After school, the boy would run to the place near his house where helicopters took off and landed. One of the American pilots befriended the boy. "He would give me money to buy us Coca-Cola and tell me to keep the change. He wanted to share his loneliness. I know that now." Linh Duy Vo thought it discourteous for a child to call a GI by his name. So he dubbed the pilot "Papa-san." It was fitting. The pilot had become something of a stand-in for Vo's Vietnamese father. "The war had taken away my father. He was never at home." One afternoon, the pilot was not at the accustomed place. Seeing Vo's puzzled look, another pilot made a shooting noise and pretended to fall. The message was clear. Papa-san was dead. "I went home and buried that news inside me. He had been like my father. He had loved me." The war rumbled on. There were other Papa-sans. Hundreds of thousands of Papa-sans. And in time Vo came to call them by a different name. He called them "Daddy".
Hennessy, Staff Columnist, The
Press-Telegram, Long Beach, California - Sunday,
February 28, 1999. Linh Vo: Walking, talking Vietnam
An Excerpt II
The Boy in the Poem
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