Last December my father and I traveled around the demilitarized zone in Vietnam with the son of a Vietnamese veteran. We visited the cemetery pictured above. All of these stones are for unknown soldiers. All of them Northern Vietnamese. As far as I could tell, there didn’t seem to be any national memorials honoring the memory or spirit of the Southern Vietnamese soldiers. Our guide Quang’s father fell during the early part of the war so his family was lucky enough to have had a military burial.
On this Veteran’s Day I would like to honor all veteran’s and acknowledge the possibility of peace between friends and former enemies.
I called my father to wish him a happy veteran’s day, and to thank him. He told me a funny little story that I think shows how much has changed in the past 40 years.
This morning he was chatting with our friend Mr. Po, a resident of the Vietnam Friendship Village. My father told Mr. Po that today is a holiday in the United States, “Veteran’s Day.” Mr. Po thought this was interesting and asked my father why there would be a holiday that was celebrated by refraining from eating meat… My father’s confusion broke when he realized Mr. Po was asking about “Vegetarian’s Day.” After many laughs, they were able to understand one another, and give thanks for what they have, each honoring veterans in their own way. I will always be amazed that a Vietnam veteran can have these simple happy interactions with a young Vietnamese man forty years after conflict…