Emotional, but happy day returning item of NVA Soldier back to Danang.
Director of Danang Museum and his daughter greeting me
It is the next day after the ceremony and I am still emotional thinking about what just happened the day before. It seemed like this day was so far off at one time, but the closer it came to actually happening, the more emotional I became. I was even nervous, but only because of the emotion that is involved. Today I chose to stay in my hotel to give my ankle a rest again. It is also a good time to continue to process all that took place and to write while everything is still fresh in my mind and spirit; although I’m sure I will always have this experience as one of my most memorable and meaningful.
I’ve had a great time in Vietnam, but the week leading up to this actual ceremony coming together seemed like there was one challenge after another. I began to wonder if I was off my “path of peace” as I call it. I do personally believe that when you are off your path / direction that you are supposed to be going that things will occur to reveal that to you. However, I also believe that anytime you are part of something bigger than yourself and are on a mission of good (with true intentions), that sometimes things seem to come at you from all directions. Anytime you are about to do good, anytime you are on the verge of a break-through, anytime you just contributed to your greater world- I have seen where opposite forces, so to speak, come your way to slow your focus and mission down. Discouragement and doubt try to come in.
As some of you have already heard about, the last and biggest challenge for me was my injury from Cambodia in which I will write more about in a separate blog. I admit, I was a little down having to just sit at the hotel with my foot up most of all of my stay in Cambodia and then in Dong Hoi, Vietnam afterward. There were blessings in all of that too and I did make some connections and meet some other great people.
As I had my quiet time of reflection, I am reminded of all that took place with Mr. Larry before I left the states to come here. I am reminded of my mission for him and all that I’ve worked so hard towards bridging the gap and healing for the last 10 years. I began to feel peace again even in the middle of my current pain and challenge with my ankle. That is small stuff compared to what was about to happen. I could not get distracted and I had to see this thing through.
(Pic. 1)- Museum Director, his Daughter, Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs, Vice President of International Affairs, Deputy Director of Culture, Sport, & Tourism (pic.2)- Former NVA Soldier
The handing over of the buckle and picture of Larry when he was in Vietnam as a Medic.
The Ceremony was more than I expected. However, I was truly appreciative of it being more formal for the first time it was being presented. There was quite a bit of media coverage on this. There were at least five newspapers from Vietnam and the Vietnam TV News. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. I wish only Larry could be present for all this and even my father. A staff member read an accounting of the history of the buckle and how this day came about.
Then they asked me to come up and present the buckle and picture and share a few words. I simply said I was honored to be there and grateful for this opportunity. I am a proud daughter of an American Vietnam Veteran and Cambodian Vietnamese mother, a proud Amerasian. I am proud of Mr. Larry, my father, and many American Vietnam Veterans like him. I also want the Vietnamese people to come to know the many American G.I.S. that I’ve come to know and love. There are many Americans and American Vietnam veterans who care about Vietnam and its people and wish it the best today. There are also many American G.I.S doing good things in Vietnam with me and on their own as well. I will continue to bring Vietnam Veterans who wish to return back with me. This is about soldier to soldier, Vet to Vet, and people to people. I elaborated more with reporters.
Gathering around to look at the buckle
Mission not quite complete until next day
I woke up the next morning and felt unsettled, like something was not quite complete with the mission for Mr. Larry. I began reflecting on this some more and started feeling that I needed to go back to the museum to do a couple more things regarding the buckle. Larry wanted me to, in which I also felt that it was important, to burn incense and say a prayer on this NVA Soldier’s behalf. I had a friend call up the Director of the Museum (although it was closed) and shared with him what I just shared here. He agreed to let me come over to do this. He already had the incense for us. We arrived and Mr. Mai asked if it would be ok if he also did the same. He went first. Afterward I took some incense and for about 5 minutes reflected and prayed before the buckle. I asked that the NVA Soldier’s spirit be released and be at peace. I also stated I was grateful to Mr. Larry for doing this. I hope and pray maybe by the following year or sometime in the future Mr. Larry can return with me to see the buckle at rest for himself. I asked that this one act of humanity will continue to have rippling effects. I asked that the work of bridging the gap and healing for all continues.
I felt I had prayed all I was to pray and finally felt it was now complete. I had a peace that helped confirm this for me.
I do not glorify war. There is never any glory in it in the end. People from “all sides” did what their duty was at the time. War is tragic- simple as that.
We do not have to hang on to the past because we need to focus on where to go from here today. However, I do believe in order to do this; we have to give ourselves permission to talk, to share our stories. How can a person experience tragedy and “just move on”? I don’t know if that is truly possible. If it were so, why has it taken almost 40 some years later for many of you American G.I.S to come together and acknowledge your experience? It is the same here. If you suffered not only with physical scars, but emotional as well, of course it is the same with the people here.
