Mack Payne: It all started in Vietnam

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Sometimes in life utterly unexpected events occur with profound and happy impact.  Such an event recently happened to me when one day I was contacted by Mack Payne from Florida. As we talked I discovered the he had recently read something I had written and was published in the Gilmer Mirror of Gilmer, Texas, a relatively small town in Eastern Texas and perhaps best known for singer Don Henley and the Eagles. By some strange yet wonderful magic Mack Payne of Lake Placid, Florida and Ron Irwin of Burbank, California were brought together by the Gilmer Mirror newspaper of Gilmer, Texas. The driving force behind this was that we share a common ground and that is we are both veterans of the Vietnam War.

While learning more about Mack I was fascinated. He participated in the Reserve Officer’s Training Program at the University of Florida. When he graduated from the University of Florida in 1966 as I was serving my tour of duty in Vietnam stirring up the pot for the brand new Army second lieutenant Mack Payne. Mack arrived “in country” in October of 1967, where he worked as a supply officer out of Pleiku. His duties took him all around the Central Highlands and even to the Vietnam coastline, Qui Nhon and My Lai until he returned home October of 1968 to among other things learn new job skills.

F-4 Phantom (Tim Forkes)

But in June of 1970 Mack Payne returned to Vietnam, this time as a Cobra gunship pilot serving with A Battery, 4th Battalion 77th Field Artillery , 101st Airborne Division out of Hué and Phu Bai. By then the war had gotten even more intense and he recalls that one day when he was flying some place we never were he became fully aware of his environment as bullets came slamming through his aircraft. He was not struck, he was able to return safely.

As for being in a place we never were let’s just say the official U.S. Government position was we were not there. But my security clearance offered me a different perspective which I am not at liberty to say but you could look at a map of Southeast Asia north of Thailand and west of Vietnam for a country the name of which rhymes with dow but begins with the letter L.

As was the case for Mack Payne and me and millions of others who served in Vietnam Mack returned home with a deep sense of energy and purpose that has helped shape his life in positive ways. He became a highly successful entrepreneur, a distinguished writer with three books and over 100 articles. Payne is also an award winning Distinguished Toastmaster whose speeches often focus on overcoming obstacles and achieving maximum success in life.

He knows well how to arise from darkness to a full expression of joy and happiness. And he has never forgotten the men and women who also served in Vietnam and that is how I came to know this extraordinary man. When he saw an article in The Gilmer Mirror about some of my experiences in Vietnam Mack Payne reached out to me and invited me to join him on a podcast and so I did.

He has produced a series of podcasts focused on Vietnam war veterans. You can enjoy those podcasts here.

He has also written three powerful books enjoyed not only by veterans of the Vietnam War, but by everyone with a heart and soul and a dream to succeed. Conversations with Vietnam Heroes is available here.

Real Success Guaranteed available here and Vietnam Veteran Memoirs available here.

Mack Payne (Mack Payne)

And should there be any difficulty with any of these links simply go to and type in the title.

For the all too many who have no recollection of the Vietnam War it officially ran from August 5th 1964 until May 7th 1975 although America got involved in Vietnam as early as 1955 and Saigon fell on April 30, 1975 my 30th birthday. In that time 2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam during the war. More than 58,000 Americans died but more than 3 million Vietnamese died.

For men like Mack Payne it was also a source of lifelong energy that to this day he works hard to bring to our American population, veteran and non-veteran alike. I feel truly blessed that somehow through some amazing magic little ok’ me Ron Irwin from Burbank, CA was brought together with Mack Payne of Lake Placid, Florida via The Gilmer Mirror newspaper of Gilmer, Texas.

Top photo of the Bell Cobra Gunship by Ron Irwin