[US to Lower Mekong 2012] Zoe Richmond on Vietnam and her father’s legacy

12-13-2012 posted by Acypl

I am very honored to have been selected as an ACYPL delegate, but being able to visit Vietnam is beyond and opportunity for me, it carries very special personal significance.

My father fought in the war, and was near DaNag in 1967.  He never spoke of his service much, so I have very little understanding of what he did or where he was.  It was just a subject that wasn’t really discussed in the household.  He died a day before his 66th birthday from lung cancer; while in Vietnam he was sprayed with Agent Orange.

After his death, as my brother and I were looking for paperwork needed for the VA, we stumbled upon a massive collection of letters that he wrote home, pictures he took, and stories and poems he wrote while in the VA Hospital.  My mother told us, that he often said he would like to take us here one day.

And now I find myself here, with a little trepidation as to how you approach a subject, like the war, with the other side.

It was very enlightening for me to hear Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, president of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, discuss the issue quite bluntly.  In Vietnam’s long history, they have been occupied many times.  But it is also in the Vietnamese nature to forgive, not to forget the past, but to move on.

Now the relationship between the US and Vietnam flourishes through trade and dialogue.  Vietnam’s open door policy has been a positive development.  They have opened their doors to international investment, tourists, and various exchange programs, ACYPL being one of them.

Vietnam also has a very young population, who didn’t live through the war, they have no recollection, and they are mostly interested in learning about American culture, and do so through the internet.  We learn that in the short 15 years that Vietnam has had the internet, they have the 8th highest usage among countries.

And as we talk about US-Vietnam relationships, Mr. Hong brings up the legacy of Agent Orange, and how it is still impacting Vietnam.  It is an issue that has to be faced and dealt with, not only has the usage of this chemical contaminated the country side, but it has had impact on its citizens, in certain situations it has also cause genetic health issues for 3rd or 4th generations.  Mr. Hong makes a very resilient point that if the family loses the son to health issues, that family’s future is over.

He makes a strong case that Vietnam is not looking for restitution, but rather for humanitarian aid to deal with this lasting war “relic.”

I am looking forward to going back to the states and connecting with NGOS to learn more about how I can get involved.


Latest Post

Post types: