When I was in Vietnam, my infantry unit always had several Vietnamese with them. Sometimes, they were scouts and sometimes Choi Hois, who had come over to our side.
Occasionally, we had a group called the Ruff Puffs, usually what would be comparable to the National Guard.
On occasion, we would have some joint operation with the ARVN, (Army of the Republic of Vietnam). We didn't think much of their fighting prowess. The problems, by in large, weren't the Vietnamese, but ours. We had the "America's the best" attitude, let us do our stuff, next case. Language was always an issue.
None of us sat around and thought about the philosophy of what it meant to be in Vietnam and how the Vietnamese saw it. And now, I regret it. It was their country. The Vietnamese soldiers were doing the best they could. They were the instruments of a legitimate government in the South, fighting to keep from being taken over by the North.
With some distance and time from Vietnam, I have come to appreciate the efforts of our Vietnamese allies in Vietnam. In fact, as I think about it now, we were so terribly unfair; they were brave soldiers, many of them dying for their country just as we were.
After I got to know several personally in America, mainly through an organization called, The Vietnam Veterans Southeast Children's Project, I had a true appreciation for their sacrifices.
In the beginning, the Vietnam Veterans Southeast Asian Childrens Project attempted to help the children of the Vietnamese new to the country, especially Amerasian (Vietnamese mothers and American fathers) kids. We would provide tutors, expense money for school supplies; and, on occasion, help the child's family with necessities. Our idea was that as Vietnam vets, we owed these brave folks something for our government's promises and eventual abandonment.
Often what amazed us was that the Vietnamese in America embraced traditional American old time values better than most Americans. They had a great sense of family, commitment to each other, and an unusual respect for their new country.
Sense of Duty is a book from an American Vietnamese who extolls the great value system of his family which makes them such great Americans. Of all the immigrant groups, the Vietnamese are by in far, the most successful.
The author, Quang X Pham, has written a wonderful book, not about war, but about his Dad and his Dad's values.
When the war was coming to a close and the North Vietnamese were closing in, the author, his mother, and two sisters were put on a cargo plane and flown out of the country. They flew to Guam and then to Arkansas to a refugee camp. Eventually, they settled in Southern California, like thousands upon thousands of other Vietnamese.
Sense of Duty is a wonderful book; and, if I tell more, I'll spoil it for you. Read it. I loved it.
Originally posted June 08, 2005