Nov 062012
 
Terrieng villager Ban Bouang Kaleum

Terrieng villager Ban Bouang Kaleum

 

Teriang Ethnic villager Ban Laboy Southern Laos

Teriang Ethnic villager Ban Laboy Southern Laos

 

Sekhai Market just outside Vientiane

Sekhai Market just outside Vientiane

 

Kids pulling a handmade cart

 

Banana seller Lao Bao on Road 9

Banana seller Lao Bao on Road 9

 

fuel-lady

Pepsi bottle with Gasoline, No Smoking!

 

Xam Neua Northern Laos

Xam Neua Northern Laos

 

Kareum district home made toys

Kareum district home made toys

 

Akha Tribal Villager Muang Sing District

Akha Tribal Villager Muang Sing District

 

Sam Lien Thon Kham

Sam Lien Thon Kham

 

Ban Laboy On the Ho Chi Minh trail

Ban Laboy On the Ho Chi Minh trail

 

Hmong Festival Phou Khoun District Laos

Hmong Festival Phou Khoun District Laos

 

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

 

villager-on-the-trail1

 

Hmong festival

 

Brau-villager

Brau Ethnic People Southern Provinces of Laos

 

LS-108-pho

Support base, local girl eating noodle soup. Northern Laos

 

Tribal Villager Northern Laos selling Chinese beer

Tribal Villager Northern Laos selling Chinese beer

 

Villager Nong Fa Southern Laos

Villager Nong Fa Southern Laos

 

,

Tribal villager on the Ho Chi Minh trail

Tribal villager Ban La Hap, on the Ho Chi Minh trail

 

Hmong Festival and Phone

Hmong Festival and Phone

 

tribal villager sticky rice

tribal villager sticky rice

 

Katu Villager, tribal celebration

Katu Villager, tribal celebration

 

nongfakid

Riding a bike Nongfa Lake Attepeu Southern Laos

 

Hmong man with a freshly killed buffalo head

 

woman-pipe

Tribal villager and son gathering wood Lao Vietnam border

 

hill-tribe

Meo villager Phongsali district Northern Laos

 

marker-kids

Viengthong 53 km

 

Phongsali province young student reading

Phongsali province young student reading

 

Pou Noi villagers weaving at  young age

Pou Noi villagers weaving at young age

 

 

Ngai Villager Dak Cheung district Southern Laos

Ngai Villager Dak Cheung district Southern Laos

 

Villagers collecting wood high in the mountains  Phongsali province

Villagers collecting wood high in the mountains Phongsali province

 

old-woman-pipe-smoker

Tribal villager and son on the Ho Chi Minh trail Laos

 

jack-hammer

Jackhammer crew, on mountain cut Kasi District

 

monk-tattoo

Buddhist Monk Vientiane province

 

Local fisherman on the Tonle Repeu river border with Cambodia

Local fisherman on the Tonle Repeu river border with Cambodia

 

bkid-honda

Xam Neua province Big smile from kid on a scooter

 

Ta-Oy-villagers

Ethnic villagers along a remote section of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
What, never seen a foreigner before?

 

kid-coconut

Coconut Kid, a young tribal villager carrying water to the village

 

Laosgpsmap Kmu Village Luang Prabang Province

Laosgpsmap Kmu Village Luang Prabang Province

 

pushing-tuk-tuk

Red Mud and big smiles chugging a load of fresh cut timber.

 

ethnic-kids

Ethnic villagers smoking at a young age

 

young-face

Young child helping here family sell vegetables on the side of the road Hongsa

 

akha

Akha tribes people Oudomxay province Northern Laos

 

Dakcheung Province, crossbow hunting

 

LaosGPSmap-Cooking

LaosGPSmap-Cooking breakfast Kmu village

 

ban-bac

Ban Bac children posing for the camera

 

young-farmer

Children are encouraged to help out from an early age, as seen here in this Hmong village Nong Het district Northern Laos

 

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

Alak Village Kaleum Ho Chi Minh trail Southern Laos

 

plowman

Farmer carrying field plow, Phonsavan Northern Laos

 

Pounoy Tribes people Phongsali Province Nothern Laos, these indigenous tribespeople are preparing for a funeral party.

Pounoy Tribes people Phongsali Province Nothern Laos, these indigenous tribespeople are preparing for a funeral party.

 

small-girl

Hua Pan province, happy girl Houay Ma village

 

akha-vill

Akha hill tribe, Ban Boun Tai Northern Laos, blue dye on here hands is from working with weaving products.

 

chain-saw

Chain saw man, the saw is as big as the bike, Logging is a bustling trade with wood prices very high due to demand in China.

