May 2000,Quang Tri near the DMZ. One of the saddest days of my life. A young man laying a wreath in a clearing in the woods where his father died in 1967. He is crying. We are all crying including the Vietnamese people that are with us. A man who is a Vietnamese government official is crying also. The Vietnamese light incense and say Buddhist prayers. We are touched by their kindness. Later that night I see the government man hug the boy who lost his father in our hotel lobby. Tomorrow we are going to stop at a Vietnamese Army graveyard to repay the kindness of the Vietnamese who were with us today. I am not happy with the idea of honouring my former enemy dead. It just does not seem right. Then I think that the Vietnamese with us near the DMZ might have been thinking the same thoughts. Yet,they had been kind to us. NVA Graveyard. This one is not large but there are many large and small all over the country. It is not well kept. Money is more important to the living at this time. Incense is lit and I am given a handful. Alone, I go from grave to grave putting three sticks on each grave. Many do not have a name. They do not know who they were. Some were killed in Cambodia. I think of all the Vietnamese who were killed in the war. Many, many times the amount of people we lost. Yet, I find no bitterness here. I only feel welcome. The Vietnamese are looking ahead. I was wounded in Vietnam in 1967. But my wounds were in the heart and mind as I witnessed the horror of war. These were very deep wounds. The war went on for over 35 years in my mind and heart. People told me to forget about it. Even if I could how could I forget the young men who were lost? Thanks to my Vietnamese friends I have decided to let my lost friends rest in peace. Much of what we all wanted for the Vietnamese people they have or will have soon. The war is over! Vietnam today is not the Vietnam of the past. It is a place of hope, kindness, love, smiles and millions of "Hello's". It is a place worth another look. Yes, a long way but worth every penny. The hard part is to get by the image of the past and to see the country with an open mind.
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Published on 2/28/02