Vietnam vet who gave up Bob Hope ticket five decades ago finally fulfills dream

Five decades ago in Vietnam, Villager Herb Boyce gave up a chance to see Bob Hope perform. This week, with a little help from his wife, Hedy, Boyce finally saw a Bob Hope show in Savannah Center.

Boyce was an Army MP serving in Vietnam. Hope was coming through on a USO tour to an air base at Cam Ranh Bay in what was then South Vietnam. “Everybody wanted to see Bob Hope,” Boyce said.

Villager Herb Boyce and his wife, Hedy, enjoy Thursday’s Bob Hope tribute show at Savannah Center. Herb missed seeing the comedic legend in Vietnam five decades ago but made up for it with the show in The Villages that benefitted Sgt. Pam Kelly, an Army medic who became a quadriplegic in 2002 while on active duty.

Tickets were a precious commodity, and Boyce knew he was lucky to have one. But shortly before the show, he ran into a despondent fellow soldier.

“His wife just had a baby back in States and he was so down,” Boyce said. “I mean, this guy was about as low as you can go. You could see it on his face.

“I felt so sorry for him. I didn’t know him, but when he told me about his wife and how much he wanted to be with her and the baby, I had to do something to cheer him up. So I gave him my Bob Hope ticket.”

“My husband did a wonderful thing,” Hedy Boyce said. “I never forgot that story and I always wanted to do something about it.”

Bob Hope performs a show for military service members at Cam Rahn Bay in South Vietnam in the late 1960s.

On Thursday, Villagers for Veterans brought a Bob Hope tribute show titled “Bob Hope and Friends USO” to Savannah Center. Bill Johnson, who regularly portrays Hope all over the country, and fellow impersonator Holly Faris performed in the show that was put on by Villagers for Veterans as a benefit for Sgt. Pam Kelly, an Army medic who became a quadriplegic in 2002 while on active duty. The group is raising money to build a “smart” home for Kelly in The Villages.

Hedy decided to buy a couple of tickets – to help Kelly and also to complete her husband’s goal of seeing a Bob Hope show.

Bill Johnson brings comedic legend Bob Hope to life in the Savannah Center on Thursday night.

“This is a special night,” Hedy said Thursday, while sitting in the front row and holding a couple of American flags in her hand. “Here we are.”

Herb, like everyone else in Savannah Center, was laughing at Johnson doing Bob Hope jokes and Faris imitating Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller.

It was just like a Bob Hope USO show that might have played Cam Ranh Bay back in the day.

“This is a lot of fun,” Herb said, as his wife handed him a small American flag.

He waved the flag at the stage and smiled. For Herb, on this night, one Vietnam journey finally was completed.

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