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VVAW Meets With Vietnamese President
By Jen Tayabji
On Friday, July 26, 2013 Truong Tan Sang, the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, honored Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) with a meeting in New York City. The day before, President Truong Tan Sang and President Obama met for the first time to discuss a multitude of issues, including military cooperation and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
VVAW members with Colonel Luu Van Hop,
Deputy International Director of
the Vietnam Veterans Association.
The New York Chapter of VVAW and other organizations in the New York Vets Peace Coalition had been working for some time with the Vietnamese Ambassador to set up a meeting between veterans of both countries. In late July, VVAW was informed that the President himself would be in attendance.
President Truong Tan Sang had an intimate meeting with members of the Coalition before the larger reception and dinner scheduled that evening. VVAW board members Brian Matarrese and Susan Schnall along with VVAW members Frank Toner and Ken Dalton were present.
Susan spoke about Agent Orange and the work being done. Frank shared his background on how he had once been in Seminary. When he left school he was drafted, sent to OCS (Officer Candidate School) and then to Vietnam. During his time overseas, he refused to carry a gun, and never did. He talked frankly about his experiences, both with those who wanted him court martialled and those who worked to support his decision to not carry a weapon. On a lighter note, Ken shared that he joined the Navy the same day President Truong Tan Sang joined the Community Party, bringing a smile to the President's face.
President Truong Tan Sang raised an issue that he is very passionate about. There are over 300,00 Vietnamese MIA. In the US we often see the POW/MIA flag and we know the myths and lies behind it. But in Vietnam, with so many Vietnamese soldiers missing in action after the war, the President is hoping to bring closure to as many families as possible.
He has asked for US soldiers who may have any items or artifacts that they brought home from overseas to give them to the Vietnamese government with information from where they came from, so that search and recovery could be carried out for as many of the soldiers as possible. President Truong Tan Sang also talked about organizing a trip to bring US Vietnam veterans back to Vietnam to visit where they served.
After a short break, President Truong Tan Sang addressed several hundred people at the larger reception and held a question and answer session followed by a large buffet dinner for all the guests.
VVAW was honored to meet with President Truong Tan Sang and looks forward to further collaboration with the Vietnamese government towards peace, justice and the rights of all veterans.
Jen Tayabji is on staff at Vietnam Veterans Against the War and lives in Urbana, IL.