MIKE SAND 05.18.10

In a few short months, Mike Sand went from being a shop rat to a wing nut.

A self-described East Side gearhead, Sand enlisted in the Air Force and served from ’67 – ’71, with a years in spent in Vietnam.  During ‘68/’69, Sand was an Air Force technician—referred to as a ‘wing nut’ in military slang—specializing in the  supersonic F-105 fighter-bomber.

Although his service was of the highest caliber, Sand’s involvement in Vietnam Veterans of America Detroit Chapter 9 in the years since is of equal merit.  Since the early 1980’s, the VVA branch has played an  increasingly important role in the daily lives of Vietnam Vets as they begin to retire, and especially, to grow introspective about the war itself.

For example, many vets like Sand have developed a close relationship with Detroit’s South Vietnam community, and especially, with the soldiers that fought alongside them during the course of the conflict. 

Sand demonstrated this respect most notably shortly after 1975 when he met Xin Dam, a fellow student at Macomb Community College.  “We hit it off immediately,” says Sand with a laugh.  “I didn’t understand geometry and he didn’t understand English.”  Still, Sand was extremely impressed with the young man, who’d come to the United States, “With nothing but a pregnant wife and a suitcase.”

Xin Dam, a former Naval Officer with the South Vietnamese Navy, was being sponsored  for citizenship by a Selfridge chaplain.  When the chaplain was transferred out of state, Sand stepped in a provided the required sponsorship.  Over the years, they’ve developed a bond which makes them as close as brothers.

Like the Fall of Saigon Remembrance Day, held at Chapter 9 on May 1, the ties that bind Vietnam Vets and the South East Asian communities of greater Detroit are strong.  They can be seen together frequently at memorial services and ethnic celebrations.  Mike, for one, has become a devotee of the classics of Vietnamese cuisine.  Still, it the sense of shared tragedy, shared triumph, and the various glories both experienced that forms the bond.

“They are here,” Mike Sand affirms, “to march tall beside us.”



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