It All Started in Vietnam – An Unexpected Connection

person in boat
person in boat in Vietnam Photo:Peter Livesey
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Sometimes in life utterly unexpected events occur with profound and happy impact.  Such an event recently happened to me when one day I was contacted  by Mack Payne from the State of Florida.  As we talked I discovered the Mack Payne had recently read something I had written and was published in the Gilmer Mirror of Gilmer, Texas a relatively small town in Eastern Texas, and perhaps best known for singer Don Henley and the Eagles.  By some strange, yet wonderful magi, Mack Payne of Lake Placid, Florida and Ron Irwin of Burbank, California were brought together by the Gilmer Mirror newspaper of Gilmer, Texas.  The driving force behind this was that we share a common ground and that is we are both veterans of the Vietnam War.

Mack Payne Credit unknown

As I quickly learned more about Mack Payne I was fascinated.  Mack participated in the Reserve Officer’s Training Program at the University of Florida.  When he graduated from the University of Florida in 1966, I was serving my tour of duty in Vietnam stirring up the pot for the brand new Army second lieutenant Mack Payne.  Mack arrived “in country” in October of 1967  where he worked as a supply officer out of Pleiku.  His duties took him all around the Central Highlands and even to the Vietnam coastline Qui Nhon and My Lai until he returned home October of 1968 to among other things, learn new job skills.  

But in June of 1970 Mack Payne returned to Vietnam this time as a Cobra gunship pilot serving with A Battery, 4th Battalion 77th Field Artillery , 101st Airborne Division out of Hui/Phu Bai.  By then the war had gotten even more intense and he recalls that one day when he was flying some place we never were he became fully aware of his environment as bullets came slamming through his aircraft.  He was not struck and was able to return safely. As for being in a place we never were, let’s just say official U.S. Government position was we were not there.  But my security clearance offered me a different perspective which I am not at liberty to say but you could look at a map of Southeast Asia north of Thailand and west of Vietnam for a country the name of which rhymes with dow but begins with the letter L.  

Cobra gunship Credit Ron Irwin

As was the case for Mack Payne and me and thousands of others who served in Vietnam, Mack returned home with a deep sense of energy and purpose that has helped shape his life in positive ways.  He became a highly successful entrepreneur, and a distinguished writer with 3  books and over one hundred articles.  Mack Payne is also an award winning “Distinguished Toastmaster” who’s speeches often focus on how to overcome obstacles and achieving maximum success in life.  He knows well how to arise from darkness to a full expression of joy and happiness,  And he has never forgotten the men and women who also served in Vietnam and that is how I came to know this extraordinary man.  When he saw an article in The Gilmer Mirror about some of my experiences in Vietnam Mack Payne reached out to me and invited me to join him on a podcast and so I did.  

Mack Payne Credit unknown

He has produced a series of podcasts focused on Vietnam war veterans.  You can enjoy those podcasts here:  He has also written three powerful books enjoyed not only by veterans of the Vietnam war but by everyone with a heart and soul and a dream to succeed.  ‘Conversations with Vietnam Heroes‘ ,  ‘Real Success Guaranteed‘, and ‘Vietnam Veteran Memoirs‘   And should there be any difficulty with any of these links simply go to and type in the title.   

For the all too many who have no recollection of the Vietnam War it officially ran from August 5th 1964 until May 7th 1975 although America got involved in Vietnam as early as 1955 and Saigon fell on April 30th 1975 my 30th birthday.  2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam during the war.  More than 58,000 Americans died but more than 3 million Vietnamese died.  

F-4 Phantom Credit Ron Irwin

But for men like Mack Payne it was also a source life long energy that to this day he works hard to bring to our American population veteran and non-veteran alike.  I feel truly blessed that somehow through some amazing magic little ok’ me Ron Irwin from Burbank, CA was brought together with MAck Payne of Lake Placid, Florida via The Gilmer Mirror newspaper of Gilmer, Texas.  


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