Below is an interview with Chuck Searcy, a former Army intelligence analyst who has lived in Vietnam for the last 20 years working – in partnership with Vietnamese colleagues – to ameliorate the effects of various war legacies, including unexploded ordnance (UXO) and Agent Orange. The interview was with Mike Cerre, a former ABC News Correspondent and war veteran, and took place on 4 September 2014 at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in San Francisco. Follow this link to read an announcement about the event and to learn more about Mr. Searcy’s background.
Overcoming the Past?
The good news is that while most of America continues to indulge in this national charade, and refuses to come to terms with its bloody past and prevent the “past” from becoming “prologue” again and again, the tiny S-shaped country upon which the U.S. military visited so much death and destruction has emerged as one of the great success stories of the developing world, a major player in Southeast Asia and a valued partner of the U.S. Against incalculable odds, including a cruel and devastating U.S.-led economic embargo that ended only 20 years ago this month, Vietnam has prevailed. Best of all, Vietnam belongs to the Vietnamese.
When asked if she feels hatred towards the U.S., a woman who lived through the 1972 “Christmas Bombing” of Hanoi replied “No. You never forget what happened, but you can’t move forward if you’re always looking back.” As the victimizers, Americans and their political leaders need to look back before they can move forward.
Follow this link to read this 20 February 2014 Huffington Post essay in its entirety.
Some excerpts from this 2 December 2013 Newsweek magazine article written by Jeff Stein:
It’s not easy to find a turkey dinner in Hanoi, but a handful of Americans and their Vietnamese friends gathered last Thursday over an imported bird cooked for them at a fancy restaurant in the capital’s old quarter, and they gave thanks.
One of them was Chuck Searcy, who was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Saigon 45 years ago. Another was Manus Campbell, who survived some of the war’s bloodiest fighting as a Marine draftee in Quang Tri Province. Both are nearly 70 now.
While hundreds of Vietnam vets have come back for brief, melancholy visits to the old battlefields to heal their psychological wounds, Searcy and Campbell are different: They and a handful of other former U.S. servicemen have moved to Vietnam more or less permanently to help clean up the deadly mess left by American bombs and Agent Orange, the widely sprayed defoliant linked to birth defects and cancers.
Myra Macpherson, a former Washington Post reporter and author of the 1984 book, Long Time Passing: Vietnam and the Haunted Generation, threw a party at her Washington apartment in September for Searcy and Campbell and some of their Vietnamese coworkers, whom she met on a trip to Hanoi last April.
She calls these vets unsung heroes of a forgotten war. “They came as innocent young soldiers and left shattered. Their return, years later, is, in part, atonement for what their country did, as well as a personal heartfelt humanitarian apology,” she says.
“They are truly a courageous band of brothers.”
Follow this link to read the rest of the article about a story rarely told in the U.S. media.
What America owes Vietnam it can never repay, though there are many Americans in the U.S. and Vietnam today, including veterans, who are striving mightily and in myriad ways to contribute to the physical and spiritual healing process.
The “Nam,” as some of you still think of it, this country of your dreams and your nightmares, this place in time and mind that will forever be a part of you psychologically, spiritually and, in some cases, physically, survived everything our country threw at it. The story of Việt Nam is one of the great and glorious sagas of history, a nation that exemplifies in nearly ideal terms the resilience, courage, and strength of the human spirit.
So come (back), be ennobled, uplifted and, quite possibly, transformed. The moment you step off the plane you will begin to experience the “new history” that is Vietnam today; your old memories will be overlaid with new ones. Vietnam and its people may even cast their spell on you and inspire you to join your fellow veterans in the U.S. and in-country who are working alongside Vietnamese colleagues to help mitigate the impact of war legacies.
Click here to read the rest of this 29 April 2013 Huffington Post essay.