Today was day 3 of our trip to Ho Chi Minh City and we went to the Reunification Palace. It was here, after Saigon fell to the North, that Vietnam was Reunified into a single country, one Vietnam.
We casually walked it’s halls and then took a smiley-face picture outside. It was right about then that the wheels came off…It was the picture. As a student of History, I am keenly aware of this building’s past, it’s history. I was just a child during the Vietnam war. I remember bits and pieces from the news but I can’t remember anyone close that was involved.
It has been easy, if that is the right word, to come here as a tourist and enjoy this beautiful city and it’s people. As I roam it’s streets, I have seen nothing that brings the Vietnam war to mind. The Vietnamese view history in their own way, which to me seems private and quietly proud. Not once, have I noticed anyone give me even a sideward glance. I feel as comfortable here as I have felt in any European Country, that we haven’t been to war with.
I have no idea how a Vietnamese Soldier, of that era, even feels about that point in their history. I can imagine, however, how an American Vietnam war veteran feels. One only needs to go to Washington D.C. and view the Vietnam War Memorials. For some, their lives have been defined by this war and it still remains a part of their daily existence.
I stopped at one point and wondered if they could ever come back to this Country again, perhaps to find closure, if that is even possible. I was feeling guilt, as if my visit here was some form of betrayal to those who fought and died…here.
It seems that this trip will not be as simple as I once thought, it carries with it a “form” of responsibility, a duty to humanity if you will, to simply remember.
When we left the Palace, neither of us were smiling. We ached deeply for the Veteran’s of both sides, so many lives lost, so much pain. And as we continue our stay, our vacation here, I will continue to respectfully remember…