VIETNAM VETERANS & FAMILY VISITS
For me, the special visits by Vietnam Veterans and their families are probably my most satisfying and emotive experiences, and I receive many heartfelt reviews and personal messages.
I was especially touched by Dixie’s words:
“You are doing so much more for people than giving them a tour. You are helping them to make peace with themselves which heals their hearts and souls and gives them a better understanding of how things really are”.
My special tours cater for Veterans and/or families who return to visit bases and areas of interest in and around Da Nang and accessible central Vietnam as part of their Vietnam travel. Visitors include Veterans themselves, their families, and an extra special welcome to relatives of those who were killed in action. Central Vietnam was one of the heaviest affected regions of my country during the war and as time has passed much of the evidence of fighting has been reclaimed by jungle, town and city expansion etc.
Invariably, the question I always expect from visiting US Veterans and their families on their Vietnam holidays is how DO the Vietnamese perceive their presence in my country today.
So I thought I would add my own very personal words about how present-day Vietnam and my people view that tragic period of 1st Nov 1955 – 30th April 1975.
………..like today’s younger generations I was so fortunate that I was born and raised in peacetime. I come from a small central Vietnamese village where in the late 1990s we usually had a shortage of electricity and most families pulled-up their chairs and sat in front of their houses under the moonlight and talked about the wars, how they survived, Vietnam’s subsidy period and everything about daily life. The image of neighbours gathering and talking, children playing “hide and seek”, the peaceful atmosphere of the rice paddy fields and the stories I learnt are all in my heart. Those were the days that I never forget because this is a part of me.
So how do I feel…………
Well, I am from a Viet Cong (VC) family, my grandfather worked for the VC, my uncles and my neighbours fought at that time and most of them were injured. My parents grew up with the extreme ‘ups and downs’ during the War. My mother’s friend was a VC guerrilla and she still has more than 10 scars on her body and still feels pain whenever the weather changes. She is one of the bravest and kindest women I have met and I still remember every single word she shared when I visited her on the occasion of Tet (our Vietnamese New Year):
“Each of the scars I carry on my body was like the flowers from the war, and these flowers were to remind me of my younger days, to be grateful with the independence we are having today”
On my life journey I have met many VC and families of Vietnamese veterans and really no-one has ever talked about hatred or anything bad about the American people or whoever was involved in the war. They just mention how intense the fighting was, about the loss of their team members, about the strong spirits of “freedom and independence”.
Usually, I translate my visiting Veteran’s stories from English into Vietnamese and share with the locals so they can have a better understanding of the ‘other side’. And I never ever met a Vietnamese person who said to me “American was our enemy, don’t welcome them”
It might sound strange to you, but it is true!
I think most Vietnamese people moved on after my country opened up once more following the Doi Moi Policy of 1986. We never forget our history but what really matters now is how we give our children better living conditions. We believe that one of the best ways to help is to give our children a good foundation for education. This explains why so many parents work very so hard in order to support their kid’s education. This has proved to be the most powerful way to stop suffering. Now I do understand that my country is not perfect in many ways, but when you visit Vietnam you will feel how peaceful and safe our country is. You can feel the positive energy from the smiles of our hard-working farmers/workers, cheerful children, the happy faces of grandparents even though they have struggled so much.
I appreciate the wonderful opportunity I have been given in meeting people from so many different countries. I love my job so much and I am thankful that my family and friends here in Vietnam and around the world have inspired me on my career path. Without fail all my clients are so nice, thoughtful and kind in supporting our Vietnamese people.
Each year I meet more and more Vietnam Veterans and their families who tour with me. I feel privileged they chose Xuan Tu Tours as part of their Vietnam itinerary to help find old bases, sights of interest or where their family members served or died in Vietnam. I always remember the special time spent with them all, including Colonel Hugh Sproul and Anne, Justine and Christine, Katherine, Donald E Woodward, Bruce Thompson, Katelena Hernandez and Michele Mahone to name but a few, all who have been kind enough to leave wonderful feedback and reviews.
Each private tour with these lovely people gives me a deeper understanding of this tragic period from a different perspective – it was indeed a truly painful time for both sides.
Perhaps now, I should leave the last words to just a few of the Veterans and families who have toured with me:
“I tell you, I’ve been all over the world and it isn’t often that you go somewhere and it doesn’t become an experience but becomes a part of your soul, and that’s what Vietnam did because……..
‘I walked in my father’s footsteps’.
My dad served here in the war and my uncle died here, I came here just to stand where my father stood and I hugged a daughter of a VC soldier at the very spot our father’s fought and it was one of the most profound moments of my life, and you know, to go to a place of extreme beauty and to know the war and the bloodshed we can’t imagine and wouldn’t want too
Surrounded by beautiful statues and beautiful people, everyone was so welcoming and love the Americans! I was expecting everyone to be nice but I wasn’t expecting to be embraced, I love Vietnam and its people. Xuan Tu, I thank you so much”
“Our experience with this company exceeded our expectations. We received exceptional 5-star service. Our needs were, perhaps, unusual. We had personal reasons for wanting to visit a remote and mountainous region west of Da Nang. With very short notice the company was able to respond effectively”
“We got in a lot of sightseeing without feeling rushed. I especially wanted to see the Da Nang Air Base, from which I flew many missions during the war, and it was pointed out to me (not many remains). My enjoyment of the Vietnam visit was greatly enhanced by the expertise and friendliness displayed by the guides. I highly recommend them”.
“The second day we had requested to go out away from Da Nang to the area that my friend’s dad had died in the war – we couldn’t believe how much preparation Xuan Tu had done before we even arrived. She had talked with locals and found out about the village and area – when we got there she was able to find two local gentlemen who had lived there their whole lives and spent a lot of time with us talking about the US soldiers and their interactions. It was such a moving day for my friend and we can’t thank Xuan Tu, our driver and the villagers for this amazing experience”
“We had several very special stops we wanted to make in Da Nang to look for my father’s 1960s US Navy Doc history. Xuan Tu did a ton of research after studying my dad’s notes and photos and found them for us”.