How small and sour-grapes our postwar punishment of Vietnam, our trade and diplomatic embargoes that keep the country in economic ruin. How self-punishing and miserly in American spirit are these policies. How much better it would be for our national pride if we offered this country our help, for it is we and those who threw in their lot with us who seem to dwell in needless quandary, who live lives punctuated by active resentments and pain.
Go visit Vietnam, I’d tell the troubled vets. Go visit, if you can, and do something good there, and your pain won’t seem so private, your need for resentment so great.
-John Balaban in “Remembering Heaven’s Face: A Moral Witness in Vietnam” (1991)
To remember the days of war
We have come to you this afternoon
Our old battlefield still here.
Yet how do we find your graves
Now hidden by 30 years of growth.
In your youth like the leaves so green
Your blood soaks the earth red
For today’s forest to grow.
Words cannot describe how we miss you
Our fingers trace the bark for clues of days past.
We imagine you resting for a thousand peaceful autumns
Feeling the loss of each of you.
We come to rejoin a span of bridge
For the happiness of those living.
On a calm autumn afternoon in Ia Drang
Veterans join hands.
After 30 years we relive that battle
Between two sides of the frontline.
Now we stand at each other’s side
Remembering generals and soldiers of years past
Bring back the months and years of history
Untroubled by ancient rifts
We look together toward the future
Hoping that generations to come will remember.
Our people know love and bravery
We leave old hate for new friendships.
Together we will live in peace
So that this land will remain ever green
Forever in peace and harmony.
– A poem composed by NVA veteran Col.Tran Minh Hao upon meeting American veteran Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore in Vietnam, as translated in We are Soldiers Still
“I think a lot of GIs are entering a time in their life when they see the end is near and they want to reflect on their past and see what is unresolved.”
– US veteran Lawrence Johnson on why more and more vets are returning to Vietnam in Post Magazine
“I can’t think of two countries that have worked harder, done more, and done better to try to bring themselves together and change history and change the future and provide a future for people which is now very, very different.”
– US Secretary of State John Kerry talking about Vietnam and the United States in Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 14, 2013
No one could raise the theme of reconciliation without the veterans who paid the price of the war. The veterans wanted relations, and we knew it was incumbent upon us to extend a hand of friendship and move on.
– Bobby Muller, US veteran and former head of Vietnam Veterans of America, to The New York Times in 2000
“You need someone to listen for a story to be told. With one percent of the population serving, it’s the other 99 that make veterans. They are our creators. So I think it’s important for everyone to understand the veterans’ story and to allow for it to be part of a regular discussion. Not that it’s some sort of sacred right that’s only discussed between veterans, but something that is part of the national dialogue.”
-Benjamin Busch, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, at the Prtizker Military Library on Dec. 4, 2013