Encounter of the Two Sides: Sharing and Reconciliation
Share to understand
A calm atmosphere covered the room at No. 105A, Quan Thanh St., Hanoi, as the children of American martyrs talked with seven relatives of Vietnamese martyrs. The meeting, filled with tears and smiles, helped them understand and get closer to each other.
"My father was a pilot. He was told to be in Vietnam in June 1966, when my mother was pregnant with me. At that time, he was trying to complete 100 flights to return to the USA. However, he died in the battle in August 1966. 20 years later, with the help of the Vietnamese people, we found my father's remains and laid him to rest next to my mother," said Michael Scott Walling.
|The meeting between children of Vietnamese martyrs and members of the Two-Sided Project delegation. (Photo: Hong Anh)
Khuat Quang Cu, former Head of Department 4, Office of the General Department of Logistics and Technology of the Ministry of Public Security, is martyr Khuat Quang Phiet's younger brother. Phiet enlisted in the army in 1968. Phiet and his 39 comrades of the 409th Special Forces Battalion, Military Region 5 fell at Que Mountain, Que Son district, Quang Nam province on May 11, 1969. It was his first and also last battle. Cu searched for his brother's grave for 20 years. He only knew that after the battle, the US soldiers buried his brother's body in a collective grave. However, there was no information about the exact location.
Even though the remains have not been found, the martyrs' families wanted to build a monument to honor them so that their souls have shelter. Anh Linh Monument was built by martyrs' families and agencies, departments, and branches of Quang Nam and other provinces. Located on the land where the soldiers fell, the monument is a memorial site for 40 martyrs.
"American friends have helped me a lot to find my brother. They provided documents about the day he fought and fell. In return, we also tried to help them find their missing relatives. I helped Dona, whose brother was a pilot who died in Khe Sanh (Quang Tri) in 1970, to find information about her brother. To realize her mother's wish, she came to Vietnam more than 10 times to look for her brother's remains but it was hopeless. In April 2016, I helped introduce her and RotB (an American organization) to the Vietnam-USA Society and Vietnamese authorities, thereby conveying her wish. During her visit to Vietnam in the same year, she and the RotB provided the Ministry of Defense with information related to five burial sites of Vietnamese martyrs. Unfortunately, Dona passed away due to cancer at the end of 2016 before receiving the final information about her brother," said Cu.
Heal the pain together
According to Margot C. Delogne, founder and CEO of 2SP, her father, John W. Carlson, served in the US Air Force. On December 7, 1966, his plane was shot down in Bien Hoa when her sisters were 2 and 4 years old. His remains have not yet been found. He is still on the list of American soldiers missing in the war in Vietnam.
|Khuat Quang Cu presented a Vietnamese conical hat to Margot C. Delogne. (Photo: Hong Anh)
"During his six months in Vietnam, my father expressed his feelings through his writings about Vietnam and its people, especially children. Experiencing loss, I thought of the sons and daughters on the other side of the battle. Many of them have also been suffering the same pain as me," she said.
With the spirit of peace, solidarity, friendship, reconciliation, looking to the future, and promoting mutual understanding, she established the Two-Side Project (2SP), which was participated by many children of American veterans and martyrs. They went to Vietnam together to learn about the history, the country, the people, and the pain of war. During the trip, they visited areas where their relatives fought and lay down. Members of the delegation met, interacted, and made friends with Vietnamese martyrs' relatives. Through meetings, the two sides share and reminisce about their loved ones, thereby better understanding each other and contributing to healing the wounds of war.
Nguyen Thanh Thuy (Tran Lam ward, Thai Binh city, Thai Binh province) is martyr Nguyen Thanh Toan's daughter. Toan died in 1969 in Pho Cuong commune, Duc Pho district, Quang Ngai province when Thuy was five months old. It took her 20 difficult years to find her father's remains. Concerned about people who yearn to find their relatives' remains like her family, Thuy joined the Association to Support Families of Martyrs in Thai Binh. She traveled to martyrs' cemeteries across Vietnam to take photos of nearly 4,000 tombstones to deliver to volunteers in the provinces. In Thai Binh, she connected and informed 97 families of martyrs. She also supported bringing 6 martyrs home and is currently supporting 8 other families.
Thuy hopes that American veterans and relatives of American soldiers missing or killed in the war in Vietnam will work together to heal the wounds of war. She calls American veterans to provide information for the Vietnamese side to search for soldiers who are still missing since the war and return Vietnamese soldiers' memorabilia that they have collected and stored. She proposes that the US government boost overcoming the consequences of war and supporting victims of Agent Orange/dioxin to compensate for their loss and pain partially.
At the meeting, the 2SP delegation shared their feelings about the country and people of Vietnam who love peace and are willing to close the past and look forward to the future. They stated that Vietnam - US relations is a model in modern international relations, from former enemies to friends. The relations between the two countries are increasingly consolidated and developed.
2SP has implemented the "Peace House" project in Vietnam since 2020. They have so far provided aid to build 11 houses with a total value of more than VND 800 million in four provinces and cities in Central and Southern Vietnam, including Quang Tri, An Giang, Bac Lieu, and Ho Chi Minh City.
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