 

cowgirl

Cow girl getting the herd home before the storm hits.
Ponsavan, Northern Laos

 

Akha woman in the Jungle

 

grass-carry

Hmong Villager Muang Pek District Norhern Laos

 

gSeller

Motorcycle seller, Vientiane province

 

Goldpanner

Goldpanning Ban San Noi Northern Laos

 

gunmaker

Phongsali District man making gun from scratch

 

Kasi district Local kids taking a break from rice farming

 

red-miner

local villager mining gold, Nonghet district Northern laos

 

Hmong New Year Xieng Khouang Laos Plain of Jars

Hmong New Year Xieng Khouang Laos Plain of Jars

 

Village girl fishing Kamouane province

 

Kids in a cart in the rain, Gnomalat

 

Old woman with small fish for dinner..

 

Crossbow hunting

 

Village elder along the Ho Chi Minh trail

 

Ta Oy Villager

 

 

Ta Oy district

 

fountain-fun2

Kids swimming in a fountain Muang Xai District Northern Laos

 

Brau ethnic villager Attepue province

 

Dak Cheung district woman smoking a big cigar.

 

water-pipe-smoker

Ban Bang, Karuem district Ta Oy villager and her baby.

 

kids-fish-traps

Bouarapha district 3 kids posing with fish traps

 

fisherman

Catch of the day Saravanh Southern Laos

 

breakfast

Morning light the Mae Ban prepairing breakfast

 

Mounpalok District Southern Laos young girl going to school

Mounpalok District Southern Laos young girl going to school

 

Weaver in village Northern Laos

Weaver in village Northern Laos

Army Checkpoint and Cha Hawn

Army Checkpoint and Cha Hawn

Nov 032012
 

all-ways keep the leather-man handy

 

Welding and fixing flats all part of the game!

 

 

good morning Xaibouathong nothing like changing a flat before breakfast

good morning Xaibouathong nothing like changing a flat before breakfast

 

Lucky for me this flat tire was near a village so I had lots of help!

 

Many hands make light work, fun changing flat tires!

 

Everyone is anxious to take a turn working on the tire, great fun.

 

Amazing these villagers, pitch in, to get the job done

 

Another close call it pays to get off the bike and have a look now and again.

 

Lady tire changer near Xanakham Laos, quick and efficient

 

Service with a smile

 

tire-tools

Villagers stopping to see what the Midnite mapper is doing to his wheel, show off there tools

 

flat-tire

Thorn in the tire caused this flat, plenty of spectators on their way to working in the fields

 

flat-tire-kids1

Nocturnal tube change lighting supplied by “Dek Noi”.

 

Nice place for a flat next to a refreshing stream

Nice place for a flat next to a refreshing stream

 

Survey trip Kilometer Sip Kaow Road 10, close call

Survey trip Kilometer Sip Kaow Road 10, close call but no air escaped!

Oct 192012
 
Ho chi minh trail

The Author, with a wing from F4 fighter lost near Dachung Laos

U.S. Air Force Maj. Wendell Keller and his co-pilot, Lt. Virgil ‘Mike’ Meroney, prowl the night sky above Laos in their F-4D Phantom jet, on the lookout for North Vietnamese forces stealthily making their way along the Ho Chi Minh Trail far below.

Muzzle flashes suddenly reveal the location of anti-aircraft guns.

Nearly out of rockets and bombs after striking at suspected enemy positions for the past half hour, Keller takes only a moment to decide that his wingman, who is flying an F-4D Phantom nearby, needs protection.

Radioing his intentions to a spotter plane that has been helping direct his attacks, Keller points his plane into a dive and sends a volley of rockets sizzling and snarling into the darkness.

In the spotter plane, members of Keller’s squad watch as tracer bullets stream skyward from the ground.

Fear grows when they see the sulfurous arcs suddenly terminate, indicating the fiery slugs have encountered something.

Simultaneously, small blooms of fire erupt on the ground as Keller’s rockets hit their mark.

Moments later, the flashes are dwarfed by a much larger explosion nearby.

Keller’s wingman immediately calls “Mayday, mayday, mayday” on an emergency channel before attempting to raise Keller on the radio.

But the calls go unanswered as the wingman circles above the Laotian landscape, which has again fallen dark.

The jet fighter eventually runs low on fuel, and its pilot reluctantly turns toward home, a U.S. airbase in Thailand.

For the next week, radio frequencies are closely monitored, but Keller and Meroney are not heard from again.

Unexpected news

Michael Keller knows the story well, having collected declassified data on the mission and accounts of the incident published in military magazines.

