Ba Ria, VietnamMarch 17, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 90 °F
Vietnam is a place of paradox. It’s a hard place to figure out. I don’t quite know how to feel. I am in Vietnam for the first time since 1973. On the one hand, the young people in the streets today in Ba Ria don’t remember the war. Most of them were not even born when it occurred. It is a different nation; a different time. On the other hand, the names are the same. I see them on the road signs. My Tho. Da Lat. Pleiku. Khe San. It’s hard to figure out.
It is a different nation now. But Chi Miller, a descendant of Vietnamese royalty, tells of her grandfather becoming Vice President of Communist Viet Nam after the Americans left in 1975. For decades he had simply favored a Vietnam ruled by Vietnamese—not the French; not the Japanese; not the Americans. Within six months he became so disillusioned with the new regime that he told his family to leave the country any way they could. Finally, on the seventh attempt they succeeded. Former Vietnamese royalty became boat people. They escaped the glorious new nation they helped to build because that victorious regime was a monster. In Vietnam it’s hard to know how to feel, even if you’re Vietnamese.
Vietnam is a different nation now. It is vibrant and growing, and very welcoming to Americans. And yet, many of the guys I grew up and played football with were equally vibrant and growing. They still are, in my mind, at least. My cousin Jackie, and Wally, Drew and Kenny. They are still alive, in my mind, at least. It’s hard to know how to feel.
We were young men who did our duty. Or at least we thought we did. We did a very good job at what was, in retrospect, an immoral enterprise. I take some moral comfort in the realization that our government gained my consent by lying to us.
We gave our country a blank check. America could write it for anything we had, up to and including our lives. We became soldiers, and we won every single military engagement we were in. But we lost the war. It’s hard to know how to feel.
Today we went to Ba Ria. There was a major battle there. Now there is a Ford dealership and the Boston Hotel. Saigon is now Ho Chi Min City. We lost the war. Or did we? People still call it Saigon, and there is a Hilton Hotel in the middle of the city. Maybe when the soldiers left, the businessmen, entrepreneurs, and accountants came in and succeeded where armies failed. Maybe America won in Vietnam after all. It’s really hard to figure out. Vietnam is a land of contradictions.Read more