Hanoi, an unforgettable night

Chuck Searcy is the Chair of the subdivision 160 of Veterans for Peace organization and an international advisor of Project RENEW. As he stepped onto the podium, people turned their gazes to him. With a deep and warm voice, his story spread out his great admiration for Vietnam...

 
In January, PeaceTrees Vietnam marked 25 years of cooperation with the US Embassy and Quang Tri to mitigate unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the war. Source: PeaceTrees

Chuck Searcy began his speech by setting the time back to July 1995, when he was a member of the American community in Hanoi, waiting for the moment President Bill Clinton announced the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the U.S. Among little choice, they chose a bar near Hoan Kiem lake, persuaded the owner to switch the channel to CNN and waited for President Clinton’s big announcement. 

“On the evening of July 11th, the bar was crowded of people. By the time Clinton appeared in front of the cameras, which was by midnight, patrons of the bar were offered free beers, they were eager and excited. The bar went silent when Clinton stepped in front of the microphone, giving no further explanation, and said: " Today, I announce the normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam."

Cheers and whistles resounded in the room, beer mugs were lifted in the air, cameras flickered and the light of the TV screen was blinking. The celebration then began”, Mr. Chuck Searcy said. Chuck Searcy also repeated the challenges of the early days when the two countries went through the war to establish diplomatic relations, and affirmed that this was not an easy process.

“A good beginning” 

According to Chuck Searcy, opportunities for Vietnam – US corporation entered a new phase. American citizens, veterans who took part in the Vietnam war, professors, students, businessmen, etc. are now able to work with Vietnamese colleagues based on trust and corporation. And it is also important that both sides have been working together to resolve war’s consequences slowly yet firmly.   

 
Chuck Sercy in the shoe giving ceremony held at Huong Linh Primary School which has distributed over 90,000 pairs of shoes coupled with UXO safety messages to over 245 schools in Quang Tri province

He recalled his memory on November 2000, when President Clinton visited Vietnam. Speaking about the aftermath of unexploded ordnance, President Clinton said: “I appreciated for the work of the Vietnamese people, as well as the NGOs. And I would also want to thank the US veterans for joining...”.

"Those are kind words for us - veterans," said Chuck Searcy. Veteran Chuck Searcy recounted that, on the day, there were four boys from Quang Tri, who lost arms and legs or were severely burned due to landmine accidents. President Clinton looked at them and said: Please stand up, so that we could feel your bravery.” The audience clapped and burst into emotion and tears. At the same moment, the President announced that the U.S Department of Defense would sponsor a major funding for Quang Tri to support landmine survivors. He promised that the U.S would assist Vietnam in solving landmine problem, “no matter how long it takes”. 

Friends of Chuck Searcy are aware of his immense merit to the founding of Project RENEW, a good "join-hand" between the American Veterans Memorial Fund in Vietnam and the provincial government of Quang Tri, to create one of the first "integrated and comprehensive" approach to operation that combines mine clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance. He is proud that after major efforts of many participants, there were no landmine accidents in Quang Tri for the past 3 years... "It is a great example of success", said Chuck Searcy.

At the end of the talk, veteran Chuck Searcy mentioned the time he met with General Vo Nguyen Giap in 1995. At that time, when looking at the Vietnam-US badge on Chuck Searcy's jacket, General Vo Nguyen Giap said: "Vietnam and the US must always be friends."

“25 years is not "always", but it is a good start" the US veteran who considers Vietnam as his second homeland concluded in the end with endless applause coming from the crowd...

Nguyen Phuc