FIGHTING THE LOST WAR section - vnafmamn.com
By Bill Laurie
In Viet Namese, Chung Ta means "we." An exclusive "we" speaking to another "they," someone who is not part of the "we." The subtle pronoun semantics symbolizes the immense gap of understanding between those who served honorably in Southeast Asia, be they Asian- or American-born, and those who, after all these years, still do not comprehend what took place, why, how, and at whose expense. Cutting directly to the point, in this case "chung ta," or "we," refers to those who were motivated by one single issue: justice and fairness for all the people of Southeast Asia, be they Viet Namese, Laotian, Montagnard, Khmer, or Hmong, be they Buddhist or Catholic, or Moslem Cham. Chung ta-WE- were not driven by abstract issues of political philosophy but rather the desire to free Southeast Asia from the scourge of Hanoi's ideological madness, from what was, in essence, a fascist and insanely ruthless ideology that differed little in substance from Hitler's barbarism.
We who were American-born found a cause worthy of our support because we encountered incredibly brave, honest and immensely decent people who we could not, in good conscience, betray by abandonment. The American public still does not "get it." "They" learn from television, movies and college classes that the cause was worthless, that the Saigon government was corrupt, that Americans routinely burned villages and were high on drugs, that Uncle Ho was a patriot and that all the people supported the VC. "They" are told that "ARVN wouldn't fight," never knowing that over 250,000 RVNAF/QLVNCH soldiers were killed in action. "They," the American public, don't know who "we" were and who "we" are and, most importantly, WHY we are this way.
"We" who are native-born Americans developed the greatest respect and admiration for the Southeast Asians we were honored to serve with. "WE" who are Viet Nam-born were amazed to see Americans, far from home, who cared about us, our children, and the future of Viet Nam. There is no denying exceptions to this, or the abundant and criminal flaws in what passed for American "strategy" dictated by the naive blind fools in Washington, D.C. Yes, there was corruption, yes there were Americans and Viet Namese who insulted all of us by their reprehensible conduct, but through it all we -WE - fought against the greater enemy, the pathetic Hanoi ideologues who prostituted and exploited the legitimate cause of Viet Namese nationalism, who were ready and willing to kill millions, even their own deluded Bo Doi, for their maniacal twisted ideology.
Not infrequently American-born Viet Nam veterans receive expressions of sympathy or sorrow from non-veterans for having served in Viet Nam. "Oh, I'm sorry, it must have been very bad" they say. "They" don't understand. Yes, it was bad; war is always thus. But they do not and cannot understand how and why Viet Nam service was and remains among the most important things in our lives, and why we are inspired and well as saddened by the experience. We are inspired, and have more faith in mankind's decency and honor, because we saw, met, served with and fought along side people who placed principle above personal safety. Who defiantly placed their lives at risk, and who too-often died, in opposition to militaristic and political cancer that would devour their country and its soul. We American-born could go home if we survived our tours, yet we knew that the people in "our" village, "our" company, "our" province, "our" division, the Viet Namese people we respected and admired, would have to fight on. Viet Nam had become "que huong thu hai," our second homeland. Our Viet Namese comrades were "nhu anh em ruot, "like blood-kin. Only we Viet Namese and Americans know of Gen. Nguyen Khoa Nam, Col. Ho Ngoc Thao, Gen. Nguyen Viet Thanh, and countless "nguoi linh" who fought hard and well. Only we know of and remember LTC William B. Nolde, senior province advisor at Binh Long who was killed in action only eleven hours before the abortive 1973 cease fire, the last American to die before the war supposedly ended.
In truth, we are alone. It is only we to whom such words as An Loc, Hiep Duc, Quang Tri, Thach Tru, Mo Cay and That Son mean anything at all, and to us they mean a great deal. This is not said in an appeal for sympathy but rather as an affirmation in our conviction and dedication to a Viet Nam, a Laos, a Cambodia, free of dictatorial madness and ideological corruption, free of death, misery and suffering. If such be the cost of our commitment and service then so be it. We did not serve, we did not place our lives at risk, we were not wounded, nor did some of us die, for the accolades of historians, for the praise of journalists, or for any other form of self-aggrandizement. We served together, as Chien huu, for a cause we knew to be worthy, for principles we knew to be honorable. That we may be alone is of no consequence, for as George Washington once said, "It is better to be alone than among those of low character." We need not worry about this however because we were and remain among people of high character, of moral courage, of unimpeachable character and dignity. Many of our kind are dead, and many of them met an early death on Southeast Asia's battlefield, on the receiving end of Soviet weapons in Hanoi's hands. It is for us, the living, to pay proper homage to he fallen and to the cause to which they gave their lives. It is for us, the living, to continue the battle for a free and democratic Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia as the strength of our conviction and depth of our principles so compels us. It is also for us, the living, to cherish the bonds forged between us for it is WE who stood, it is we who risked death for a cause which was more important to us than our own lives. Viet Nam and all of Indochina would have been a better place had we prevailed. There would have been no boat people, no Cambodian Killing Fields, no Yellow Rain killing Hmong in Laos. No clear-cutting of highland forests. No cultural genocide of Nguoi Thuong, Hoa Hao, Hmong. No suppression of Cao Dai, of Buddhists, of Christian evangelicals.
As WE share mutual respect for having opposed Hanoi's barbarism, so too we share the sorrow of not having prevailed, the irreparable sadness of having lost friends and comrades. However bitter the taste of this overall result, it is better than having done nothing, and losing the respect-if not gaining the contempt-of those who risked all for a better Viet Nam. Nothing more needs to be said. We need only share a bit of nuoc mat que huong and we will know all that needs to be known, understand all that needs to be understood. Better this than not to know or understand at all.
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