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.

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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

Vietnam Veteran returns to Vietnam to put the past to rest

George in vn sitting as soldierI 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.

Article for search vn paper
Article in Vietnamese paper, Click to enlarge

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.

George return trip to VN
George’s return trip to Vietnam

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.

George today
George Today