By Ollie Arci and Minh Phương
HÀ NỘI — A top US Marine based in Hà Nội says he believes Việt Nam and the US have a lot more in common these days than they ever had different.
Major Chuck Casey is the marine attaché to the US Embassy in the capital, and after three years living in Việt Nam with his Vietnamese wife and two children, he feels the two countries have developed from being the best of enemies to the best of friends.
Major Casey was speaking at a veteran’s lunch organised to mark the 73rd War Invalids and Martyrs’ Day.
He was sat side-by-side with Vietnamese army veterans at a special lunch arranged by the Dolce Golden Lake Hotel.
“This is really special to me,” said Major Casey. “My father was a marine, veteran, here in Việt Nam.
“When I was growing up he never talked about the bad side of war, all he talked about was the generosity and the industry of the Vietnamese people. So for me to be here with a former enemy as friends is very meaningful inside.
“We could talk all day about our economic relationship, our cultural relationship, our defence relationship, but more importantly just on the inside, our two cultures are so similar, we value family, we value taking care of our veterans, we have much more in common than we ever had different.”
The event was organised by Chairman of Hòa Bình Group Nguyễn Hữu Đường, who brought together more than 200 veterans to mark the occasion.
Việt Nam war veterans entertain their comrades at a special lunch held to mark the 73rd War Invalids and Martyrs’ Day. — VNS Photo Hoàng Hồ
Many of those who proudly donned their uniforms for the event were employees of Đường, who firmly believes today’s soldiers are equally important to those from days gone by.
He said: “The military's role is to protect the country's independence and freedom in both wartime and peacetime. In peacetime, the army also plays an important role in developing the country's economy. In fact, our country always has war, so the duty of the military force remains unchanged in any period.
“There are sacrifices in any period. The military force has to protect the country not only in war but also in peacetime. That is the mission of military force which is very sacred to the country and people.”
The event was opened with songs from former army personnel, including Nguyễn Thị Kim Thanh who entertained troops during the war with America.
And on Saturday she was back on stage doing what she does best.
“As a singer who served in an army, we will continue singing until we can no longer sing,” she said.
“Whenever we meet our comrades, it is always very touching. We always feel nostalgia when talking with each other about our old memories when we were on the battlefield. The emotion was overwhelming, it is very touching.
“We never thought that one day we could become grandpa and grandma. We never thought that one day we could be this old. The spirit of a soldier is always full in us, especially when we reunite with each other.”
Veterans remember soldiers who lost their lives defending the country. VNS Photo Hoàng Hồ.
An opportunity to catch up with old friends, the luncheon was also an opportunity to remember fallen comrades.
Trần Mạnh Tuấn was severely wounded in battle, and today needs a wheelchair to get around. But despite his extensive injuries, he has no doubt he is lucky to be alive.
The former Lieutenant said: “Participating in this celebration, I feel extremely excited, touched and I’m also very proud.
“During the war, everyone expected that good things would happen, which is they can live until the victory day.
“I myself finally could achieve that even though I have to suffer from a lot of pains, illnesses, but I’m still lucky to live to witness the development of the country, the development of the Party, the country and army.” VNS