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Nobody Gets Off the Bus:
The Viet Nam Generation Big Book
Volume 5 Number 1-4

March 1994

This text, made available by the Sixties Project, is copyright (c) 1996 by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., or the author, all rights reserved. This text may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. This text may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is a collective of humanities scholars working together on the Internet to use electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Tam Giao Viet Nam

I get to work a lot with the Yale Vietnamese Students Association, (ViSA). The group organized a successful conference on Tam Giao Viet Nam/Revisiting Viet Nam this fall at the Yale Law School.

About sixty Vietnamese-American students from Northeastern colleges attended, and about twenty random assorted people. ViSA's dynamic leadership--Mai Lam, Uyen Le, Hien Tran, and Dung Nguyen--brought white national figures John McAuliffe of United States Indochina Reconciliation Project, Earl Martin of Mennonite Central Committee, and Ben Kiernan of the Yale History Department, as well as Tom Hensleigh from Save the Children and Larry Ritter from the Pearl Buck Foundation, to speak alongside Vinh Nguyen of Harvard, Nicole Vecchi, M.D. of the Yale Viet Nam Education Fund, and Toan Phan, a Ha Noi lawyer and bureaucrat. Mary Hsu, one of the Yale College Deans, welcomed the participants to the university. There were no nationalist protesters. Toan Phan was questioned closely on his position that foreign investors who expect the Vietnamese government to change before they invest will wait a long time, and some students wondered why Vinh Nguyen had to begin his discussion of contemporary Vietnamese literature with the literary debates of 1862, but there were no harsh words. The whole event was marvelously sane and healthy. Afterwards, there was dinner, then a dance. Here is the text of the ViSA conference brochure, and then a memo on information resources I prepared for participants at the students' request.

ViSA was formed in 1987 in response to the troubling practice of repatriation. The Vietnamese Students Association of Yale has since evolved to foster friendship and cultivate self-identity.

Tam Giao Viet Nam is ViSA's first conference in four years. As the presence of Vietnamese in America approaches twenty years, and as Viet Nam advances towards a new era of political, economic, and technological development, Vietnamese-Americans need to define their role in the future of Viet Nam.

Most Vietnamese-American college students have spent the majority of their lives in the United States. Is it possible for them to define their role in the future of Viet Nam when their knowledge and understanding of Viet Nam are limited by what they hear but not validate by what they can see or feel?

This conference does not address this issue, but hopes to facilitate Vietnamese-Americans in their search for their role in the future of Viet Nam by presenting a little history, a little modern politics, and a little culture (and a little fun!).

Thank you for coming! Signed: Hung Dang, Hanh Do, Tran Do, Dung Lee, Linda Lee, Diep Nguyen, Michelle Nguyen, Bao Thuy Paham, Margaret Thompson, San Tran, To Lan Dang, Liem Do, Mai Lam, Uyen Le, Bang Nguyen, Dung Nguyen, Thuy Nguyen, Anh Phan, Hien Tran, and Carolyn Trin.

Maxine Hong Kingston Offers Seminars for Veterans

Jim Aubrey passed on a flier for a series of seminars which are being led by novelist Maxine Hong Kingston. The text is from the flier:

"A Time to Be: Reflective Writing, Mindfulness, and the War: A Day for Veterans and Their Families with Maxine Hong Kingston," offered on Saturday, June 19, 1993, at the O'Neill Room of the Faculty Club, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA: On this day, we will have time to be with ourselves, and practice peace together. Part of the day will be in silence for mindfulness practices such as sitting and walking meditation. These practices calm and relax the mind so that we may look deeply into the wounds of war and social injustice. Writing practices, led by Maxine Hong Kingston, will be offered. Writing alone and with others, and reflecting our lives as veterans can serve as a way to heal ourselves and our world from the wounds of war. There will be an opportunity to share our writings, if we wish, while the group listens silently. The day begins at 9:00am, with registration, followed by sitting meditation introduced by Maxine Hong Kingston. Next, there will be group outdoor walking mediation, followed by a writing prac

tice. A vegetarian lunch will be provided. In the afternoon, there will be another period of sitting meditation and a gathering to listen and reflect on each other's expressions. We will close the day with a final period of sitting meditation, ending at 6:00pm. This is the first in a series of gatherings for veterans. Future events will include a weekend mindfulness and writing retreat for veterans on August 7-8, a retreat for veterans within a larger retreat for helping professionals at Omega Institute in upstate New York September 15-19, and a mindfulness and writing meeting one evening each month.... Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior, China Men and Tripmaster Monkey, teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently writing a Book of Peace on the transforming powers of warriors.

