I was first in Vietnam in 1969-1970 at Camp Evans. I returned in 1971-1972 and was stationed at Camp Holloway Pleiku. This is where I met my girlfriend Phu late 1971 where she worked in the camp mess hall. We were together when I left Camp Holloway to return to the states. She told me she was pregnant when I was leaving. My mom and I would communicate with her and sent packages and she would send post cards through a GI in the compound. I didn’t know they had closed Camp Holloway and the Americans pulled out soon after I left. I lost contact with Phu thinking the worst of two things- either she didn’t care anymore or she was a casualty of the war when the north gradually took over the south. For 40 yrs I was always thinking about her, but being active military and trying to keep my career going I had to move on with my life. I couldn’t turn to focus on the past even though in my mind it was making me crazy.
At first I was going to various sites and searching on my own. I eventually found a site where I was engaged in a deep conversation with a person who had helped some Amerasians in the past. I was asked various questions including did I know if my former girlfriend had the baby or not. I wasn’t sure. I started looking at Amerasian women around the age of 39-40 to see if I could see me in them. It was suggested I place an ad in the paper in Vietnam with her picture.
In the meantime I started talking to a man who served with me in Vietnam during my first tour with the Ghost Riders A company 158th Avn assault helicopter Co. He shared with me about how he brings veterans back to Vietnam all the time to face their past. I wanted to finally try to go back and face some of my demons in life, but did not want to go alone. So my niece and her husband that have always supported me said they would go back with me. In September of 2012 we arrived in Cambodia and then we crossed into Vietnam. After being in Vietnam for only two days, I received an email stating Phu may have been found. I couldn’t believe it. About two minutes after the first email I get an email from another Vietnamese woman stating, ” I think the woman you are looking for is my mother”. She sent me a picture of Phu back during our time together. I was so in shock, happy, and excited. If you can only know that for 40 years I thought Phu and the baby were no longer on this earth. We communicated through webcam. Phu was dancing, jumping up and down, and yelling that’s him! It was so emotional for both of us. For me it was like a million demons had left my mind. The ad was in longer than usual. A woman, friend of Phu’s, by chance had seen the ad. She called Phu to inform her that she believed an American soldier was looking for her. Turns out Phu didn’t have my baby, but she does have eight kids and a good husband. I talk to them often and plan on visiting them when I can get the money together again. We have not yet seen eachother in person.
My return trip to Vietnam was to try to visit places I had been during the war. I was there to rid war demons, never did I expect to get any response about Phu. The trip was not based on finding Phu because as stated earlier, I thought she was possibly a victim of the past. I will say this to my Brothers and Sisters from this War, the visit back to Vietnam is eye-opening and you will be shocked at just how you feel when you arrive there. I really didn’t think the trip would do anything for me, but it has helped me a lot. No it did not and never will rid all those demons, but it’s a way to start dealing with it.
Yes I had all those names and thoughts in my mind of the Vietnamese People, but if you only know how peaceful it is and how polite and so warmly accepted American are. Also no ruck, no steel pot, no weapon, just calmness and relaxed. I want to return so badly to actually meet Phu and her family. I will get there if time is on my side.
4 thoughts on “Vietnam Veteran returns to Vietnam to put the past to rest”
Great story, George! It’s pretty amazing that the newspaper article worked after so many years. Although I am not looking for an ex-girlfriend, I brought her and our “amerasian” kids with me when I returned home, I would not mind if I could find some people who were Viet friends back then.
We have been back several times and searched, I have not had the luck of finding them but perhaps an ad in the paper is another start.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Ralph, Vietnam 1966 -1970
Thanks for sharing too.
Ralph I thought I responded to your comments but I don’t see them posted. yes the newspaper was a good hit for me. I would say it’s never to late to try what might work. The ad was suppose to stay in the paper for a week. But it was in it for about a month. Thanks for reading my story. I always wish others would turn to Vietnam to look for there children or even look for an old girlfriend just to see how they are and to tell them how they were a part of them making it through hard times.
So much of our lives is asking why, George..(Timmy) that article was stayed in the paper for Phu’s daughter to see. THAT was MEANT to be! Time is always behind us and we never look ahead for turning to what we know.. the past. Sometimes the past helps us makes a future without even knowing it. That trip was a God sent for you and for her, connecting old friends, and also it put that Wonderful smile on your face. God Bless you my Dearest Friend and Thank each and everyone of you.