Vietnam visit opens eyes
I read your Vietnam commentary (“Getting perspective in Vietnam,” Nov. 20). I recently traveled to Vietnam, which changed my perspective on the Vietnam War forever.
Sadly, you glossed over Saigon and Cu Chi and wrote a travelogue rather than perspective. Nothing was more pondering than the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The museum, as you state, is “a vivid insight into the American War through the locals’ eyes.” But you fail to explain why. The museum begins when the French tried to maintain control over their colony. Over time, they began to give up and enter America in 1956 to wage war against the North and the Viet Cong. The belligerents committed horrible, unspeakable atrocities, about which I know you read the placards and saw the photos.
The section on Agent Orange stirred me. I have read about this chemical weapon. However, staring at ghastly, unspeakable images of the Vietnamese who were mutated, you ponder your own life, and your soul feels empty on how this chemical weapon has grotesquely disfigured the locals and altered many soldiers’ lives.
For Cu Chi, you wrote a flowering description rather than a candid perspective. You arrived by bus. I arrived via speedboat. Traveling on the Saigon River afforded me to experience what our GIs experienced when they were ordered to patrol the waterways via swift boats. They were unprotected and had a few guns pointed at the shoreline in a vain effort to protect themselves as sitting ducks.
The resiliency of the Vietnamese was amazing. We clearly had the disadvantage. Our government made the mistake of thinking we could win. The jungle is so thick, I understand why soldiers would be afraid. You see the enemy one moment, and in a blink of an eye the enemy has escaped into a tunnel, a hole covered with brush or who knows where else.
I saw the traps that were used. The spikes, which would have been covered in human feces and placed in a hole, would tear skin, puncture organs and break bones while our soldiers attempted to escape. Gunfire did not end the war. The homemade traps, which induced fear, won the war, as our soldiers never knew if their next step would be their last.
All the while, I hear live, powerful gunshots in the distance at the gun range. This makes reliving the war even more realistic, as our soldiers never knew exactly where the gunshots would be coming from and if their lives were next.
I reach the tunnels. It is amazing how the locals lived their lives in these tunnels. I cannot imagine the tunnel rats that were chosen to investigate the entrances, enter the tunnels and hope that they made it out alive.
I contemplated: Why did we go to war? What was the point? What did we gain? What did we lose?
Thankfully, America has not had a foreign power invade and wage war against us — yet.
I suppose that is why President Washington warned us through his farewell address to avoid foreign involvement.
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Like the ceremonial rite of passage from ancient civilizations and worldwide throughout various cultures, solitary time spent in nature — hungry and alone — ignites a deep connection from within to the vast outer world.