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Page 20
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Vietnam Revisited

By Larry Ball

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Kristin and Cong in Vietnam.
In February 2011 along with my wife Kristin, we flew into Ha Noi, Viet Nam. Chaos in the streets is the way I describe what we saw as we taxied to our hotel. The hotel and staff were very much to our liking. The staff were both warm and informative, the room was comfortable, clean and had a balcony looking down on two streets coming together. More horns and vehicles, mostly the two-wheeled type, than I could imagine moving on such narrow streets. People walking elbow to elbow and no sign of traffic control. On the scooters we saw as many as four riding, passengers riding side-saddle style, and many passengers carrying cumquat trees. The time was nearing the Tet holidays and the cumquat is similar to our Christmas tree tradition. With so much to see and language being a challenge, we hired a young guide. Cong was twenty-three years of age and he spoke perfect English. One of our first stops was the Mausoleum where Ho Chi Minh is viewed by visitors. Rules for viewing Ho Chi Minh's body are strictly enforced. Guards in white military uniforms are posted at intervals of five paces. I was having a difficult time at this point as my entire body seemed to become shrouded by all the lectures and experiences that were such a part of my life forty years earlier. Having read much about this man that is held in such honor by his fellow country men, I knew much of what we were told about Ho Chi Minh was not true. I managed to get through without falling down and got outside where I located a rock wall that I found most inviting. Young Cong stood beside me and he asked, "were you in the American war?" I told him I would answer his question at the end of our two days that we had agreed to pay for his services. He told me his grandfather was killed near Da Nang and that his father was a boy at the time. I was stationed near Da Nang and his grandfather would be my age. I asked Cong how that caused him to think about Americans. He answered, "in my family we say, close the door to the past, open the door to the future." Young Cong's words touched me so deeply, tears came into my eyes. Cong put his arm around me and from that moment on I began to feel better and for two days Cong made sure I was OK and I safely got across the streets.

Larry Ball was a member of the USMC and is a member of VVAW.

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