A brotherhood of men
Veterans’ Voices is a new column directed toward veterans and their families who have given so much to ensure our freedom in this country. This is an area where you may share your experiences, or read of other veterans’ experiences. We thank you for your service, and hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.
This letter is from a Vietnam brother of mine. This is a true story. Please enjoy it.
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I am a Vietnam veteran having served two tours there. My wife had long felt that it would be in my best interests to return to Vietnam. So, 14 years ago, several members of our tour group arranged with the tour company, with whom we’d made many overseas trips, to tour a few countries of Asia, including Vietnam.
Landing in Hanoi was eerie, as along the edge of the runway were several Soviet MIG fighter planes in revetments. We visited several sites there including what remains of the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” in which American pilots and others were held as POWs many years earlier. It was propagandized to give the impression that the prisoners had been well fed and cared for. We also saw the lake in the middle of the city in which John McCain’s plane had crashed after he’d been shot down. As is the practice of our tour company, a dinner in a Vietnamese home had been arranged, which was a most delightful and enjoyable experience. Our hosts were very friendly and hospitable.
As had been our practice when on tours, we like to visit the outskirts of cities during our free time, to get a more accurate feeling of the citizens of the country, Hanoi being no exception.
One day, my wife and I, and two other couples — the guys all retired military and Vietnam veterans — went to the outskirts of Hanoi to do just that. Well into the day we were walking on a wide dirt pathway and had stopped to ponder an important “issue,” when a well-dressed Vietnamese man came along.
When he got to us, he stopped and said, in very clear English, “I don’t mean to be eavesdropping, but I understand you folks are looking for a bathroom? If you’d like, my home is nearby and you’re welcome to come use my facilities.” We agreed and followed him to his very nice home. There he also offered whatever we preferred of several liquid refreshments. On the wall behind his bar were several military memorabilia, which he noticed we were observing.
He came up to us men and said, “Are any of you gentlemen former military who may have served in my country?”
We each responded “yes,” saying that two of us were retired Naval Officers and the other a retired USAF fighter pilot. Upon hearing this, he put his arms around us, drawing us into a close huddle and said, “I was Captain in the NVA (N. Vietnamese Army… the former enemy), but today WE ARE ALL BROTHERS, right?”
It was a very moving and memorable experience for each of us. Today, I cannot relate the story without choking up and being unable to continue… my wife often finishing the story for me. I find it most interesting that a former enemy can think of those on each side as BROTHERS… a very moving thought, indeed.
— George B.
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I thought that was a very interesting story. 50 years ago, I would not agree with it due to stating that we are brothers. However, my thinking now tells me that we did not know where we are going to be born. We also do not have a choice of race either. We are all brothers and sisters in America.
Any thoughts, don’t hesitate to email me at AboutVets@yahoo.com
— Royal D. Goodman, US Army / Vietnam
1st Cav / 9th Infantry