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Marine to return to Hue, five decades after pivotal Vietnam War battle

Marine to return to Hue, five decades after pivotal battle

FORT WASHINGTON, MD. — Fresh off a busy week of being in the spotlight at the opening of a Vietnam War photo exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, Marine Corps veteran Richard Prince was ready to reflect on the moment. Then he received an email from The Greatest Generations Foundation.

The nonprofit was offering an all-expenses paid trip to the one place where Prince thought he’d never return – Vietnam.

“I’m a little leery,” Prince said from his home in Fort Washington, Md. He started reading more about the trip, “and I say, ‘What’s the catch?’”

There wasn’t one.

Prince, assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, during the Dong Ba Tower assault in Hue in 1968, was invited to participate in the trip back to Vietnam, along with 14 other veterans of the war.

Together they will revisit Vietnam later this month, courtesy of the foundation, founded in 2004 by Australian native Timothy Davis, who had family ties to both world wars. Its mission is “dedicated to honoring the sacrifices of veterans by returning them to their former battlegrounds, cemeteries and memorials, to ensure that their legacies are recorded and retold in perpetuity to future generations.”

Prince couldn’t believe he was lucky enough for the opportunity.

“Something ain’t right,” he said. “It sounds too good!”

The nonprofit has taken veterans back to Vietnam five times since 2016, according to Jim Hackett, the foundation’s veteran liaison. Hackett said he found out about Prince after he saw a Stars and Stripes feature covering the Marines’ time in Hue.

“It knocked me out,” Hackett said about watching the video on Stripes.com. He said he knew Prince would be perfect for the program.

“As luck would have it, a Navy corpsman going on our program knew him,” he said. “He was able to introduce me to Richard and I was thrilled he wanted to join us.”

The vets will stay in Vietnam for 10 days, and each of them will have the chance to visit old battlegrounds and, if they want, engage in a bit of tourist behavior.

“Since our itineraries cover almost all of Vietnam, depending where each group served, every effort is made to visit the exact location where significant action occurred for individual veterans,” Hackett said. “We are not a for-profit veterans tour group with a fixed, inflexible schedule. Instead we encourage each veteran to tell us what area or location they would like to visit.

“It’s very gratifying to see their reaction when they finally return to the place where they almost lost their life or witnessed a buddy die,” he said. “The closure is fantastic.”

Hackett said TGGF’s goal is to bring 250 veterans to Vietnam in 2018 and to expand that number in subsequent years. Spouses and family members are not included in the trips.

After looking over the biographies of the veterans who will be traveling with him, Prince said he’s excited they have something in common.

“What’s different about it is that when I looked at their resumes, I saw that the majority of them were retired police officers,” he said. “I intentionally left off the part that I was a (former) deputy U.S. marshal, because some people don’t feel comfortable around former police officers.”

Prince decided to add that to his profile.

“I sent him an update and Jim said, ‘You will be at home.’”

Although he has visited Asia once since the war, Prince said this will be the first time he will be back in Vietnam. He expects positive but mixed reactions. “There are people who are probably still there that feel the pain” from us as the enemy, Prince said. “But you know it’s like … let’s let bygones be bygones and let’s love each other. So maybe the Vietnamese and I can feel the same way.”

By KEN-YON HARDY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2018