This story was originally published on March 2, 2018.
As a journalist, the relationships I develop with the people I report on are often deeply intimate, but fleeting. I talk with people about some of their most vulnerable moments, write a story, and then usually never see them again.
But that’s not how it went with Ron Fleming.
I met Ron at the San Francisco VA Hospital. I was working on a story about Vietnam vets and how their PTSD can flare up as they approach the end of life. I interviewed Ron for about two hours. A week later, he called me, and asked me out to lunch. He’s careful to say that he noticed my wedding ring. He says, “I don’t mean any funny business.” He’s 74.
I stall for a couple weeks, then eventually say yes. Maybe out of some sense of obligation. Maybe because he has the same name as my dad, who died when I was young. But really, I just like Ron. He says things like “We didn’t lose that war. Everywhere I went, we literally kicked the crap out of ‘em.”