If only my draft board could see me now.
Here I am on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Hanoi: 30 years after France gave up on Vietnam, 20 years after we decided to bomb Hanoi, 15 years after our final withdrawal from Saigon. I am traveling with a former marine captain, Bob Seiple, who flew 300 combat missions over Vietnam. As president of World Vision, a Christian relief-and-development agency, he now spends much of his time figuring out ways to finagle humanitarian aid (medical supplies, resins for artificial limbs, and visas for G.I.-fathered orphans) into a country our government doesn’t officially recognize.
A warrior turned peacemaker, Bob Seiple is still sorting out his feelings about Vietnam. So am I.
So, apparently, are the American people. University classes on the war are filled to capacity. Moviegoers flock to see what our nation’s pop psychologists, Hollywood filmmakers, have to say. My local Crown Books store has 104 history titles on display, 32 of which are on Vietnam. America is still searching for a resolution to a war that won’t go away.
What kind of bandages can bind the psychological wounds left from 58,000 dead Americans, 600,000 dead South Vietnamese, and over 1,000,000 dead North Vietnamese?
Hanoi: A Familiar Flight
For Bob Seiple, this flight into Hanoi over war-worn northern Vietnam is a familiar one. Most of his bombing missions were here. “I was a soldier doing my duty,” he says, “so it’s not a question of guilt. But I feel a great sadness for the people of this country who have suffered, and still suffer, so much.”
My feelings aren’t of guilt either. I don’t ever remember feeling guilty about missing a war my friends so faithfully fought. But I do remember feeling confused. And I still do. I read ...1
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