Cyclists Fund Drive for Vietnam Visits
Seven soldiers turned cyclists completed a six-day, 320-mile journey through former battlefields of central Vietnam in early April to raise money that will help veterans of the war pay for return visits to Vietnam, according to a McClatchy report. One of the seven is a Vietnam veteran; others have served or are serving in more recent or current conflicts. The Vietnam Honor Ride is one of the programs of San Antonio–based Operation Comfort, established in 2004 to help wounded veterans adapt to civilian life. The $170,000 raised in donations will be used to sponsor visits next year for at least 25 Vietnam veterans—or veterans traveling in their stead—who could not otherwise afford the trip. More information: http://operationcomfort.org/ride-vietnam-2014.
Arlington Turns 150
In 1864 the Union Army established a cemetery on the grounds of Arlington House, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s family estate, which had been seized for use in the defense of Washington. The first burials took place around the rose garden of the general’s wife, Mary Custis Lee. Since then, Arlington National Cemetery has become the nation’s premier military cemetery. Over 400,000 soldiers, prominent Americans and their spouses have been buried there. The schedule for events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the cemetery can be found at http:// www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Events/ANC150.aspx.
Mel Ayton, in his new book Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts—From FDR Hunting the President: to Obama, argues that President Lyndon B. Johnson lived a more bunkered existence than any other president. Although the records of threats to presidents are classified, Ayton contends that concern about potential attacks by violent antiwar protesters confined the president to delivering speeches at sites deemed “safe,” like military bases.
Kite-Makers Convene at Vung Tau
The town of Vung Tau, about 60 miles outside Ho Chi Minh City, hosted an international kite festival in May with kite-makers from more than two dozen countries. It was Vietnam’s fifth International Kite Festival. Participants learned to make various kinds of kites, including one traditional model, crafted of bamboo, that combines a kite with a flute. The sounds of the kite flute, traditionally made in the northern province of Hai Duong’s Kinh Mon district, were used to warn villagers about Chinese Qing Dynasty invaders 200 years ago.
Dioxin Cleanup at Da Nang Airport
The U.S. Agency for International Development is working with the Vietnamese government to clean up contamination from the wartime storage of dioxin at Da Nang International Airport. Crews are excavating the contaminated soil and baking the pile—24 feet tall, 210 feet wide and about 300 feet long—until the dioxin is eliminated. Veterans for Peace recently traveled to Da Nang to view the project. The thermal treatment process began in April. U.S. officials, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., attended the event. The estimated completion date is 2016.
Beer Makes It Big
Vietnam is one of the poorest Asian countries in per capita income, but it ranks third in Asia—after China and Japan—in beer consumption. Vietnamese consumed more than 3 billion quarts of beer in 2013.
Views of the War
Vietnamese painter Huynh Phuong Dong, 90, celebrated his long career with an exhibition at Ho Chi Minh City’s art museum in April. Over the past four decades he has been depicting war scenes on canvas. During the war, he hid his sketches in metal boxes buried beneath termite nests, according to a report by Vietnam Breaking News.
Unrecognized Post-Traumatic Stress Triggers Class-Action Suit
Five Vietnam veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America, with the help of Yale Law School students, have initiated a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. military. The plaintiffs contend that posttraumatic stress disorder, which was not recognized until 1980, contributed to conduct that prevented their honorable discharge, which meant they were denied access to care and benefits they say they deserve. They are asking for re-evaluation of their discharges and available benefits. A favorable decision could benefit other veterans in similar circumstances.
Subtle Signals of Brain Injuries From Blasts
The growing concern about the consequences of head injuries to athletes is raising similar questions about the effects of combat explosions on soldiers’ brains. In a study of combat veterans who had served since 2001, researchers at Duke University and the Department of Veterans Affairs looked at images of the subjects’ white matter, nerve fibers that connect brain regions, and found that blast exposure was correlated with disruption in white matter, whether or not the soldier reported any of the classic signs of traumatic brain injury: loss of consciousness, blurred vision and headaches. Disruptions in white matter affected reaction times and the ability to switch between different tasks but not judgment or decision-making abilities, according to the study, published March 3 in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.
Originally published in the August 2014 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.