Part 2: Singing a song of staying on

Vietnamese people – testaments to peace

“If I could sing a song about anything, I would sing a song of staying on in this place because I love it,” said Congressman Phillips.

He sang the lyrics that his father had sang in his tapes with compassionate kiss for the son that 'We have to leave here if that is the last thing we do.'

The U.S. official said that his father had the same thought with other U.S. servicemen engaging in the war in Vietnam at that time. They all had internal conflict in the hearts and any soldier in any conflict “wants the war to end and wants to go home.”

He also knew that the Vietnamese people love peace. However, it was sad and shameful to say that peace was made through war. As a congressman, he wished to continue the effort of creating peace that his father would have wanted him to do and he would do it together with wonderful people both in Vietnam and the U.S. He hoped that his father would be proud of him.

Congressman Dean Phillips points at his father on the photo.

According to Congressman Phillips, before arriving in Pleiku city, he and his friends spent one week cycling in the North of Vietnam. They biked to many places, not only Hanoi but also other small villages. “We saw the most wonderful people. We played volleyball in communities on International Women’s Day. We did karaoke together. We met remarkable people in every place we went. We saw beautiful schools and villages. I wanted to experience that first, especially in the North where very few Americans have ever gone,” he said.

The U.S. official confirmed that he could see what his father saw, feel what his father felt. “I understanding this conflict. I love peace. Sadly, sometimes peace comes at a cost. As you Vietnamese know more than anybody that you fought for your freedom for generations. And I understand and I think it’s my job to remind Americans what that war was really about for the Vietnamese. You did not invade anybody. You wanted your freedom, your independence.” He added that there is no country better than Vietnam in creating peace in the world and that “I want to tell my friends in Congress and throughout my country to come here and visit, not just visit testaments to war, but spend time with people because those are testaments to peace.”

Settlement of war legacy

War has been over but its consequences still linger on in both countries. In the U.S.A. there is a special word to describe the children of servicemen who died in the war - the Gold Star children. Phillips clearly realized that war not only took the lives of soldiers, but also had severe consequences for their family members. As the son of a soldier, he knows that there are countries that always “find the resources to send men and women to war and then somehow are unable to find the resources to take care of them when they come home.” That is why he feels deeply about “taking care of veterans who give to their country their lives, their limbs, their futures.” “It is important whether it’s Vietnam, the U.S., anywhere in the world to take care of those who serve their country,” Phillips stressed, adding that U.S. veterans were not welcomed home in a way that most soldiers were. “They were disrespected. It was painful. Many carry that burden to this day,” he said.

Phillips bringing some soil in Vietnam back to the U.S.

For Vietnam, the legacy of war is bigger with a series of problems such as finding information about martyrs in the war, overcoming the consequences of Agent Orange/dioxin, UXO clearance, and more. Phillips said that the U.S. government has an obligation to provide resources to solve these problems, and protect human lives. “I personally wish to help support efforts to clear landmines to ensure that no one else dies as a result of that terrible war,” Phillips said.

Looking towards a bright future

Though suffering many losses, veterans of both the U.S. and Vietnam were the very first to take very difficult steps to normalize the relations between Vietnam and the U.S.A. “That sends a message to all the U.S.A. that it’s our responsibility,” Phillips said.

He shared that he visited the memorial dedicated to Senator John McCain in Hanoi and knew that he had returned to Vietnam more than 10 times and felt so strongly about building a relationship.

Sunflowers, symbolizing peace, sunshine, and prosperity, are placed at the place thought to be where Phillips' father died.

According to the U.S. official, the way the Vietnamese honored McCain when he died is a remarkable testament to reconciliation and “that’s the spirit in which I come to Vietnam to create friendships and to invest in friendships, not just between me and all of you, but between our countries, our governments.”

He underlined the importance of the Vietnam - U.S. partnership. He hoped to see deeper relationship between the two countries in the future.

He promised to tell his friends, neighbors and other U.S. people about beautiful Vietnam with peace-loving people and children with the nicest smiles he has seen in his life.

He hoped the two countries will show the world the meaning of reconciliation and their friendship and mutual respect.

Sunflowers that Phillips bought from a vender in Hanoi were placed on Ham Rong mountain where his father laid down his life. He hoped that his activities during the trip will spread the significance of peace, sunshine, and prosperity for a brighter future for all.

By Ngoc Hung

Translated by Mai Huong