Vietnam- Bridging the Gap, The Vision (TSIO)

Vietnam Veteran’s Day for Wisconsin, March 29th of each year

IMG_0780Thuy Smith is no longer focused on or involved with Vietnam Veteran’s Day events and activities. She has been talking about transitioning her focus and activities for the last couple of years. At this time TSIO has not endorsed any group or event moving forward with Vietnam Veteran’s Day for Wisconsin. Please see ideas below that groups and individuals moving forward into the future can use if they choose. Thuy Smith is currently not on advisory boards nor will she be able to participate at this time.

There are many things that can be done to bring awareness to Vietnam Veterans Day all throughout the month of March leading up to the actual day itself. Here are some ideas for groups and individuals to use, add to, change, or to jump-start other ideas. History and past events (Click here)

1.  Vietnam Veteran’s Day (Main) Committee to oversee: Speaker’s Bureau, Main event (ceremony, banquets- can alternate from year to year), Various Outreaches to Veterans and community, etc. OR, different activities decided and divided among various Veteran organizations to implement. See more below.

2.  Annual Banquets: This is an event that we did for a few years and many Veterans and their families enjoyed it. It is a great time to gather for camaraderie, networking, and making new friendships. We always had a speaker with a specific focus. Entertainment such as one song was the best approach we found since veterans reported the camaraderie aspect was the part they enjoyed the best.

3.   Workshop: After the last couple of years of organizing an event that presented various displays that veterans created themselvesTSIO received reports that these activities and this type of event was the best ever. Many Veterans asked how they could get assistance in putting a display of their own together. This is where a workshop could come into play. Youth groups that have been involved in the past with TSIO events such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts would love an opportunity to get involved to put display boards or scrap books together. They are technically savy and creative. This would be another great opportunity to bridge the gap between the generations and create a mutual learning experience. Once these display boards and or scrap books are created, it is something the veteran can always have, add to, and use for potential speaking engagements, other presentations, and events. It is something they can leave with their families especially their children and grandchildren. A copy can be made and turned into the local historical society. Share your story, create your art.

4.  Speakers: TSIO always tried to get someone to speak that can touch on either their own personal experience or some focus that had a universal message or appeal. TSIO understood that every person’s experience, process, and perspective is different. TSIO also understood that although there are many differences, there are also many similarities and common ground. TSIO always promoted and emphasized this understanding in hopes of bridging the gap through all speakers, activities, and events. TSIO kept the politics and controversies of the war itself out of our mission. We didn’t want to portray an “us against them” message with others in the community. Nobody can make anyone respect or honor anyone. It is something that has to naturally take place. Our emphasis was more on young men who went off to war long ago, voluntarily or not, and to create a platform to educate others about their individual experiences and perspectives. We wanted to use speakers that would debunk the myth of the stereotypical militaristic war mongering soldier glorifying war. We also wanted to separate ourselves from the minority individuals (Veterans and those portraying to be Veterans) who unfortunately would help perpetuate this very stereotype to the community and among their fellow Veterans. Instead of highlighting the war, we wanted to highlight a majority of the Veterans’ intentions of going to Vietnam, which was to do good. Our goal was to highlight and emphasize what many Vietnam Veterans are currently doing for their communities and those who continue to do positive things in Vietnam today. We made sure to incorporate family members to share their experiences and perspectives or on behalf of their Veteran.

5.  Speakers Bureau: This could be set up with oversight through a board that is formed with representatives from various groups, organizations, and other individuals. A mission focus, policies, bylaws, non-voting membership rules and benefits, criteria, and terms can be set up for members of the oversight board as well as the speaker bureau itself. This will help encourage, empower, and promote diversity along with accountability and to prevent any one individual or group from dominating. The speakers from the bureau would be available to speak at Vietnam Veteran’s Day and other related events, civic groups and meetings, schools, the media, etc. Speeches can be done through various venues and platforms throughout the month of March to leading up to the actual day.

