Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hal Moore Is More Forgiving Than I Am - My Problem, Not His

There are few men that I admire more than Hal Moore, the legendary commander of the First Cavalry Division troops who fought so bravely in the Ia Drang Valley during the Vietnam War.

The following article was forwarded to me by the man who introduced me to retired Lieutenant General Moore when he came to Central Florida to help jump-start a scholarship fund in the name of a Marine killed in Iraq.

I also admire Moore because he has the ability to forgive his enemy.

Here is the article from USA Today:

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From USAToday.com:

How enemies became friends in this unique lesson of Vietnam

"When the blood of any war soaks your clothes and covers your hands, and soldiers die in your arms, every breath forever more becomes an appeal for a greater peace, unity and reconciliation.

It was Vietnam. I was their commander and accountable for them. We charged the enemy with bayonets fixed to our rifles in face-to-face combat. I still hear the ugly sounds of war.

(Photo - 1993 meeting: Vietnamese Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An, with the author at the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam / File photo courtesy of Hal Moore)

... I still see the boots of my dead sticking out from under their ponchos, laces tied one last time by their precious fingers. … I still carry the wounded to the helicopters as they bled, screamed and begged to live one more day … and I still hold those who die in my arms, with their questioning eyes dreading death, as they called for their mothers … their eyes go blank and my war-crusted fingers close their eyelids. The blood of my dead soldiers will not wash from my hands. The stains remain.

On Nov. 16, 1965, we won the LZ-Xray battle in the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam. But 79 of my dear troopers died for those of us who lived. During the battle, we took prisoners of war. We gave them water and aspirins to help relieve their pain. Their anxious faces soon gave way to expressions of relief that they were treated with dignity.

My unending thirst for peace and unity drove me to return to the "Valley of Death" in 1993. Some of my men accompanied me to meet with the man, along with a few of his soldiers, who had once endeavored to kill us all. Lt. Gen. Nguyen Huu An and I came face-to-face. Instead of charging one another with bayonets, we mutually offered open arms. I invited all to form a circle with arms extended around each other's shoulders and bowed our heads. With prayer and tears, we shared our painful memories. Although we did not understand each other's language, we quickly saw that the soul requires no interpreter.

Gen. An and I then walked toward each other and shook hands. He kissed me on both cheeks! A communion of friendship was established that far outweighed past bloody memories. Later, Gen. An and I walked part of the battlefield. Together we surveyed the once blood-soaked terrain. Foxholes dug long ago were adorned with blooming wildflowers. No thunder of war filled the air. Instead, birds sang with a most beautiful "noise." Ever so gently, Gen. An placed his arm in mine. We had made a very long journey from war to peace. This was sealed through the reverent affection of one arm in the other.

Col. Tran Minh Hao, one of An's soldiers, accompanied us during the battlefield visit. As we dined that night in Pleiku, he beautifully expressed the unity we all felt in the circle earlier that day.

"We have come to you this afternoon … feeling the loss of each of you … we come to span a bridge … untroubled by ancient rifts … we look together towards the future … we leave old hates for new friendships … forever in peace and harmony."

Spontaneous gestures of respect and friendship followed Hao's poem. I took off my wristwatch and offered it as a gift to Gen. An. Gladly, he accepted the gift. Then, he picked up his much-prized three-star helmet and offered it to me. Stunned, I accepted his most personal gift. Our eyes locked, as the door to our hearts had been fully opened to each other.

Lt. Gen. An died on April 9, 1995. I later visited his family in Hanoi to pay my respects. The wristwatch I had given him was displayed in a viewing case as a part of the family shrine in Gen. An's home.

Resting in my den, our dueling helmets duel no more! To the casual observer, they might just be old war souvenirs. But to me they are examples of a greater peace and unity between once warring nations.

From face-to-face combat to arm-in-arm friendship — unity was restored by our efforts to come together. I implore our great leaders on "the many days after" Memorial Day to advance this most worthy of causes for peace and unity. People and nations rise above their differences only through effort, through trust.

Without trust, unity is beyond reach and restoration. With trust, unity is within reach and preservation. We must reach out to others in order to preserve the freedom we hold dear. We are each called to bear witness to the ideals of liberty. When we treat others with the respect and friendship that true liberty engenders, they will be brought into that same liberty.

When the heartbeat of one soldier stops forever, the heartbeat of our nation should accelerate, driving us to ensure that this life was not sacrificed in vain. That racing pulse should rouse us to seek, at all costs, better ways to understand, forgive and deal with our differences. Reconciliation should always be our objective.

We owe our dead and their survivors no less! We owe our children much more! We owe our children's children even more! Let us pay our debts.

God bless America."

Hal Moore served in the Vietnam War from 1965-67. He is co-author of the book We Were Soldiers Once … And Young as well as the book We Are Soldiers Still, which will be published in August. He is also founder of the National Endowment for The Public Trust.

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Hal Moore is a better man than me. He experienced much more vicious combat than I did, lost more comrades in more horrible circumstances than I did and is much better qualified to make the decision to forgive such evil people.

The communist regime in Vietnam today is the same enemy who murdered so many innocent civilians during the war, who tortured our prisoners-of-war, who murdered untold thousands in the post-victory communist purge, who tortured untold numbers of South Vietnamese in the post-war “re-education” camps and who expect American tourists, veterans and visiting politicians to walk through the bullshit “American War Crimes Museum” when they visit Vietnam today.

If I ever made the trip to Vietnam – which I won’t – and some former NVA soldier tried to tell me about American “war crimes”, I’d have to kick his ass. Then I’d end up stuck in whatever replaced the “Hanoi Hilton.” Even as we increase our trade with Vietnam, we must never forget that the murder of innocents was part of the national policy of the communist North Vietnamese; when Americans did such evil deeds they were violating our own laws and national policy.