And for most of his life he has understood that his father died that night in 1969, flying over the jungles of Laos.

“I pretty much knew he had been killed in action, and I just thought that, after all these years, they’d never find anything,” said Keller, who lives in West Fargo.

But in 2010, more than 40 years after his father’s plane went down, a search team traveled to Laos to take a closer look at a spot that had been identified many years before as a crash site.

Keller said at first he and his family weren’t very hopeful because the region saw heavy action during the Vietnam War and many planes were lost in the area.

But then the news came: Searchers had found a tattered ID card belonging to Maj. Wendell Keller, along with samples of human remains, which were sent to the United States.

Since then, it has been confirmed that the remains were those of his father, Maj. Keller, and of his father’s co-pilot, Lt. Meroney, both of whom received promotions in rank after their deaths.

Both will be honored on Friday at a funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., where co-mingled remains of the airmen will be laid to rest.

There will be another service later at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., for individual remains identified as belonging to Wendell Keller.

Phantom memorial

Michael Keller, who was 4 years old in 1969, said he always felt his father was a hero, but those feelings intensified when he learned the site of his father’s plane crash had likely been found.

In honor of his father and as an outlet for his feelings, Keller began building a scale model of his father’s F-4D Phantom, a task that took him the better part of a winter to complete.

Starting with a stock kit, he customized the model to recreate precisely the look of the plane his father flew for the last time on March 1, 1969.

He also put together a display that has been shown at the Fargo Air Museum, and he collected stacks of documents from his father’s career, including flight logs from the years his father, a graduate of North Dakota State University, was stationed in the Red River Valley and flew out of the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

Keller said his dad was always busy flying and he did not see him much before he left for Vietnam.

He remembers his father as a man of few words who was always gentle and caring toward his family.

Keller keeps a letter he wrote about his father in 1972 when he was 7 or 8 years old.

With boyish misspellings preserved, it reads in part:

“My Dad is Maj. Wendell Keller. He is a POW MIA. In the war.

“He has been gone sence March 1, 1969. I am hoping he will come back. Our holl family is very sad about our dad.

“If he comes back I am going to tell him not to go back to the war. I have been sorry about him. I have only seen him about five times.

“I wish and wish for him to come back. He has been in the war sence I was a little boy. I was about two then.

“Every one feels sorry about him,” the letter concludes. “They wish he would come back too.”

Lingering pain

Michael Keller plans to be in Washington on Friday to welcome his father home.

But it looks like his mother, Jacqueline Keller, won’t be there.

The reason is a painful one and harks back to 1975, according to Keller, who said that was the year the widow of his father’s co-pilot asked the Air Force to change her husband’s status from missing in action to killed in action so that she could remarry.

The Air Force granted the request, but at the same time it also changed Wendell Keller’s status to killed in action, even though it did not have a written request from his family to do so.

“Which was a mistake on their part,” Keller said.

“What it did, basically, it denied my mother benefits that should have been available to her,” he said.

“This has created a huge hardship for my mother,”Keller said, adding that his mother, who never remarried, raised him and his older brother, Gregory, on her own.

Keller said his family learned of the Air Force’s error 20 years after it was made and he said the military eventually admitted its mistake, offering what Keller describes as a small settlement.

Since then, his mother has fought for additional compensation.

From her home in Colorado, Jacqueline Carol Tessier Keller, a graduate of Fargo Shanley High School, said she would like to attend the honors ceremony at Arlington, but she is too upset to participate, given her ongoing frustration with the Air Force.

“They spoiled for me what should have been a joyous occasion,” she said.

While the government agreed to scrub its 1975 decision and push back the date of her husband’s killed-in-action status by several years, which resulted in her receiving full benefits, Keller said the move came 22 years after the fact and the back pay she received did not take into account inflation and lost interest.

She’s also looking for compensation for the error.

“Thirty-seven years ago, the Air Force made a serious mistake and legal error, improperly changing the status of my husband, Col. Wendell Keller, who was shot down over Laos in 1969,” Jacqueline Keller said.

“That admitted mistake has cost me dearly, and the cost continues to mount,” she said. “The acknowledged error robbed me and my family of a great deal, and this error has yet to be fairly and properly corrected, despite my best efforts over the decades.”

The story of her disagreement with the Air Force can be found on her website: http://hm.dinofly.com/JCK/.

While he understands his mother’s feelings, Michael Keller said he doesn’t want that aspect of his family’s story to detract from what he believes should be the focus right now: the services planned at Arlington.

“I want my father to be honored for the hero he is,” Keller said.