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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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