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


The Nisei Soldiers- Japanese American Veteran experience and recognition

Learn about ALL American veteran experiences……………..

japanese vets
Credit: National World War Two Museum, Public Domain


Nisei Soldiers story and special recognition

A powerful letter from a son to his Japanese American Veteran father

New Broadway Musical about the Japanese American Musical during World War Two

Learn about new musical and documentary regarding the Japanese American experience-

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.

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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.




Nock XiongPerhaps it was because I was young and selfish, thinking that the world revolved around me and that the drama during my teenage years were the only things that existed in my world.   Not only that, but I was a Hmong girl, the oldest of four girls.   My sisters and I always wondered if that’s why he never talked to us about the Vietnam Was. I know that my parents have always been chastised from other family members because they never had any sons, but my father never complained and he never showed any disappointment in us.    I don’t believe that my father ever intentionally meant to neglect telling us about his role in the war, maybe there were just some aspects of the war he just did not want to talk about.  Perhaps it brought back bittersweet memories for him.

I think that it had a lot to do with the fact that we, Hmongs, have never been ones to really “talk” and convey our emotions properly.   Every lesson taught was a riddle to be solved.   At least that was the case in my upbringing.  With the older generations, children were still meant to be seen not heard, and that is how many of those of my generation had grown up.  We sat and listened like well behave children, we were not to question anything, we were not to speak unless spoken to.  We never held hands, never hugged our parents, and never uttered the words, “I love you”.  It’s not that we didn’t love each other, nor longed to be held, to be acknowledged.  It was just that Hmong kids were taught to became adults a lot younger than our counterparts, and being adult meant being strong and holding your emotions inside.    Yet, it was that mentality that also raised us to be passive about our past which leads to our regrets when we lose the opportunities to reap all the memories, all the knowledge of our elders.

Tou VangTou Vang (My Dad Nock Xiong) -ThenI just never stopped to take the time to ask my parents what it was really like during that time.  I know that my father is a great man, but I really didn’t know just how great he really was, until this past summer.  My father is a Hmong veteran, a Hmong T-28 pilot to be exact and my mother, a Thai woman from the town of Nakom Panom.   Their youth spent trying to survive during the height of the Vietnam War in Laos.    We grew up knowing that we were Hmong, and we knew of the circumstances as to why we had to come to the United States.  I even heard tidbits here and there from my mother about my dad flying and crashing and breaking his nose, but that was the extent of it.   It was only this past summer in a muggy banquet hall in Maplewood, Minnesota that I was to truly “meet” my father.

Here we were in a hotel with a small banquet room packed full guests ranging from high ranking officials from the U.S. Air Force to family, friends, and invited guests of the pilots to see them being given their first acknowledgement of their role in the Vietnam War.  Many of the men left behind all of their belongings, photos, training certificates, uniforms, anything that would identify them as pilots of the CIA’s Water Pump program.  They feared for  the safety of their family if they were to be caught with any of the above in their possession.  So when they came here to the U.S. they all had quietly been forgotten and had no proof as to their involvement in the war.   It was only recently that these men began to reconnect with each other, and with the technology we have today, it was possible for them to start sharing lost photos, documents, and information that would eventually lead to the recognition of these men.   It was long overdue to a group of humble men, all of whom I can gladly call my “father” as well.   It was the first time in 37 years that these men were to see each other again.  For some, it had been since their departures from Laos back in the early 70’s.   Watching these once young men, now older, a little sadder, some of whom are not in the best of health… well,  let’s just say it brings tears to my eyes.  As the video tribute was playing you could see the longing of younger days,  the soft chuckles and teasing of the styles of youth, but you could see the tears, some trying to be held back at the thoughts of all their brothers who had died fighting for what they believed would let their children lead better lives.  The widows and children of the fallen pilots coming forth to receive their recognition on behalf of their fathers…for some it brought closure to the hurt of never knowing their husbands/fathers, for the resentment of being forgotten.  For many of us children in attendance that day, the memories shared by fellow pilots and their wives  was like finding a key to a treasure chest and I know for that, just like me, they are grateful.  In being there that day, I believe many of us, even those who no longer had a biological father, found that they still indeed had “fathers” and a connection to a group of extended family they never knew as well.  We all discovered how difficult it was for our fathers to learn how to fly.  They flew on outdated equipment, they flew in terrain that was treacherous to take off and land in, and not to mention in all weather conditions and even at night.  They flew endless missions knowing that they may never return home to their loved ones.  We learned how wives and mothers had to become fathers as well and care for the home and well-being of the children while the fathers were away, or for the fathers that never returned.  We learned that being Hmong meant being brave and smiling on the outside, even if you were dying on the inside.  It meant living for the next day, living for your children and the future of your children no matter what obstacles were thrown in your way.   Even if it meant sacrificing everything you owned materialistically.  I learned a lot about my father that day, but all unspoken by him of course, as it was always his way to be a quiet man, but a man whose actions mean even more to this day.

All my life, he has tried to give us the best of a western life as well as trying to make sure we would remember and respect the ways of the Hmong .    He came to the U.S. with a little English speaking skills and learned to adapt quickly.  He worked quietly day in and day out to provide for our every need and wants, but he never neglected our family.  There were weekend picnics at the beach, fishing trips, and family vacations to even Disney World.  Even though he wanted us to have an “all American” life, he also taught us to remember and respect the Hmong ways of life because no matter “what color you dye your hair, speak English, and act like you are not Hmong” you will always be Hmong and one day you will come back to love who you are.   As others may squirrel away money for a rainy day, I collect memories for the days when my children are grown and I am alone so that I may withdraw these precious moments to keep me company and bring a smile to my old wrinkled face.   I believe that that time has come for me and I am sure for many others like me to acknowledge this…I do love the fact that I am Hmong, and I cherish everything I can learn about my heritage, and I wear it as my badge of honor for the greatest man I never knew.  I may not have ever hugged him, I may never have held his hand, and I have never so much as whispered the words “I love you dad”, but it is never too late to start, and I encourage all of you to take the time and do the same today.

Nock Xiong

My organization and Congressman providing a certificate of Appreciation from both of us to Nock for her father who wasn't able to attend our Annual Vietnam Veterans Day event this year.
My organization and Congressman providing a certificate of Appreciation from both of us to Nock for her father who wasn’t able to attend our Annual Vietnam Veterans Day event this year. I was also honored to be a part of the first Hmong T-28 Pilot reunion. It was very moving and inspiring.


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