Administrator’sNote:

A friend of mine sent me the article “In Full Circle: Viet Nam and Iraq”below written by Captain Bill Nguyen.Captain Nguyen is a second generation Vietnamese American currentlyserving in Iraq.After perusing his fine essay, I foundgreat solace that the younger generation of Vietnamese in the U.S. did not let us down.The majority of them have made theirelders proud.

Like other nations on earth, Viet Nam has many great oldsayings.There is one which says:“Ăn quả nhớ kẻtrồng cây”.A straight translation of this adage into English is as follows:

When eating the fruit, remember the person who planted it”.

The author of this essay, Captain Nguyen, explains and carries outthis proverb impeccably. He does not only remember the person who planted thetree but he shows his gratitude, and more importantly, he wishes to repay the heavydebt when he said:

“Iwanted to serve a country that had adopted my family when we had nothing tooffer.I wanted to contribute to acountry that has given me new opportunities to pursue liberty and mylife’s goals.I am extremelygrateful for America’sopen arms.There is a feeling ofindebtedness to the American public for their social and public programs thathad helped my family get on our feet and start a new life.I can’t help but remember aboutthe Vietnam War and how over 57,000 Americans fought and died to defend South Vietnam.I can’t deny the sacrifices of theAmerican people.I joined because Iwanted to give back to a country that gave us freedom and a new place to callhome.

Captain Nguyen, we are proud of you. Keep up the good work.

In Full Circle:Vietnamand Iraq

Capt BillNguyen

TheAmerican public often debates the similarities between the Vietnam War and the US military presence in Iraq.Americans wonder whether Iraq is another Vietnam.Only history will answer that dauntingquestion. However, for me, Vietnamand Iraqare indistinguishable.I can makethis bold statement because I am a Vietnamese American that happens to serve inIraqin support of OIF and whose childhood bears the tragedies of the Vietnam Warand its aftermath.

Mystory can’t be told without mentioning a dark moment in US History.My story originated in a country thatmost Americans have forgotten. Just like the current foreign policy in Iraq, 31 years ago America was conducting the sametasks of promoting democracy, stabilizing a volatile country, and protectingits national interest.Instead ofcombating Islamic fascism, Americawas countering communism.Likewise,instead of containing Syrian and Iranian influence in Iraq, Americawas preventing the encroachment of Soviet and China’sinfluences in Vietnam.

WhenAmerican forces abandoned their South Vietnamese ally in 1973 and left theSouth Vietnamese to fend for themselves until the end of April, 1975, when Hanoi had free rein toinvade South Vietnam,panic and chaos immediately followed. The fall of Saigonmarks an emotional and painful event for both my family and millions ofVietnamese living in exile abroad. When Saigonfell, millions of Vietnamese saw an end to hope, an end to a country, and atragic end of a struggle to life, liberty, and self determination.The American withdrawal and theCommunist invasion of South Vietnam resulted in one of the largestrefugee migration in modern history.From 1975-1978, over 120,000 Vietnamese refugees settled in Camp Pendleton, CA, Fort Chaffee, AKand Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.Duringthe entire humanitarian relief program, the United States admitted over 200,000 Vietnamese, Australia and Canadaadmitted 137,000 each, Franceaccepted 96,000 and Germanyand UKallowed 19,000 Vietnamese refugees between the two countries.

Under the moonlit night in the spring of 1984, when I wasbarely three, my dad took me from my mother’s arms and put me on a smallfishing boat.I was joined by myolder sister, Vanessa.On the boat,I also saw my uncles, cousins, and other relatives.I remembered looking for my mother andmy younger sister, Sen.My searchwas fruitless because unbeknown to me at the time, my parents agreed that mymother should stay behind to take care of my younger sister since the trip istoo treacherous to risk losing an entire family.We set sail to the east in an attempt toflee the tyranny of communism just like thousands of other Vietnamese boatpeople before us.Ahumanitarian ship picked us up in the South China Seaand settled us in one of the many refugees campsestablished by the United Nations following the end of the Vietnam War.My immediate family were grantedpolitical asylum by the United Statesand finally settled in Oakland, California.My other relatives found new homes in Australia andother European Countries who were sympathetic toward our plight.

In America, I grewup without a mother and I was constantly reminded about the Vietnam War.My dad and his friends would oftendiscuss the war and the homeland that they lost.Growing up in AmericaI would often see neglected Vietnam War veterans meandering in the streets of San Francisco and Oakland.In the Vietnamese communities throughoutthe Bay Area, I would see the old South Vietnamese flag that continues to serveas a rally point for millions of Vietnamese living in exiles.

Growingup and studying history in school, I researched as much as I could about theVietnam War.I came to theconclusion that the noble intentions of America’sinvolvement in Southeast Asia were true.Americawas promoting and protecting democracy in South Vietnam, a country underconstant pressure from Chinese and Russian communists influence.I was also overwhelmed by the fact thatso many American service members served, fight, and died to defend a homelandthat my dad always reminisces about.I was also flattered by the social and public assistance programs thatmy family were receiving.I was grateful for everything America did butsimultaneously I was also laden with guilt.

In1997, I decided not to attend college after graduating from high school.Instead my mind was set to serve in themilitary.I wanted to repay America for her sacrifices with my service andcommitment to defend Americain future conflicts.

