Rob bin Roger Beever, Vietnam veteran
alexandria, Virginia 22314, USA
Vietnam Flashbacks,impressions, and after effects:
I was a teenager toward the end of the American involvement in the Vietnam War. I lived in South Vietnam with my father on and off between 1969 and 1973. I also lived with my mother and brother in the Taipei,Taiwan safehaven. My father was working for USAID in the Mekong delta region in Ca Mau and Can Tho.
One of my most lasting memories of the war is waking up before dawn to catch an Air America flight to Da Nang, Nha Trang or another place for a few days. On these flights,I recall seeing huge areas defoliated by herbicides, and huge bombcraters. I also recall mortar attacks, shouts of VC !!, VC!!, shooting at night. On some mornings the bodies of VC killed during the night were piled up along the streets. I also remember watching the mad rush of traffic before the night curfew in Saigon. I also recall the departure of many US military personnel from Vietnam in March 1973 and the arrival of "international observers" to monitor "the peace" accords.
I gained a great appreciation for Vietnamese cuisine, traditional art, and stunningly beautiful coastline and countryside. I can still smell the pungent scent of nuoc mam and steamed delta crab. The French influence in Saigon was still strong and the shopping for Asian and European artifacts was fantastic: old french candlesticks and clocks, Chinese mother-of-pearl plaques, antique blue and white porcelain. I recall the reserved Confucian courtesy of the older educated Vietnamese. The Vietnamese in the streets of the small towns and villages were friendly and courteous to Americans in spite of the horrible war. I returned to Vietnam in 1989; my experiences were so overwhelming that I wrote a feature article for a newspaper in the Middle East. "Vietnam" still holds a magical and powerful grip on me; it is a country fighting for economic survival in the international marketplace of the 21 century. The war is 25 years in the past; not forgotten, but becoming a footnote in Vietnam's long history of struggle against overwhelming odds.
Vietnam was a great adventure for me; for many others, American soldiers, Vietnamese military (ARVN), Viet Cong, civilians, it was a great tragedy which caused millions of deaths and horrible destruction. Landmines, unexploded bombs,and the effects of herbicides continue to maim and kill.
The war destroyed many lives. My father died from multiple myeloma at the young age of 65 in 1995. I am convinced his horrible cancer was caused by his exposure to Agent Orange in Ca Mau, an area heavily sprayed with herbicides, like many parts of the country, until 1971. The VA compensates veterans and their families. What about non-military victims such as my father who died from the effects of Agent Orange twenty years after his USAID service in South Vietnam? Which government agencies compensate us? I mourn my father. He is another victim of "herbicidal genocide".
Rob bin Roger Beever in Alexandria, Virginia.