them in 1969 and
1970. We both looked over our shoulders to make sure no one was listening. For you see, in those days NO ONE openly admitted they were Veterans of Vietnam. It's sad but true.
In the early 70's you did not tell anyone you were a vet. Unless of course, you ran into a fellow vet and only then, it was mentioned in the utmost discreet mode.
Turns out Joe was there the same time I was there. He was Army and I was in the Marines. After a short time, Joe and I both realized how much we had in common. We were both
Vietnam Vets who loved Rock and Roll and Surfing. Thinking back now, it occurred to me how the Vietnam War was the first real "Surf War". Surfing was very popular in the 60's
from the West Coast to the East Coast. The whole country was into Surfing and the Surf culture. Unfortunately, there was a war raging in Southeast Asia and a lot of those surfers
got drafted. There were I'm sure, plenty of surfers who enlisted, but for the most part, they got drafted. So Joe and I were surf vets. We became very close friends in a very short
period of time.
Those days were strange to say the least. Whenever Joe and I were alone we'd talk about the War, and the minute someone else would come into the conversation we'd clam up. I
remember once when I was attending college in Boston. I was at a party, when a group of students found out I was a vet, they asked me to leave because "I was bringing them down".
Joe and I never talked around anyone else. We knew better. There were exceptions to the rule. The young surfers like Kevin Grondin and Jeff Obst. We'd talk around them, but mostly
so they'd never get any ideas about running off to join the armed forces thinking it was cool. War is not cool. And the War in Vietnam was winding down. 1971-72 was a bad time.
We kept to ourselves in those days. It was better for all of us.
But, there was one thing that was painfully obvious to me, and to anyone who really knew Joe. You see, as proud as I am of my service and my fellow Marines (and anyone who knows
me, knows of my love and respect for my fellow Marines) I could never hold a candle to some of the things that Joe had experienced. The more I learned about what he did in the War,
the more respect I had for him. Joe was a bona fide War hero. For the sake of time, the term "Hero" has been used many times in our lifetime. Especially in sports. However, there's a
big difference between war heroes and Sports heroes. A Sports Hero does something he loves to do, is loved and admired by thousands of adoring fans and more than likely, gets paid
extraordinary amounts of money. The War hero did something he more than likely didn't want to be involved in, while only a handful of people were witness to the deed and they got
paid little. Very little.
Joe was a War Hero.
Joe Somogyi was originally from upstate New York. His father, was a survivor of the infamous Battan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. He passed away at an early age.
Leaving his wife Marion,Joe and his older brother Steve. They made the most of it like most families do when tragedy strikes. Joe started surfing as a young boy travelling to the
Jersey Shore and Long Island. Like any surfer, once he caught that first wave he was hooked. That was before Vietnam. Everything changed after that.
He enlisted in the US Army after High School in 1968 reluctantly leaving the waves of the Jersey shore. He became a highly respected Airborne Army Ranger having graduated from
Fort Benning GA Airborne course in March of 1969. Shortly after he was sent to Vietnam arriving in country on July 4th 1969 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.
He was promoted to the rank of Spec 4. He attended the 5th Special Forces MACV Recondo School and was from that time on involved in some of the War's most dangerous covert
missions. Joe was deep into the War that only a few would ever experience.
For starters. Photo Recon missions; when his team of 3 would be inserted deep into "Indian Country" for days on end. Secretly watching and recording entire
NVA (North Vietnamese Army) battalions. Learning quickly the disadvantage of reporting enemy activity too soon would result in "Arc Light" bombings from the ominous B-52's.
"The ground would roll and shake" he'd say.
He told me first hand, how his team captured a NVA payroll officer without firing a shot. "We laid on our backs in the tall grass, waiting for hours, finally, the officer and his two armed
guards came walking down the trail. We sprung up and grabbed all three men, dispatching the guards, and bringing back the shocked NVA officer unharmed." Can you imagine that?
I can't. It scares me to this day, thinking how much courage something like that took.