I do encourage all Veterans from all “sides” to talk, to share your stories. It has been almost 40 years since the war. We need to continue to come together as soldier to soldier, Vet to Vet, and people to people. Our stories are important. Our story is what brings healing to ourselves and to others. Us next generation- your children and grandchildren want to know. We too were affected in different ways and have carried some of your pain as well. Maybe you did not realize.
When I (and many partners) organized our very first Vietnam Veteran’s day for our state of Wisconsin, we had an Aisle of Honor for you Veterans to walk through. There were many tears and family members walking along side their fathers, husbands, brothers, etc. I heard about reunions and healing between Veterans and their children as well.
-Let’s also continue to bridge the gap between the people of the United States and Vietnam. This can be accomplished. I’ve seen it. This is possible even one story at a time. If we come from the heart, we can never go wrong.
We have so many more important things we can accomplish together today.
I could not have accomplished all of this on my own. I first want to thank Kim and Minh Thank you Miss Trang, Mr. Han, and Mr. Pham for the very first article done on this story and doing a great job on it. I thank you for seeing the importance of telling this story and seeing it through to the end. I am forever grateful to you for this.
I also thank Thanh Nien News, Vietnam News Central, Cong An News, Vietnam Television, and all the media that I may not still be aware of that came to cover this. I am grateful. I thank Mr. Mai and Miss Nhu and all their staff for a great ceremony to formally and properly return this item for Mr. Larry and this former NVA Soldier.
Nhu- Thank you for the gifts. You put such thought into mine- a beautiful bracelet that had an image of water (meaning of my name) and dolphins which represent peace (what I’m all about). Then there is the gift from your father. A gift that was given to him long ago from An American (non-Vet) and now he wants me to pass it on to Mr. Larry. I will share with everyone what that is after I have given it to Mr. Larry.
I thank Mr. Đoàn Hồng Chương -Vice President of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Nguyễn Công Tiến- Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs Department, Mr. Nguyễn Hữu Chiến -Deputy Director of Culture, Sport and Tourism Department for their presence at this ceremony.
I thank Miss Hoa Do who also helped me with pictures and interpretation.
Thank you to all my Vietnam friends who also helped with translation, phone calls, etc. -my friends- Thu Nguyen and Hoa Vu and also Vietnam Vet Leroy Duvall. I also thank Bao Anh, Doc, and their family for their part in nursing me back to health and allowing me to spend time with their family. There were also many Vietnamese along the way who went out of the way to really assist me especially after I had the injury. One woman bought me lunch and insisted I did not pay. Another manager of a restaurant refused to let me pay for my meal as well. These are just a few of the examples of hospitality I received from the people of Vietnam.
I thank most of all these 4 people- Mr.Larry, My American Vietnam Veteran father and Cambodian Vietnamese National mother, and my supportive husband Steve.
Larry- I cannot wait to come back and share with you in person about all that took place. I hope you can make the trip to Vietnam with me in the future and together we can go see your buckle placed in the archives at the Danang Museum. I am proud of you G.I. and your experience in Vietnam and with this buckle has come full circle. What you have done is something that has moved so many in Vietnam. This has also moved many people in the U.S., including former American G.I.S.
Mom and Dad, I was led to feel ashamed at one time about my Vietnamese heritage. Today it is no longer like that. It has not been so for a long time now. Today I embrace all three parts of my heritage- American, Vietnamese, and Cambodian.
Mom, the culture was always in me, but did not realize it until later in my life. All that you shared with me growing up was instilled in me more than I ever knew. Although Vietnam was something I wanted to push away from my life at one time, today I am so proud to have this connection to a beautiful people, country, and culture- To the Vietnam today, no longer at war nor defined as such, but at peace.
Dad- you are the number one of number one G.I.S. I am grateful for you coming back for mom and I. I thank you both for supporting me in my work with American Veterans, Vietnam, and this mission on this particular trip. It is American G.I.S like you and Larry (and many others) that I want all of America and Vietnam to know the men that I’ve come to know and love so much.
To my husband Steve– You are my best friend. You have supported me in everything and have been ok with me being gone for long periods of time. You know this is what I’m supposed to do and you have had a big part with me in all of this too.
Go to link below for Video interview of:
Larry asking me to take the buckle to Vietnam and his experience / perspective as a medic (Part One)
My reflections from that meeting and the start of the trip in Vietnam to return the item (Part Two)