Ienlisted in the Army and served 2 years in the Army as an E-4 Specialist.In 1999, I was given the opportunity toattend the United States Military Academyat West Point.I jumped on that offer because I knewthat my contribution to Americawould be greater serving in a capacity as an officer than as a juniorenlisted.I wanted to makedecisions and help guide national security policies.

Priorto attending West Point, I made a visit to Vietnam Memorial in Washington,D.C. and the NationalCemetery in Arlington, VA.I paid my respect to the thousands ofservice members who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend my country.I also had a chance to visit my motherand Sen for the first time in 15 yrs.The social injustice and the lack of civil liberties in Vietnaminfuriated me.I went to West Point with a burning desire to make a difference.

In2001, I watched United Airline’s flight 175 crashed into the South Towerin New York City.With the collapsed of the Word Trade Center came uncertaintiesin my future.I graduated from West Point in 2003 with a degree in SystemsEngineering.Vice President Cheneyspoke at my graduation and warned us about the uncertainty of war and how thewar on terror would be completely different from any other war.Like many of

classmates, I was touched by his speech and very proud of myaccomplishment.Prior to reportingto my first duty station, I revisited the Vietnam Memorial and Arlington National Cemeteryhoping to find guidance.

Afterthe Officer Basic Course in El Paso, I arrivedat my permanent duty station at Fort Hood, Texas.My future looked unclear because Fort Hood isthe home of two Army Divisions, the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) whojust got back from Iraq andthe 1st Calvary Division who was currently in Iraq at thetime.My choice of either Divisionwas 50/50. Therefore, I contacted the Battalion Commander of 4-5 ADA and expressed mydesire to serve my country and offered my commitment.Immediately, I was rushed off tothe Middle East promoting democracy while the U.S.was desperately trying to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq.

Ideployed to Iraqin the summer of 2004.I met myPlatoon while they were guarding the main entry control point leading intoBaghdad International Airport (BIAP) and the various Forward Operating Bases inthe vicinity.My Platoon worked a24 plus hour shift continuously every day.We worked from 11am to 12pm the next day during the hot summer dayssearching thousands and thousands of vehicles entering BIAP.

Afterspending the summer defending Baghdad International Airport,my Platoon was tasked with patrolling and securing “Airport Road.”Airport Road is the main highway thatconnects the International Zone (Green Zone) to Baghdad International Airport.According to the US State Department andvarious U.S. news source, “Airport Road” was the most dangerous road in Iraq.Roadside bombs, small arms fire, andsuicide car bombers were a common picture along Airport Road.I lost my Platoon Sergeant during thefirst few weeks of patrolling.Asuicide car bomber detonated his vehicles and killed two soldiers in my batteryand wounded three of my men.Patrolling and securing Airport Road was definitely dangerous and nerve racking.In total my Battalion lost several more men and sent home dozen more injuredsoldiers.Everyone in my platoonsaw direct actions on that road.

Ireturned back from Iraqin March 2005 a changed man.Myhalf brother, David, who enlisted in the Army while I was in Iraq, welcomed me at Fort Hood.David was serving in 4ID and was slottedto deploy to Iraqlater toward the end of 2005.Myfamily was worried about David’s safety and complained about theemotional roller coaster of sending off a child after another to Iraq.I promised my parents I would take careof my brother.David deployed to Iraq inDecember of 2005.I later joined Davidin Iraqin January 2006 with the disapproval of my parents.

Davidis currently in Camp Prosperity in the middle of Baghdadand I am stationed in Camp Taji just north of Baghdad.David is a tanker and routinely conducts escort missions and guards the towers.As for me, I am currently the ExecutiveOfficer for Brigade’s headquarters company.Being the executive officer allows meplenty of time to reassess my decision.Without a doubt, I have no regret in the path I’ve chosen for mylife.

Iwanted to serve a country that had adopted my family when we had nothing tooffer.I wanted to contribute to acountry that has given me new opportunities to pursue liberty and mylife’s goals.I am extremelygrateful for America’sopen arms.There is a feeling ofindebtedness to the American public for their social and public programs thathad helped my family get on our feet and start a new life.I can’t help but remember aboutthe Vietnam War and how over 57,000 Americans fought and died to defend South Vietnam.I can’t deny the sacrifices of theAmerican people.I joined because Iwanted to give back to a country that gave us freedom and a new place to callhome.I am currently in Iraq desperately trying to promote democracy andstabilized a ravaged country the way my brothers-in-arms did 31 years ago in Southeast Asia.I don’t want to see Iraqfail the way democracy was failed in Vietnam.I don’t want the Iraqi people togo through the same emotional pain of losing a country and losing their newlydiscovered freedom the way my family and I did.

America is the greatest country inthe world not because of our military or economic might,instead we are the greatest country because of our democratic tenets.I feel that America is the beacon fordemocracy.

If history will judge and determine whether America’s decision to invade Iraqis just,hopefully, history will also be able to remind us of the consequences of Vietnam and help guide America’sfuture foreign policies.Historywill remind us of President Lincoln when he said that “the probabilitythat we may fail in struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a causewe believe is just.”If ourcause is just then we should not falter to political and social pressure likewe did in Vietnam.If our cause is just we should stay thecourse until the mission is complete and our current mission is to stabilizeand democratize Iraq.Iraqwill not be another Vietnambecause I feel that our cause is morally and ethically just.

CPTBill Nguyen

4thInfantry Division

Camp Taji., Iraq

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