For information about Kingston's seminars, write to Community of Mindful Living, PO Box 7355, Berkeley, CA 94707.

On Women Veterans

One couldn't have asked for better weather to top the event of this day. On Saturday, May 15, 1993, at 9:00am, the Third Annual Women Veterans' Conference and Awareness Day was held at Rocky Hill Veterans' Home and Hospital. This is equivalent to the stand down in which private and public organizations work hand in hand to help veterans get the needed service and cut down on the normal bureaucracy. A health screening set up, sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven, dealt with hypertension, colon cancer, cholesterol checks, diabetes, pulmonary and blood pressure checkups.

Women veterans of all ages and eras took advantage of this opportunity. The screening process was followed up with scheduling appointments for some cases. One of the nurses, John Cozenza, heads up the screening department. He summarized it clearly when he stated, "Women vets are more health conscious." An estimate two-to three-hundred veterans were present. The sad drawback was not enough notice was given to those who would have liked to attend, as this reporter found out days later.

When I arrived, I saw many female veterans talking about their families and the problems that they have had to deal with because they are a minority. Conversation flowed very freely, with no holds barred. One AMVETS officer was consulting with a DAV vocational rehabilitation specialist about a veteran with psychological problems. It was encouraging to see that her case might be expedited with this cooperation.

Present were the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Small Business Association, AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). That was just a start. The West Haven and Newington VA hospitals were there along with the Connecticut Department of Higher Education, the Bar Association (giving legal advice), the Bureau of Rehabilitation Service of the State of Connecticut, the Connecticut Department of Labor, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines (SSM), as well as the Hartford Veterans Outreach Center. It was an excellent turnout of organizations.

A ten minute ceremony then took place and was emceed by the State Commissioner for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Hank Harper. We were informed about the Veterans Improvement Program (VIP) in which housing was set up on the grounds for males, females, and families. Those children in the families were bussed to local schools, while the veterans received vocational training in conjunction with state and municipal agencies.

Mr. Harper then introduced Lt. Governor Eunice Groark, who spoke on the transformation that the home has gone through under the current administration. She then continued to praise the women veterans as examples to other women.

After the speeches, I spoke with Maureen O'Brien, a thirty-five-year-old army veteran. She is currently the only female veteran patient in the West Haven PTSD clinic. I asked her to describe how she felt in a male-oriented environment and what today meant to her.

She described herself as a homeless veteran with a pending VA compensation. She came today as an intrigued veteran who wanted to know what benefits she was entitled to. Maureen then stated that female veterans were neglected and their needs were ignored in the VA system. She described a feeling of not belonging. Coming here today had enlightened her and renewed a sense of pride that had long since disappeared. She questioned whether the female veterans of Desert Storm would be able to receive proper service in the current setup of the Veterans Administration, stating that it was geared towards males, especially Vietnam veterans.

I found today to be an emotional and educational experience. In the long run, we as veterans still have a long way to go before we can really help one another by overcoming our differences.

Hoa Binh.

--Howie Chernikoff, 55 Irving Street, New Haven, CT 06511, 203-776-9769

Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Corky Condon, Vice President of the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (FVVM) & Sons and Daughters In Touch administrator, sent us the following information on the organization and the In Touch program:

The Friends are dedicated to extending the healing nature of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and preserving its historical significance and emotional legacy. We provide the living link between the Wall and the American people. Members of the Friends can be found everywhere working quietly to insure that the reasons why the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was created are never forgotten. Our volunteers and our volunteer services enable FVVM to meet the special needs of thousands of people and to further the healing process still so necessary on both the personal and national levels.

The power of the Memorial lies in the names. Each tells a special story, and the recognition and respect given to each is an important part of the healing process. By responding to requests for name rubbings from people who are unable to visit Washington, Friends volunteers have brought the Wall to over 25,000 homes and families. Each name is gently and thoughtfully traced onto special paper at no cost to those who request them. They are a tangible expression of the care and concern of the American people... a private remembrance for the family... and a gift of love and respect from the Friends.

Many of the over 43 million Americans with direct personal ties to those who died in Vietnam want and need help in finding others who knew someone listed on the Memorial. Veterans who want to fulfill promises and/or share memories and mementos of their lost comrades often find that their buddies' families are pleased to learn that their loved ones are still remembered. The In Touch program makes such contact--and the subsequent healing--possible. Through In Touch--a centralized database compiled in cooperation with many organizations throughout the country--those who are searching for answers and understanding can reach out to others who still care. Through the offspring of In Touch, Sons and Daughters In Touch and Siblings In Touch, family members with common experiences find a support network that brings them the comforting knowledge that they are not alone.

