Sunday, February 20, 2011
At the Vietnam Memorial
Forty-three years ago this month, I arrived in Saigon to start a one-year tour of duty in what would turn out to be the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War.
Not long ago a young woman in the travel industry was telling me with great enthusiasm how much she had enjoyed a recent trip to Vietnam, where cities like Saigon have new names and new amenities like five-star hotels.
"Have you ever been to Vietnam?" she asked me.
"Yes," I said.
"Have you been to Hue?" she asked.
"Yes," I told her.
"What did you think?" she said brightly.
"Well, it was still on fire at the time."
Her uncomprehending expression told me that Vietnam was a very, very long time ago.
I was in Washington D.C. last week and visited the beautiful Vietnam memorial for the first time.
The young men in the picture above were asking the volunteer at the memorial to rub a name onto a paper -- as a favor, one said, for a grandfather, whose best friend it was.
A very long time ago.