That kind of enemy contact was sure to get him in trouble. Sure enough, during one mission they were attacked by a large force of enemy soldiers. Joe was stabbed in the arm by an
NVA soldier carrying an AK47 with a folding stock bayonet. They got out, but not before they had to deal with combat up close and personal. It shook Joe to the
Another time, Joe happened to be in the vicinity of a NVA rocket attack. An orphanage was hit and was in the process of burning down. Joe heard the sounds of those kids screaming
and with complete disregard to his own safety, he went into that burning building and pulled those children out of there. He saved over 40 orphans that day. I like to think that some of
those kids have grown up and made something of their lives. I would hope that some of them remember the Army Ranger who saved their lives.
It wasn't always intense for Joe. He used to have a photo on his kitchen table in one of the "hooches" he lived in here in Hampton. It was a picture of Joe near China Beach, outside of
DaNang. He's standing there holding a surfboard. Big smile on his face. Joe had found a way to surf in Vietnam.
I would look at the slides Joe had. It was at the time, amazing to see how beautiful Vietnam was where Joe operated out of. Of course that was before we ever heard the words
"Agent Orange". Turns out, they sprayed the areas he and his team worked out of pretty heavy. Now for all intents and purposes, I don't believe for one minute, that the US
government knowingly sprayed their own troops, knowing that the stuff they were spraying, would cause cancer. I don't think Joe believed it either.
Joe left Vietnam on July 3rd 1970. He was awarded The Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal, the Pathfinder Badge, the
Parachute Badge, MACV Recondo Badge, Vietnam Service Medal w/ two oak leaf clusters, the M-16 Marksman badge and a number of other awards and medals.
He moved to Hampton to start a new life and to go surfing. He quickly got a job working as a carpenter and was on his way to becoming a solid Hamptonite. He bought a house on
Mill Pond Road and was the happiest I'd ever seen him. We surfed and worked our way through the years and life was good. Joe was responsible for naming a lot of the surf breaks
that the kids surf today. He was constantly pushing us to ride different breaks in the area. His brother Steve and Mom would travel up to visit from New York every summer. He was
proud of his nephew Eric and couldn't wait to take him surfing. Joe was a survivor and nothing could possibly go wrong.
Around 1977 Joe started to get sick to his stomach. We both joked about what was wrong with him. Neither one of us having any idea. But Joe paid no attention to his pain. He
continued to work as a carpenter with Norm Murphy. The two of them responsible for many of the homes you see here in Hampton today. Joe was becoming part of the community
here in Hampton. We were surfing and working. Joe being sick was just a temporary thing. No big deal. The war was behind us, having ended in 1975. Nothing but good times lay ahead
I remember the phone call after Joe's visit to the VA hospital.
"They gave me my ticket."he said. "What are you talking about?" I asked. The ticket, was a one way ride to the next world. We were both in shock. And then, for the first time since
I had known him, Joe cried. We both cried. Joe hung on for six months, but the cancer in his stomach spread too far. There was no way out of this mess. Not this time.
The last day in May 1978, I visited him in his room at the Manchester VA Hospital. When I walked into the room I was not prepared for how much weight he had lost. He looked like he
was 100 years old. "Pretty scary eh?" he said. I tried to keep a stiff lip and said "Not really." knowing dam well, it was in fact very scary. Joe was typically around 175lbs. But now
looking at him, he couldn't of weighed more than 80lbs. He never lost his sense of humor though. At one point the nurse walked in and looked at his untouched plate of food.
"Not hungry Joe?" she asked. "Nah, I'm on a diet." he replied. Only he and I laughed. Nam humor.
We talked for hours, about everything. Surfing, girls, work, and more surfing. The very last thing he said to me was, "I'm ready for a new adventure". We hugged each other and
said goodbye. Forever. He passed away a few hours later. Joe was 27 years old.
As I paddle out into the surf each day during my Year long undertaking of surfing everyday for a year, I think about my father...and I find myself thinking about Joe. In fact, every
Memorial Day I think about him. Because, even though he didn't die in Vietnam, he died as a result of Vietnam. And that's what Memorial Day is all about. We honor those who gave
the supreme sacrifice for their country. Joe paid in full. I still miss him. I always will.
Because, Joe was surfer, who was my best friend, and Joe was a hero.