I was no stranger to the Vietnam war, either. I started my working career flying as a Purser for Pan American World Airways in the thick of things – flying troops to and from Saigon, Da Nang and Cam Ranh Bay; taking these young soldiers to and from their coveted R&Rs. The goal for the crews was to make these flights happier and more memorable – a distraction from the realities of war.
My first landing at Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon, came one hour after the airport had been shelled. The airport was a mess with wires hanging, smoke and burned splotches. After returning to home base, the flight crew was given the option to opt out of the R&R flights. Not a chance! That experience just made me more convinced than ever that I needed to be there.
Ironically, my flying career was sandwiched between two wars — Vietnam on one end and Desert Storm on the other. One of my last flights was carrying the 2nd group of troops leaving Saudi Arabia for the United States.
Then on December 4, 1991, Pan American ceased to exist and I fell in love with the wine industry – working for wineries, becoming a wine writer, educator and wine competition judge.