The Heal of a Walk

The Heal Of A Walk

Vietnam Veteran shares his reflections about visiting the Vietnam Wall Memorial, writing, and healing.

VetWallWe walked with a purpose, my friend and I beneath the clouded Washington sky.

The earth seemed to open as we approached from the east. We entered a world of tranquility, a world of peace.

At first it was hard to grasp the feeling. There was no indication of instant healing.The names were all there on the blackened surface. They were waiting for us to fulfill our purpose.

We made ourselves busy at tracing and such. A name to remember…. A soul to touch. Without knowing, as we made our way, our hearts were swelling with pride that day.

Tear did not fall as one might expect. It was a scene of resolve, love, and respect. The wall was black and all too complete. The wall was a reminder of what not to repeat.

Most names were unfamiliar, but not unknown. The seeds of war so long ago sown, has made us as one in another life. As one in good times and one in strife.

We moved on to the statue of three young men. They looked as we did, way back when. They were real in all ways but one….Frozen in time, a job well done.

The power of feeling is hard to express. Soldiers of combat, faces of distress. They looked to the wall in a peculiar way. Is it surprise or danger their eyes display?

I am a young man of 20 once again. If I touch them they will come alive, as if to say, “I also can survive”.

They move from the trees, and enter the clear. They move with caution, not hiding their fear. They have returned from a duty known only to them. They look to the wall, these three young men.

We return at night to share the peace. Our memories of this visit will never cease. The calm of the darkness brings a lump to the throat. Thoughts of another time are no longer remote.

There is a time we need to heal. There is a time we need to feel. Those names on The Wall and those three young men, Renewed my conviction to survive again.

Galen Gregerson (June 13, 1986)

Reflections

“Reflections are important when one is trying to ascertain solutions to challenges. Where have I been and how did I get here? What do I need to make a decision? Who do I seek out for input? How many options do I have? Which options are most reasonable for me?What are my liabilities? What are my assets?

As a Nam Vet, do I revert to survival tactics for this challenge, this treating it like a mission? Or, do I incorporate feelings into my decision process? Perhaps I do need survival tactics initially, gaining strength through anger. However, that will not prevail over the long-haul. To remain “living life” rather than simply “surviving life” requires more thought, feeling, and determination.

Survival is automatic for the well-practiced Vietnam Veteran. Living life to its fullest with a sense for feelings is more difficult. The choice is mine, as is the reward. I choose to live my life. To survive life is too incomplete and too unforgiving”.

(excerpts) Galen Gregerson

October 25, 1994

*No blog is meant to substitute anyone seeking professional assistance or other support if needed. Each post are by individuals merely sharing their experiences, reflections, and hope.

Letter from Son of Vietnam Vet to Daughter of Vietnam Vet

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Excerpt from letter: (Given permission to share)

Hi Thuy,

I stumbled onto your website. My dad fought in the Vietnam war as a teenager in the 70s, and I myself have been a missionary in Vietnam and China for the past 10 years, so I’m familiar with both sides of that war. I’ve been opposed to torture since first grade when I watched a classmate being tortured. But it seems useless trying to convince most people that torture is wrong because they will just argue with you for why it is justified. But I have seen the effectiveness of changing people’s views by letting them see/hear firsthand the perspective of the other side through their story of suffering. Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you for what you are doing.

Oh, and BTW, I wanted to say sorry for the way you were treated during your childhood. I want to say that I wish I could have lived in your town so I could have stood up for you or been your friend, but I don’t know if that’s what I would have really done (but I would do it now at least), so all I can say is I’m sorry for how people treated you and that I didn’t stand up for you and that I will at least do it now.

Thank you David for sharing with me.  From a fellow child of a Vietnam Vet, that means a lot to me. Much of what you are referring to actually came from adults although some youth were taught this behavior too. Today it is many of the youth who are the ones educating other adults. It is not always wisdom comes from age, but rather out of the mouth of babes shall come forth wisdom. I appreciate your letter and your real honesty. Although I do experience it at times today, this was many years ago now that I initially experienced this. However, you still took the time to say this to me today. As you are proud of your father, he should be of you.

Sons and Daughters of Veterans, Advocates for Peace and Healing for all

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A Veteran’s Dream is Visited by Former Enemy Asking to Return Home to Vietnam

nva helmetA  Native American Vietnam Era Veteran, Robert, who lost his brother in Vietnam, saw a piece I wrote and gave me a call. He wanted to know if I was able to meet and he would drive from about an hour away to meet me that same day. I said sure assuming that it was pertaining to an upcoming Vietnam Veteran’s Day event for Wisconsin that I was organizing.

We met at a coffee shop and come to find out it had nothing to do with our event, although he and Veterans from his tribe did attend the event as well. There was another Native American Vietnam Veteran named Ralph, also a former marine, who was close to Robert like a brother. Ralph had been in battle when an NVA soldier was killed. He brought back parts of the NVA Soldier’s helmet. He kept it all these years until one day he had a dream. In this dream this former NVA Soldier appeared to him and stated he wanted to get back home to Vietnam.

The Native Americans believe in a spirit world as do many of the Vietnamese. Both also believe in ancestral ceremonies and respect. The Native Americans also believe strongly in the power and meaning of dreams. This Native American Veteran believed the NVA Soldier’s spirit actually visited him in his dream and asked to be sent back to Vietnam.

I am only summarizing the details here, but before this tribe even met me, they were already planning this ceremony on behalf of this NVA Soldier not only as an act of respect, but to help release the man’s spirit back to Vietnam as he had wished. After Robert read the piece I wrote, he said he knew he was supposed to talk to me and I was to be a part of this.

There was no doubt that I needed to honor this request. This ceremony went on for a few weeks with different clans taking turns conducting the ceremony a week at a time. There was a feast and dancing all throughout the night and then different times of the day. There was also singing done in a prayerful manner. Their longs hours of dancing were an act of sacrifice and prayer in releasing the man’s spirit back home.

I was asked to help prepare Vietnamese food for the whole clan, but also so we can set some out for the spirit of the Vietnamese man. My husband was also a part of this and together we cooked the meal. I wore an Ao Dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) and burned incense and said a prayer on behalf of this NVA Soldier.

holding up incenseAfter several weeks of completing this ceremony, they feel the man’s spirit was released back home and the parts of the helmet were buried.

I participated in this ceremony out of  respect for this group’s act of humanity in trying to honor a former enemy, and to honor this NVA soldier and his family.

Pictures from Ho-Chunk Veteran Ceremony I spoke at

See similar story of another Vietnam Veteran, former Medic I delivered an item back to Vietnam for (part one) – Video will return soon.

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.

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