6.  Veteran of the Year: This award could be given at the banquet with a nice plaque and introduction highlighting contributions and a few brief minutes for him or her to speak (can’t forget about the women). This could be a way to include your city council president or mayor and the media with a brief write-up and picture of the veteran and Vietnam Veteran’s Day. TSIO tried to put a positive face to Vietnam Veterans by highlighting the contributions of the Vietnam Veteran to his or her local community rather than relating it to the war itself. Any contribution to the community could be recognized, not just contributions made to their fellow veteran.

7.  Scholarship: Create a writing competition (middle school age) with a theme related to Vietnam Veterans or the Vietnam War Era. For Ex: Agent Orange, PTSD, Coming Home, Medics and Nurses, Women in Vietnam, etc. A winner or winners are picked and earn scholarships such as $100, $500, etc. Again generating awareness and education around Vietnam Veterans and Vietnam Veteran’s Day by announcing the winner(s) in the newspaper with their picture and piece they wrote. It also gets the kids and schools involved.  

8Outreach to Veterans: The best way to get the word out is to simply do outreach, outreach, and more outreach to other Vietnam Veterans and their familiesThis is much of what Thuy Smith did to make connections with new Vietnam Veterans who were not yet aware of Vietnam Veteran’s Day, the event, and other activities involved. Thuy just didn’t invite people to attend something, she encouraged others to get involved and empowered them to believe that they had something of value to contribute as well. A poem, other reflection or writing, artwork, pictures, memorabilia, a story, insight from experience and lessons learned, a voice, etc. as much if not more as others who usually do the speaking. This is where the educational events with the individual displays come in quite nicely. This allowed for anyone and everyone (within appropriate guidelines) to contribute and have a voice.

9.   Outreach to businesses and Churches: to have businesses and churches help bring awareness to their employees and congregations by announcing it in their newsletters, church bulletins, and other publications, to announce it to their customers, to have their veterans acknowledged at the workplace or at church, have them briefly speak, etc.

Proclamations: Contact and work with your local CVSO to find out how you can support the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls City Council local proclamation that TSIO has started and implemented the last two years. If you are from another community, approach your local CVSO about implementing the same plan in your city that your CVSO’s office is based in. If your CVSO’s office is not based in your community, move forward with support of other Veterans and or Veteran organizations to propose the proclamation on your own. Many Veterans and their family members can be invited to attend and it can be another way to generate community and media acknowledgement and support.

Informational Cards: In 2010 one of our committee members proposed putting together a card which was the same size of a business card. On the front it said Vietnam Veteran’s Day, March 29 (bill passed in 2009), 1960-1975 (time frame of the Vietnam War Era), a map of Vietnam (major cities listed), service ribbons (across the bottom), National and Wisconsin statistics of active duty and those directly in Vietnam (on the back of the card). The front was done in an attractive red color for a nice keepsake. These are simple to make, easy to hand out, quick way to get the word out to fellow Veterans, their families, and others in the community.

12.  T-shirts and Pins: In 2010 we created pins and T-shirts that can be distributed or used to raise funds to support other activities. This is something people would wear to generate ongoing free advertising and awareness to the day. Create your own to wear or have an official group create one to bring awareness to either the day itself or an event related to it.

Thuy Smith and TSIO has been involved with Vietnam Veterans and their families for 18 years. TSIO’s focus is not and has never been just a Veteran or Vietnam era focus. Although Thuy will no longer be involved with Vietnam Veteran’s Day activities, she wanted to leave her final thoughts and ideas for others to use, add to, or change if they choose. All information can be found on our website at TSIO.ORG

Related Post: Healing My Vietnam

back shirt
Click Image for Website to learn more

 

Son of a former Viet Cong Soldier sharing his story with us, Another experience of the Vietnam War

vietnam_war_mapBelow is a the story from a son of a former Viet Cong Soldier. He came across something  I wrote about and made contact with me.  He expressed how he appreciated what I had shared and asked how we could connect further and continue to bridge the gap between all who experienced and were affected by the war. I asked him to start by sharing some of his story.

You will also find at this link our interview with a Vietnamese woman, refugee during the war, who also shares her family’s story of their journey to America. (Missing video will return soon)

At this link you will find speech from a son of a former South Vietnamese General, Author, and Journalist who spoke at one of our events (Missing video will return soon)

Here is a link to some of my reflections of my family’s experience and mine as a daughter of an American Vietnam Veteran and Vietnamese mother.

