VNF - On March 6 in Hanoi, nearly 100 American, Vietnamese veterans - who were enemies in the fierce war more than 50 years ago had a very touching reunion at the talk "Lessons from the past - Creating a brighter future" organized by the Vietnam - US Society in association with the Vietnam Veterans Association.
Mr. Nguyen Tam Chien (right), President of the Vietnam – US Society, chairs the talk
Set aside the painful past
In 1968, Dan Shea, a 19-year-old man from the US Marines, first came to Vietnam and stationed in Danang.
At that time, the young man in his twenties did not know too much about Vietnam, even the position of Vietnam on the world’s map.
"I do not know about your history, culture or language. Even my American teammates have very little information about the country. We were stationed in the jungle most of the time and a lot of US soldiers were killed by bamboo traps, "Dan Shea said.
Later, Dan's brother Dan was sent to the same company, so he was taken away from Vietnam.
"I returned home and left the war behind. It was not until my first son was born. He had a cleft palate and had a heart condition. When my son was 3 years old, he underwent an important surgery but unfortunately it was unsuccessful, "Dan Shea said, touchingly.
"I understand that the story with me is also happening to millions of other Vietnamese people. So I am here to represent a part of the system to send you the most sincere apologies. "
In 2016, Dan Shea returned to Vietnam for the first time in nearly fifty years to attend a workshop on Agent Orange.
US veterans at the talk
And Dennis Van Hoof, who also joined the US Marine Corps in 1967-1968, said
"I was told to coming to Vietnam to fight the Soviet Union, defending the South Vietnam. When I returned to the United States in 1970 and through the media, I became aware of the My Lai massacre. They call us killers of women, children. I was shocked to hear that news because it was never something we were taught to do. "
Regretful of what happened in the past, the 71-year-old veteran bowed to receive error in the emotion of both sides.
"I'm just a soldier, trying to do my job. Me and some of my brothers who can’t be present today, are sorry for what happened. We want to apologize for all the tragic things that have been done to Vietnam."
Dennis Van Hoof, 71, a US marine soldier, apologizes for the My Lai massacre
Creating a brighter future
Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien, President of the Vietnam – US Society, presided over the talks. He said,
“I strongly believe that no one but the veterans are people who treasure the most the relationship that two countries have today.’’
The talks taking place in the context of the US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson has a historic visit to Vietnam. This is an opportunity for the two sides to set aside the past and find opportunities for a better future.
Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien also said, the current Vietnam – US relations have been raised as a strategic partner, so there many areas where the two sides can cooperate.
“In the past, we pointed the guns to each other but now, the smiles, the embraces, the hugs that we give to each other,’’ Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien said.
As a veteran veteran, Pham Van Chuong related the My Lai massacre. According to him, there are many sources of casualty figures but the best known figure was 504 victims. However, the casualties would have been much greater without the courageous intervention of three American soldiers at the time.
Pham Van Chuong relates the My Lai massacre
"They landed the helicopter between two groups of people, unarmed civilians and American soldiers who had killed hundreds of Vietnamese earlier. Those three had prevented their fellow Americans from continuing to shoot at the villagers, "Pham Van Chuong said.
"The very inhumaneity of the commanders of the My Lai massacre awakened the conscience of the Americans."
As for Ted Engelmann, an airman, came to Vietnam to take Agent Orange strips from Bien Hoa to the Cambodian border, "Vietnam is now a country, not a war. ''.
Now working as a photographer and writer, Ted Engelmann proposes an initiative to synthesize the stories of veterans to make a valuable resource for future generations.
Also in the talk, veterans mentioned the problem of Agent Orange victims and the clean up of Bien Hoa airport./.