Vietnam veterans unite in Seoul
A group of Vietnam War veterans — from both America and South Korea — gathered in Seoul last week to trade memories and commemorate their service.
Nine U.S. military veterans who live in South Korea and belong to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8180, three of whom also served in World War II and the Korean War, were invited as special guests to the Friendship Dinner hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of Korea on Thursday.
Chung Jae-sung, webmaster for the South Korean veterans site (www.vietvet.co.kr), said it was the first time his organization hosted Americans whom they had fought alongside in Vietnam decades ago.
Col. Bryan Groves, with U.S. Forces Korea, contacted Chung while conducting research for a paper. Groves said the Korean vets were excited to learn there were American veterans scattered throughout the community and decided to invite them to the party.
Chung said he was so happy to spend the evening with the veterans that he was nearly moved to tears.
“This is a great thing,” he said. “We are really impressed by (their) presence here tonight.”
Retired South Korean Brig. Gen. Yang Chang-sik told the veterans that as people age, they tend to look more toward the past.
“Today we are gathered here with old memories of having served together in (the) Vietnam conflict wearing uniforms when we were young,” Yang said during opening remarks.
Yang said he had joined the Army when North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, and later commanded the 30th Infantry Regiment, White Horse Division, in Vietnam in 1968.
“For this particular reason, whenever I come across such words as ‘war’ and ‘veteran,’ it always makes me feel deeply touched,” Yang said.
Yang told the vets that he was sure they would feel “brotherly affection” even though they hadn’t met before.
Bernard Delahunty, who fought in all three wars, said that even though he didn’t work with the South Korean White Horse or Tiger Division or the Blue Dragon Brigade, he knows they “gained the respect of their allies and enemies during combat operations in Vietnam.”
Army veteran Dave McCracken said he was able to work with the South Koreans during his tours in Vietnam.
“They were tough, hard, no [expletive] kind of guys,” he said. “I know their areas were … highly pacified.”
McCracken said that when he trained U.S. soldiers, he would tell them, “You guys know what hard is; you don’t know what tough is.”
Albert MacFarland, who served 3½ years as an Army Special Forces medic in Vietnam, was seated Thursday night with retired South Korean Army Maj. Gen. Han Kwang-duk.
Han was telling the U.S. visitors about a particularly bad attack near the Cambodian border, when MacFarland broke in to the conversation to ask if it happened in October 1966.
“Yes,” Han said.
“I was there,” MacFarland said, explaining that he responded after the attack.
“You guys got hit pretty bad,” he told the surprised retired general.
They both agreed that they were lucky to be able to meet face-to-face more than 40 years after that attack.
“We were lucky enough to survive,” MacFarland said of their experiences.
A small group of South Korean nurses who worked in combat hospitals in Vietnam also attended the dinner.
Chung, the webmaster, said the veterans group isn’t overly political, but they do feel the past two South Korean presidents have weakened the U.S-South Korean alliance.
“We hate it,” he said, adding that he hoped that night’s dinner would be one small step in strengthening the countries’ relationship.