Met a Vietnamese veteran today...
I got ready for church this morning, located the branch (congregation) I would be attending through the LDS Meetinghouse Locator, then decided to take a cab so that I would not get lost.
The cabbie got me to the address quickly enough but the security guard told me that no church met in this area. I did not expect a church building by any means as this is a little branch, but there were no church members entering any of the buildings on that street. Either LDS.org or Google maps was incorrect. I was not surprised - in both Germany and Turkey I was unable to attend church my first week because I got lost on the way as well. It's a tradition, I guess, when I travel. :) (Or, as my aunt says, "it's a perdition".) ;) By the time I walked back home, I was "out of spoons" and decided to stay put.
However, I want to share more about this nice old security guard who helped me realize I was at the incorrect address. He wore a tidy uniform, large glasses, and gently guided me to stand in front of a fan in the shade as he looked at my map. His hair was greying, nearly white, and he had a wonderful smile that lit up his whole face.
He pulled out a faded photo from his wallet and proceeded to tell me, with a few English words and gestures, that he served alongside American soldiers in the Vietnam war.
His story touched me. I can't stop staring at his photo - a young man, probably at the start of his service, confidently standing for a picture with his gun.
My senior paper in high school was on the affect protests for peace had on American POWs in Hanoi. I have read extensively about the Vietnam War. I guess that's what made it that much more real to meet someone Vietnamese who fought during that time.
Here was this nice old man, who had experienced some of the most terrible times in history, working as a security guard. He communicated to me, if I understood his gestures correctly, that he was a prisoner in Hanoi for about one year. What did he experience? How did he survive? What was his day-to-day living during this time? How did he feel after the war? What did he feel as Vietnam tried to rebuild after the war?
About 2.1 to 3.2 million people died during what Vietnam calls "The American War" (not counting the death toll of Cambodians and Laotians). Like my brother said in his latest post about his visit to Vietnam and Cambodia, the winners write history - so we tend to not talk about the Korean or Vietnam War much in our schools. How ironic. While we can try to forget these undeclared wars even happened, these events shaped the entire future of Vietnam. These events happened in their home and to their family members. And, unless we learn from the past, these events will continue to unfold throughout the world.
I am sad that I didn't get to attend church today, but I am so grateful for the experience of meeting this man. History really isn't really in the past, is it?
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