Saturday, January 3, 2009

Back to Vietnam -- With my Daughter

After 38 years and much contemplation, I am taking a journey to a place that I never thought that I would want to return. When I left Vietnam in 1970, I left behind many memories, some bad, some good. I came home to a world that was in turmoil because the war had gone on for much too long. I put the experience of Vietnam out of my mind for a very long time. But, in 1992, when I started writing about my experiences, the memories of a very important place were resurrected.

Each Sunday, someone from my company (501st Signal Battalion -- 101st Airborne Division) would take laundry to an orphanage in Hue, which is a city in the central part of Vietnam, near Phu Bai. On one of those Sundays, I was invited to go along. That experience and the many return visits to Kim Long, left an indelible impression on me that has never disappeared. When I finally made contact with the orphanage in May of 2008, I knew I had to return. An invitation to a workmate's wedding in Ho Chi Mihn City made the need to go back a reality.

So, I, along with my younger daughter, Stacy, will be returning to Vietnam in the middle of January. I am thrilled and honored to have my daughter join me on this trip. To have her return to a place that I experienced good and bad times in a time of an unpopular war, is very important and satisfying to me.

We will visit Ho Chi Mihn City, the former Saigon to attend the wedding of An and Doug. We will meet another girl who works in an IBM office in Saigon -- Bao Anh and her friend Phuong Vo. We have been communicating for about two years now.

We will then fly to Hue to visit Kim Long orphanage where I will be reunited with a nun -- Sister Xavier, who was at Kim Long in the 1970s and is now 91. I doubt that she will remember me. We will meet Sister Chantal, who has rebuilt Kim Long and most importantly, we will meet the children of Kim Long. Although they are not the same children that I left, they are still children in need of love and attention. They still suffer from the effects of Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the war to clear triple canopy jungle vegetation. Please take a look at their new website to see how far they have come:

In Hue, we will also visit the Citadel, the sight of a very fierce Tet offensive in 1968. The remnants of that battle still remain.

After Hue, we will visit Hanoi. This will be my first time ever in the old North Vietnam. We will visit the old POW camp that once held John McCain -- known to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton. Ironically, we will be staying at the Hilton Hanoi Opera House Hotel.

After 7 days in Vietnam, we will travel to Hong Kong to spend a few nights before returning home. I will do my best to update the blog daily and will write the full story when I return home.

1 comment:

  1. Bob,
    Your trip was exciting and I have enjoyed
    doing it with you via the photos and this
    blog. Your expression of the feelings you
    had when first arriving in Vietnam so many
    years ago - the anticipation you had while
    arriving once again - all raised many memories in me. Thanks for sharing this.
    Scott Mays