Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Long last name more blessing than curse

My first night of boot camp made an indelible impression on me for many reasons. But the moment I vividly remember was when my drill sergeant, a tiny man no taller than 5-foot-2-inches, said my name during roll call.

When he got to the last names starting with the letter “D,” I knew he was going to butcher mine. And I was afraid to correct him.

But he did something unexpected. When he got to my name, he smiled. He asked where I was and I yelled, “Here, sir!” He told me my last name was no longer “Dounglomchan.” Instead, I’d be known as “Trainee Alphabet” for the next six weeks.

I gladly accepted my new nickname, as long as it kept me out of trouble that night. And it did.

In the civilian world most people go by their first name; whereas in the military almost everyone is referred to by their last name.

We wear it on our uniforms every day, and I always catch people staring at my nametag, with a questioning look that says: “How do you pronounce that?”

My surname is almost said exactly the way it’s spelled: Do-ung-lom-chon.

The only difference is the last syllable is stretched out — Thai people, the country where my name originates from, like to sing their words. So it’s actually pronounced, “Do-ung-lom-chooonnn.”

Go ahead and try it. I promise I don’t mind.

I’ve had to develop various tactics to combat the endless mispronunciations of my name. For example, whenever they get to the letter “D” in roll call, I’ll just say: “Here,” before they even get the chance to say it. This always gets a laugh.

But my last name isn’t all that bad.

I’ve found people will often remember me because of it. And as long as I’m doing well, this works out in my favor.

And I have gotten a wide array of nicknames.

The best nickname I ever had was from a friend at my first in base in Washington D.C. He looked at my nametag and said, “I’m going to call you D-Chan.” I liked it because I thought it sounded cool. And at worst, it was a lot easier to say than “Dounglomchan.”

The name stuck, and I’ve been known by it ever since.

But even with these benefits, I sometimes catch myself looking at a co-worker’s nametag, yearning for a shorter last name like Paul, Mack, or Thomas.

But I wouldn't change my name for anything. It defines who I am.

So be thankful if you have a last name that’s easy to say, or one that only gives you minor troubles. It could always be worse. You could have a last name like mine.

Kitsana Dounglomchan, a 12-year Air Force veteran, writes about his life and times for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]