Other Vietnam veterans can make their own decisions, but - God forgive me – the “North” Vietnamese can still kiss my ass.

HERE IS A LINK TO A PRIOR POSTING ON HAL MOORE  - "STILL LEADING BY EXAMPLE": http://americanranger.blogspot.com/2007/01/still-leading-by-example.html

SFC Chuck Grist


  1. Hal Moore is a true American hero...

  2. MSGT Ret. Ronald SheltonAugust 20, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    We all find peace in our own way. I pray you find yours my friend.

  3. I'm with you SFC Grist. I was in Tailand loading B52s for the Air Force and was never in harm's way...but I will never forget the 50,000 who are listed on the WALL. Nor will forgive the enemy for what they did and will take that bitterness to my grave.

    1. If anyone new Billy Ronald Elliott with the 1st Cal Division 7th Cav in the Ia Drang Valley contact edwards4d@windstream.net I am his niece

  4. I Lost ANY ability to forgive the Vietcong or the NVA Regulars after my patrol,that was sent out to look for an overdue chopper with medical supplies and 2 nurses and a doctor aboard,,On our 1st day out,late in the day just before sundown we came across the huey sitting in a rice paddy with the tail rotor shot to hell and part of the port cockpit missing/blown off presumably by an RPG.We found 3 KIA's beside the slick with 2 that had been executed and one,the pilot, that looked as if he was killed in the rpg blast an followed a footpath southwest of the paddy dyke to the woodline,There we found 2 female nurses tied spread eagle between two sapplings,,Missing parts of their breasts,throats slit and sharpened wooden sticks/spikes approx. 2 foot long and as big around as my forearm had been pounded up inside of them thru their vaginal cavity and without going into more detail,It was extremely evident they had been raped by many,many men before they were killed.They had not been dead more than a few days before we found them,We never did find the doctor or the co-pilot.This occured in my 3rd month in country on my 1st of 3 tours of duty and it left me with a voracious appitite to kill on sight any and all VC or NVA i came across.The word "EVIL" does NOT do justice to the Vietcong or NVA,,I have had a lot of nightmares about those two ladies and the older i get the more frequent and realistic my nightmares become.I could not ever go back to vietnam as some of my friends/brothers have tried to get me to do when they have went back.I would definately wind up in a Viet Communist Prison or be executed for the things that i would surely do.God Help Me & Others like me because we have no redemption left in our souls.Just sign me a fortunate survivor of an unfortunate war,or callsign Ghost.

    1. God bless you Sir. I salute you.

    2. Finding the peace you desire has to start with forgiveness. I too saw horrors of war in Vietnam. My father was in World War II but was on a ship and never saw combat, but he hated the Japanese till the day he died. I didn't understand why and still don't. Both sides were fighting for their countries and their way of life. Both sides committed atrocities. I never hated the Vietnamese. I have been back twice and found the people to be very kind and friendly. It gave me closure i never dreamed of. I found Vietnam to be a beautiful country and hope i can return again to see more of it. The hatred you have will destroy only you, if you let it. I hope you can find the peace you deserve.


    1. First of all I pray that god eases your pain and thank you for your sacrifice. The problem with making war so horrible that no one want to do it is only those of us that have seen it know its horrors. Those who havent seen war glorify it dressing it in honor and pride looking to is as the ultimate confirmation of glory. Because of this war will never end every nation will only tell their people the positive and reinforce the "glory" and the cycle will go on until it is ultimately stopped by the lord until then what Plato said will remain true. Only the dead have seen the end of war

  6. What a profound article I have learned what I needed to. How to forgive the enemy. Thank you

  7. Bob Hodges, retired LTC US ARMYJanuary 21, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    We all deal with what we saw and experienced in different ways--I am thankful I knew then MG Moore when he was the Commanding General of Ft Ord in the early 1970s. He was then and now is my hero. Jesus Christ heals all hearts and sorrows and wipes away all hatred. Hal Moore told that to a group of officers at a prayer breakfast and if he can believe so can and do I.

  8. I haven't served my country regrettably. My oldest is in the military and doing incredible things. I honour everyone who served. I feel proud of you that served, but not of some of our leadership from that time. Especially the ones who were number crunching MBA desk jockeys. I recently returned from Vietnam. I'd highly recommend anyone who is seeking peace to make the trip. Consult our embassy and have them help with logistics. It's an easy trip to take. The people are seperate from the government. The people are the friendliest people on the planet. From hindsight they, the northerners were fighting what they saw as a struggle against another French occupation. Of course this lie became believable when bombs fell from the sky. The communists were miles ahead of us in propoganda technics. Part of which was to act in such a brutal way as to provoc the enemy into rage and brutality. This was all known and detailed in "street without joy". As an outside observer I understand the threat of communism especially the deadly Mao, Stalin variety. It was a good reason to fight . I also understand how the propoganda and poor leadership from the south and our own president made it an un winnable situation. The fact that you veterans served and then we're treated badly, angers me. You may never understand the whys, but Know this, John McCain is viewed with some admiration at the Hanoi Hilton and in Hanoi. While the mention of Jane Fonda illicits vomit. History has a way . Peace

  9. u are tottaly wrong about our country and our government today. Yes, I totally agree that their are still so many many problems in the system, which happens in all other countries I think, but they are not thay cruel as u said. At least I can see they accept to listen to their people and change everyday. U should understand that we never force u to visit that museum, and we also remove the name “American war crime meseum” we dont use that nam anymore because we respect you. U should visit Saigon or Ha Noi once, I think u will think again. Dont worry we are not North Korea or China. We are much much more different.