Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Remembering Vietnam

On this day, March 29th, 1973, the last US combat troops left Vietnam. It's a bittersweet anniversary that makes me think of that old song about how "If I could change the world, I wouldn't change a thing..." and I find myself saying that there were a lot of people on all sides who paid the highest costs imaginable, both civilians and military personnel. I find it's not something to revel in, but to appreciate as a lesson. One we would do well not to repeat, but to grow from.

For those of us with roots in the Secret War for Laos, it becomes a particularly striking issue because of the significant consequences it had for so many of our families that pushed many of us into diaspora to avoid torture, imprisonment, and execution for assisting American efforts that were violating the Geneva Accords that had declared Laos 'neutral' in the conflict.

Forty-three years later, Johnny Cash's classic song "Drive On" remains the song that best encompasses the Vietnam War for me and how our veterans and families reconcile with that experience. Among the poems we've written over the decades, Vietnam veteran Yusef Komunyakaa's book Dien Cai Dau, as well his poem"Facing it" remains among the most moving for me, as does this reading by a fellow veteran at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

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