Sunday, October 13, 2013

Viet Nam - Then and Now

I wonder how many of my blog readers remember these? 

It was a Fall day in 1972 at the University of Georgia.  As I got off of the campus bus on my way to class, I stopped at a table outside the student center to see what was being sold.  The table was covered with bracelets just like this one.  The young woman at the table explained to me that they were POW/MIA bracelets with the names of soldiers engraved on them.  For $5, I could purchase one and wear it until the person whose name was on my bracelet was either released or found.  I didn’t have $5 to spare that day, but I selected a bracelet, put it on my wrist, and let go of my beloved $5 bill.

I wore the bracelet until the war ended and the prisoners of war were released.  I searched the newspaper for the name of my soldier, but I never saw his name.  I placed the bracelet into my “treasure box”, and over the years forgot about it.

This fall I have been re-introduced to the Viet Nam War through a special veteran friend, and from meeting another veteran and two young Vietnamese men who are now in charge of a not-for-profit organization in Viet Nam, Project Renew, to find and disarm unexploded munitions left there from the war.  What I knew about the war, and more, has entered my life through these individuals.  Then, to top it off, I watched a special on television last night about The Smothers Brothers and television censorship.  It was an excellent program and brought back memories of those war years that I had tucked away.

The other day while I was going through some of my possessions that I retrieved from my house this past summer,  I found my POW bracelet.  Gone was my treasure box, but in the bottom of a garbage bag that Phil had filled for me to take to my new home, gently lay the silver bracelet.   Now that we are in the information age, I was able to Google my soldier’s name.  I was delighted to discover that he was released from prison in Viet Nam, and was not one of the war’s casualties.

As I think about these days in my life, spread out over four decades, it is amazing to me how the threads have woven together to bring this story to its conclusion.  However, as I think about it, I realize that the story isn’t over.  The Viet Nam War is still with us in the veterans who survived and carry memories of their days there, and in the Vietnamese people who today are the victims of explosions of bombs we left behind.   I am grateful to the Americans and Vietnamese of Project Renew who continue working to heal the wounds we inflicted to this faraway land.  I wonder what happened to my soldier of the POW bracelet, and if he is still alive.  I may never know, but I am thankful that I found my bracelet, have been re-awakened to the Viet Nam experience, and have concluded this chapter in my collection of days.
Now, it is a new day.  What will it bring?