A Vietnamese Vietnam Vet This past Memorial Day marked the 50th anniversary of America’s entry into the Vietnam War. As we remember our own veterans of that costly war, keep in mind that there are Vietnamese living among us that served honorably and, in some cases, fought bravely alongside our troops.
One of them is former Lt. Col. Tran Ngoc Hue, who was decorated for bravery for his actions during the Tet Offensive. He represents a largely invisible segment of that gray or graying family: Vietnamese who served in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – the ARVN.
Hue, who is now known as “Harry,” visited the Vietnam wall in Washington, D.C. like many other vets on Memorial Day. He wore his Vietnamese and U.S. medals, among them the Silver Star and a Bronze Star for valor.
“I am happy for the ceremony here today, to recognize the Vietnam veteran for their sacrifice in the Vietnam War,” Hue said as he stood with friends and family in the shade of the first row of trees closest to the wall.
Kenneth Jacobsen of Counterparts, an association of American military advisors and their Vietnamese counterparts, said Hue is among the most famous ARVN soldiers of the war. He led the ARVN battalion that took the citadel in the ancient city of Hue in 1968 – the action that earned him the Silver Star, Jacobson said.
“He was captured in 1973,” Jacobson said. “He was wounded and he told his troops to leave him behind in Laos … Even the North Vietnamese thought he was a hero, and they tried to convert him but he never turned.”
Hue spent about a dozen years in prison and re-education camps before being released. Finally, a former Marine who served with him in Vietnam located him and led the effort to bring him and his family to the U.S. He arrived in 1991 and now lives in Falls Church, Va.
Vietnam veterans had a difficult time when they returned to the U.S., said Hue, referring to the lack of gratitude and respect for their service by fellow Americans.
Hue recognized that this has changed.
“One thing I want to say – it’s late [to be saying thank you] but better than never,” he said.