When in port, we always kept at least one person on the boat, and I was duty crewman this day. The boat was moored to the pier in SaDec, the crew was on liberty, and I was by myself on board. I was cleaning weapons to pass the time, and I remember it was brutally hot and humid.
I had used up all the rags on board and needed some more, so I went to get some from the gun shack at the head of the pier. Walking up the pier, I noticed an Officer and a woman walking in my direction. She was dressed in fatigues, and wearing a boonie hat. As I sidestepped to let them pass, the woman stepped in front of me. We stopped, facing each other, and after a second, she stuck out her hand and said, "Hi! What's your name?"
My hand was greasy, so I wiped it on my shorts and grabbed her hand. While shaking it I said, "Spratt - what's yours?" I had no idea who she was.
She chuckled, and said, "Davis, Ann B." as though I should know who "Davis, Ann B." was. But I had no idea - I had never heard of her before. So I just said, "Oh, okay. Nice to meet ya, but I got work to do, okay?" I stepped around her and headed on to the gun shack for my rags and a cold soda.
About an hour later, I was back on the boat finishing up with the guns and cleaning up, when I saw the same Officer walking down the pier towards the boat. The woman wasn't with him this time, and he was walking like a man on a mission. As it turns out, he was the Squadron Public Affairs Officer, and he was really pissed off. He wanted to know why I was rude to our guest.
I told him I wasn't trying to be rude, but I was busy. I asked if she was someone important. That was when I learned she was an actress. She played Alice, the housekeeper on the Brady Bunch TV show. After he told me, I guess I did recognize her, although she looked a bit different in Army greens.
Anyway, I never forgot that meeting. Twenty-five years later in 1995, I wrote Ms. Davis a letter, asking if she remembered the incident and if she did, I apologized for it.
I received a very nice letter back in which she said, in part, "Bless your heart! What a long time to remember a lone incident, but those were special times in special places, and you never knew what was going to stick in your mind. As you tell the story, I have a vague feeling of familiarity, maybe I do remember, it certainly sounds like something that happened to me in Vietnam in 1970.
"My visits to Vietnam were life changing for me. I can't begin to tell you the effect on a middle aged civilian lady those trips had. My admiration for the work of the military and the support around them has never lessened.
"In any case, whether I remember the incident or not, - your apology is accepted, you are forgiven from the bottom of my heart. Thanks again for you letter, I really enjoyed hearing from you and remembering back to those exciting times and places."
Lots of celebrities came to Vietnam to visit the troops, many more famous than Ann B. Davis, but she happened to be the one I bumped into. The fact she cared enough to come over there, and the gracious letter she sent me makes her, in my eyes, the most special of the special people who supported us.
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