By Hai Lua
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Additional resources for A Thousand Tears Falling: The True Story of a Vietnamese Family Torn Apart by War, Communism, and the CIA
One of Ken Kays’ best friends, Joe Keoughan, has many strong memories of his unusual companion, especially of Kays’ insistence on being his own kind of person. “Kenny Kays and I grew up together. We attended grade school, high school, and college together. Kenny was unique—I understood that from the beginning. Most of all, he was a high-energy person with a great sense of humor. ” One particular image of Kenny stands out in Keoughan’s mind even today. “I remember a teenage Kenny running down this railroad track—just took off for no apparent reason—while smoking this big fat cigar.
Like the James boys in the previous century, the Sheltons turned into the stuff of legends and lore. If some who knew them were to be believed, the Sheltons even displayed a Robin Hood touch here and there. 32 America has long harbored a hidden admiration for certain outlaw types, for example the long fascination with the likes of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde, to name a few. Such admiration of the desperado element lingers even more in southern Illinois with the prior existence of groups such as the Shelton gang.
21 For some young draft-age men such as Kays, all this media bantering may have meant the war had become a happening not worth dying for. Kenny Kays also had another, more personal, reason for being disturbed by the war. A portrait of an older, never-seen half-brother, killed in a previous war, sat on top of the Kays’ family television in a blond wood frame. Kenny would have seen the photo every day of his life, a grim reminder, since childhood, of the cost of war. Fortunately, by the fall of 1967, Kays had obtained a college exemption from the draft and consequently would not have to deal with the problem as long as he remained in school.
A Thousand Tears Falling: The True Story of a Vietnamese Family Torn Apart by War, Communism, and the CIA by Hai Lua