________________________

Hello everyone,

My name is Phu, I am son of former Vietcong during the Vietnam War. I was born and grew up after the fighting ended in 1975. I am a history lover especially that of my homeland, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.

I was lucky to meet Thuy Smith, and we found out that there were some common points that we could learn and cooperate from one another. She encouraged me to write out my father’s account as a former combatant, and how my family members became involved and affected. With this short article, I hope that you, the American Vietnam veterans, daughters, sons and grand-kids of Nam vets could have another experience about this conflict. The war has been over for nearly forty years now; it seems to be long enough to put painful memory behind. It is, however, a part of history of the two nations, so we should not forget. One thing we can do is to try to forgive for one another.

Located at just south of former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) divided Vietnam into north and south after Geneva Accords in 1954, my home village in Cam Lo District, Quang Tri Province was one of the infamous corners of Leatherneck Square including Dong Ha, Cam Lo, Con Thien and Doc Mieu and home to the fiercest battlefields witnessed in the history of mankind. This place also was home to the most heavily bombarded ever seen in the history of mankind.

Born in a family as the oldest son with 4 brothers and a younger sister, my father joined in liberation forces in 1968 soon after General Tet Offensive took place. He was later captured in a Search and Destroy operation by US Marines not very far away from his hometown. He was then transported to Danang via helicopter and held there for several days before removed to Phu Quoc Island in the southernmost of South Vietnam. Phu Quoc was a very big prison used by the US to hold captured soldiers during the war that is said to be home to some about 45,000 prisoners of war (my name was named after the name of this place as a reminder of my father’s days there). There, he suffered for almost 5 years, and it was surely the unhappy experience for him. Fortunately, he was set free as the result of prisoner exchange followed by the Paris Agreement in 1973 that officially ending American’s involvement in Vietnam. Loc Ninh District, Binh Phuoc Province in south west of Vietnam was the former headquarters of National Liberation Front (NLF) where he served as a combatant again with other fellows. In 1975, following the Ho Chi Minh campaign designated to unify the country, he joined in the battle of Hue, on March, 1975. About 3 months after the capture of my father, his younger brother who had just came of age was drafted to be soldier of Army of Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). He then served in various places in central South Vietnam including provinces of Quang Nam (Quang Tin), Quang Ngai until the collapse of Saigon in April, 1975.

During the war time, people were not the decision makers to some extents. One has to decide to be with this side or that one. For many times, parents of my father and my uncle were in the deep sea and devils as they had a son who was a Vietcong and other was a fighter of ARVN. It was a relief that they who were on different sides did not have to face to face shoot at one another.

Since the fighting became escalated to climax, especially during the Eastern Offensive in 1972 when Quang Tri was the “hotspot” of the world attention, our family and most of the other residents fled to Danang.

After Saigon was overran by Northern Vietnamese Army in April, 1975, family members began to come back for resettlement. The first thing needed to do was to rebuild the houses from almost zero level condition. Out of about 3,500 villages in Quang Tri Province, only for 11 were unhurt during this period.

It was a greatest pleasure that my father, uncle and other members in the family gathered again in hometown. As time goes by, they are gradually open to speak out their own experience and get on well with one another, but none of them, as far as I know, want to mention about the political view. It is my experience that not many of former soldiers in my region would like to share the war memory with a stranger unless they are sure to know that person. After all, it is hard for those who have been the affected by the conflict to forget those evil days. The war has left a lifetime scar somewhere in a corner of their hearts.

