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South Vietnamese vets prompt new perspective

As a combat Vietnam veteran, I was at my local chapter when a Vietnamese-American came in. He invited us to join a local veterans group of the Republic of South Vietnam military forces to be their guests at their annual remembrance ceremony and celebration. Some of us did not know what to make of the invitation, but I and others wanted to know more about our fellow South Vietnamese veterans living in Western New York.

At the door, we were greeted warmly and with much gratitude. There was a traditional remembrance ceremony with moments of silence for both Vietnamese and American war heroes. Afterward, we celebrated with wonderful Vietnamese food, music and dancing. There was a lot of picture taking, handshakes and hugs. We were thanked many times for our service and particularly for the sacrifice American veterans made to fight for freedom for the South Vietnamese people.

After the collapse of South Vietnam, these veterans were interred in re-education camps for years by the North Vietnamese regime. They eventually fled the country seeking freedom. About 3,000 South Vietnamese-Americans are living in Western New York today. They are hard workers who contribute to society every day. They are very thankful to the United States for the freedom they now have.

There are many South Vietnamese veterans who were injured during the war and unfortunately were not able to flee. They receive no health or other benefits from the current government. So this veterans group raises funds to send back and assist them.

After meeting these fellow veterans and their families, I feel comforted that some of the sacrifices I and other veterans made, at a very young age and under very trying circumstances, were worthwhile.

Jay G. Wopperer

Member, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 77

Williamsville