Chapter 25

The Tale of a Tux


DESPITE ALL the tragedies of the Vietnam conflict, this is the story of a blessing that resulted from that decade of fighting—or, rather, many dozens of blessings.


When South Vietnamese evacuees were flown out of their land, hundreds of them were settled in tent encampments on the northern fringes of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. That was just a few miles from our San Clemente church. At once Helen and other church women began aiding in any way they could. Little did she realize the position to which she would soon fall heir; she was made Supervisor of Weddings.


Those refugees, of all ages, were thousands of miles from their native land; they were homesick, lonely, disoriented and distraught. Their new homes at Camp Pendleton consisted only of huge tents lined with closely-packed cots, tents for cooking and eating, and soon—to meet an unforeseen demand—a "Wedding Chapel" tent. The young men and women, for the first time ever, were living in close proximity to each other. They fell in love. They wanted to get married.


Many of the refugees were middle or upper-class. They were of half a dozen faiths—Protestant, Catholic, Oriental eastern religions. Helen sensed their wishes and tried to leave no stone unturned to meet their desires. With the help of other church women she tried to bedeck the wedding scene with floral arrangements. Sometimes the ministers or priests were available among the refugees; sometimes they came from San Clemente churches.


Soon Helen made an interesting discovery. The evacuees in most cases had fled their land with only the clothes on their backs; they yearned for proper wedding attire. That is where I was able to lend a hand. Or I should say—lend a tux. I am short—almost exactly the height of most of those aspiring grooms. For most of my lecture appearances throughout the country I wore a tuxedo. It was amazing how that tux of mine fit nearly every one of those Vietnamese grooms. Helen used to bring it back home after each wedding. But as love affairs stepped up in number, my tux was just passed on, from one groom to the next. The use of that phrase "passed on" is prophetic. My tux has "passed on." I have never seen it since.

Helen and I have warm feelings in our hearts as we think of all the unions of those young people at which she and my tux assisted. And I can joyfully boast that probably no man's tuxedo has ever graced more weddings than was the case with mine.