Go to link to learn about another story-  Vietnamese Refugee and her family that made it to the United States

Burning incense in remembering all who were lost during the war at our first official Vietnam Veteran’s Day for WI (2010) organized by TSIO. Learn more here. Click image below for some of Thuy’s personal reflections of her and her family’s experience.

holding up incense
Read some of Thuy’s reflection from her family’s experience Amerasian Daughter of a Vietnam Vet and Vietnamese mother- click image

Child of War, Woman of Peace, Front Runner for Normalizing Relations with Vietnam

Steve, Le Ly, & I
My husband, Le Ly, and I

Both Le Ly and I had been invited by UM Marquette to speak about Vietnam years ago. She is one of many who have inspired us with our work- healing for all.

child war woman peaceFor those who many not be familiar, Le Ly is a famous author and humanitarian. She had fought during the war in Vietnam. There were many families such as hers who were split during the war, and many of the people were simply caught in between. Choices are made based on survival. For all this woman has come through and to be able to forgive all her “enemies” as she has is amazing.

Her first book – When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

Some of you may have even seen the movie based on her book.

The next day we had a discussion with the staff of the University about Vietnamese and American relations. The night before Le Ly and I hung out in her room until about 2am talking about our stories and sharing our work and vision for the future.

Le LY & staff
Thuy and Le Ly with UM Marquette staff

Stories are powerful and I have seen new relations develop today between the people from both countries. There are more similarities than differences and we can come together to form a common bond and work toward healing for everyone. I have been able to witness this myself.

Excerpt From Book: “The least you did- the least any of us did- was our duty. For that we must be proud. The most that any of us did- or saw- was another face of destiny or luck or God. Children and soldiers have always known it to be terrible. If you have not yet found peace at the end of your war, I hope you will find it here (book). We have new important roles to play”.

“Some people suffer in peace the way others suffer in war. The special gift of that suffering, I have learned, is how to be strong while we are weak, how to be brave when we are afraid, how to be wise in the midst of confusion, and how to let go of that which we can no longer hold. In this way, anger can teach forgiveness, hate can teach us love, and war can teach us peace.                                                                                                    ~Le Ly Hayslip

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Click to see more of Thuy’s Reflections (C) All Rights Reserved-TSIO

Some of Thuy’s Reflections Below, for more Healing my wounds of war, go here

 

 

Healing My Wounds of War, Reflections from a Daughter of a Vietnam Veteran

This was written by Thuy Smith about her experience. All Rights Reserved.

You may share this page by using the Social Media forward tools, but may not use otherwise without permission.

It starts with Thuy’s reflection as a child growing up with an American Vietnam Veteran and Vietnamese mother, to an Amerasian experience / perspective, About her Father, about her parent’s falling in love in Vietnam, returning to Vietnam for the first time in 20 some years, Letter to her mother about leaving her parents behind, the prejudice she experienced, a Healing her Vietnam through finding healing, embracing her identity, and forgiveness.

(Thuy’s Personal Reflections)

holding up incense
Burning incense while reflecting on all lives that were lost during the war in Vietnam at the first official Vietnam Era Veteran’s Day Educational Event organized and hosted by TSIO.ORG.

Veterans Non-Service Connected Pension

Mike Haley is on the Advisory Board for Thuy Smith International Outreach. He is also a County Veteran Service Officer for WI.

Veterans Non-Service Connected Pension

 A VA pension is paid to wartime veterans who have limited income and are considered to be totally disabled for work purposes.  A wartime veteran age 65 is automatically considered disabled for this pension.

The general rule for eligibility is active duty service with an honorable discharge served at least at some point during wartime.   Most veterans serving from December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946, June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955, August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975 and after August 2, 1990 are in the eligible timeframe.

The financial numbers to be used for determining this pension are income from almost all sources including social security, interest, retirement payments, dividends, and from a business. The veteran’s household income can be reduced by subtracting a portion of medical expenses incurred during the year.  After subtracting medical expenses from the income, if a single veteran’s income is below $985.00 a month or a married veteran’s household income is below $1291.00 a month, they could be eligible for pension (2011 figures).

The numbers for a married couple would include both incomes and both medical expenses.

Additional benefits are payable to veterans who are permanently Housebound or are in need of Aid and Attendance of another person to perform the daily activities of living. If a wartime veteran needs help in daily living functions (such as bathing, feeding, dressing etc), is blind or bedridden, they may be eligible for a higher amount of pension.  A veteran in a nursing home or in some cases assisted living; they may also be eligible for the higher rates.

If you have any questions contact your County Veterans Service Officer located usually at the courthouse, or other VA representative.