Thousands who served in Vietnam returned home only to die as a result of their experience. Some of these deaths were due to Agent Orange exposure and others were due to physical or emotional wounds received in Vietnam. The deaths of these individuals are no less tragic than those that occurred in-country, but their names will never appear on the Memorial, nor will the names of the countless civilians who also died. In Memory is a unique program designed to honor these individuals. Through it, our volunteers place specially designed certificates at the Wall so that all who visit will know that these men and women now stand with their honored comrades.

In Honor was instituted so that service to one's country could be recognized by having a flag flown on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This flag can be flown at the Friends information booth in honor of a specific person, unit or date. A message will be placed at its base to describe who or for what reason it is being flown.

FVVM's Visiting Volunteers program provides a way to educate people about the Memorial. The program enables a community organization to sponsor one or two people on a visit to Washington for an intensive three-day weekend at the Wall and the Friends' offices. During their stay, these volunteers are exposed to the healing legacy of the Memorial firsthand. When they return to their communities with a slide show and printed materials, volunteers are uniquely qualified to relate to their communities the power of the Memorial. Thus is the legacy of the Memorial carried across the country to be shared and preserved for future generations.

Early on Father's Day at the Memorial, volunteers place, beneath the appropriate panels, hundreds of red roses, each with a personal message attached. Anyone who asks, by letter or phone, is served. At sunrise the Wall is lined with love. Requests for flowers are also taken for the winter holidays and special anniversaries.

Working cooperatively with the National Park Service, FVVM maintains and information site near the Memorial. Hundreds of people every day find the FVVM table to be a valuable and welcome resource. There they find individuals willing and able to answer questions, to provide guidance, or just to listen. There they can record their thoughts and experiences upon visiting the Wall, and they can obtain books and other materials relating to the Memorial. FVVM also publishes a newsletter on Memorial-related activities, assists people seeking information from government agencies, assists with ceremonies at the Memorial on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day, supports the work of the Moving Wall as it travels to communities across the country, and manages the copyright licensing process for Frederick Hart's statue, thus helping to preserve the aesthetic integrity of the Memorial.

The FVVM offers memberships ranging in price from $20 to $1000. For more information, contact the Friends of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Suite 106, Box 108, Washington, DC 20016; 703/525-1107.

Theater of the First Amendment

Director Rick Davis and the Theater of the First Amendment performed a reading of Fred Gaines' play about memory and the Kent State shootings, Cellophane Xerox, at the Sixties Generations conference last March. On August 25 Kalí received the following piece of promotional literature, addressed "Dear Vietnam-era Veteran," from Rick:

As you know, perhaps better than anyone, the Vietnam war had a critical impact on United States history, affecting politics, the economy, and the cultural fabric of the nation. Many galvanizing events took place on the homefront during that tumultuous period, ramifications of which reverberate even today. Theater of the First Amendment (TFA) at the Center for the Arts, George Mason University, is dedicated to creating and presenting issue-oriented plays which reexamine important events in our collective history. One such event was the Kent State University shootings of 1970.

TFA is therefore proud to present Cellophane Xerox by Frederick Gaines from September 1 through September 19 [1993]. Cellophane Xerox focuses on the Kent State tragedy, as a present-day young hotshot director films his interpretation of that shattering event. His interests are divided between making a commercially successful movie and telling the "true" story. While at Kent State, he is confronted by two eyewitnesses who have their own versions of that day and their own agendas. Cellophane Xerox recreates pieces of Kent State and creates a framework for our speculations about what happened, who made it happen, and how we might come to a collective understanding of our history.

Fred Gaines is one of a very few American playwrights who consistently engages history in his work. His plays tend not to be "history plays" in the usual sense, but evocations of the past in our present, and how we remember and interpret it.

The second play being presented by TFA this fall is Carrier by Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller. Another play dealing with the legacy of the past, Carrier encourages us to reflect on the Vietnam War through the eyes of one who experienced it. The main character is a former Navy airman wrestling with the ghosts of his military past and his mundane existence as a small-town lawyer. As he struggles to get in touch with a piece of that past, we come to understand how impossible, yet inescapable, that drive is in all of us.

I'm sorry to bring the news of these plays to our readers too late to enable them to attend the TFA performances. The reading of Cellophane Xerox was quite impressive, and I'm sure the performances were excellent. I'd urge anyone interested in these plays to contact Rick Davis, Theater of the First Amendment, Institute of the Arts, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444; 703/993-2194; FAX: 703/993-2191.

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