A Trip Back

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The Northland Vietnam Veterans Association helped send two of its members to Vietnam During the month of November. While in Vietnam, Tim Dieffenbacher and Fletcher Hinds delivered school supplies to two schools north of Dong Ha. NVVA gave money to build these schools and the organization is working to maintain an ongoing relationship with the students and teachers of the schools. Tim and Fletcher traveled from the DMZ to the Mekong Delta. They spent time in Dong Ha, Hue, Danang, Na Trang, Saigon and Ben Tre. Tim also went to Pleiku and Kon Tum. In addition to visiting old military sites, they spent time touring the cities and exploring the country side along the way. When they arrived in Ben Tre on the Mekong Delta, they participated in the distribution of 215 wheelchairs. The wheelchairs were given to disabled men, women and children living in the Ben Tre area. the distribution was organized by the Iowa based "Hopehaven International" and its local chapter "Wheels In Motion" operating out of Superior, Wisconsin. An international team of fourteen people with the help of ten Vietnamese nationals worked for four days to get the wheel chairs distributed. It was a moving and inspirational experience for everyone involved. Tim and Fletcher thank NVVA for helping make this trip possible.





A trip to the past

By Larry Williams

I had been drafted in 1967 and was sent to Vietnam in November as a "combat engineer". I served with D company, 84th Engineers south of Qui Nhon, and for a while with the 35th Engineers by Mo duc; both in the central highlands. On Jan. 2002, I returned to Vietnam. It was something I always wanted to do. Let me tell you about it some. I traveld there with two other people. Thuy Smith: her father is a vet and her mother is from Vietnam. She sends medical supplies and is involved in other humanitarian projects there. She has been over there a couple of times. And Dan Banks: he served with the 5th Infantry and has been back a couple of times. We left here new years eve and flew from Minneapolis to Californing, Korea and Saigon. It was a long grueling flight; probably more so becasue I was so nervous. My first impression when we got off the plane was that it wasn't as hot as it had been when I arrived there in Nov. 1967. In Saigon we split up and Thuy went down to Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta. Dan and I hooked up with his friend Nghia. Nghia had served as a scout with Dan's unit and many of his squad believed he helped make sure they got home alive. Dan had scoured the country looking for hime when he returned for the first time in 1998. Nghia has been a warrior most of his life and listening to war stories, (and I believe they are true), he makes Audie Murphy look like a boy scout. (no offense intended to Audie). We rented a van and driver in Saigon. The driver is a friend of "Hep"; the owner of the "Taste of Saigon" restaurant in downtown Duluth. once we got out of the city I was amazed at how much Vietnam "didn't" change. It's virtually the same as it was 30+ years ago. Just no more military presence, and somewhat more populated. WE spent the first night on the road in Nha Trang. We just caught some sleep there and kept going. When we got to "Cu Mong Pass" south of Qui Nhon. I knew we were getting close to where my base camp had been. Nghia tracked down a villager who was able to bring us right to the places I had been. First to where the "ammo dump" had been. I had spent many a night watching it get blown up. My friend Joe Dickenson was stationed there. I brought him back a rock from the site. Then we found where my base camp had been. I can barely describe the feelings I had when I walked around on that site. There were a couple of concrete ramps still there so I could get my bearings from them. It was like I connected with the person that had come over there 35 years ago. The scared kid that I was. Then we continued up the coast to "mo Dc" where I had served with the 35th Engineers. Dale Gagne got killed in that unit. When we got close to my base camp I could feel it in my bones. And I mean that literally. Nghia tracked down another villager and he brought us to where my base camp had been. They had turned it into a cemetery. Again, the feelings were almost indescribable. All the memories I had from there just came flooding back. But it was good. The villager pointed to the spot where Duran got killed. A piece of equipment had tipped over on him. Then we walked back to this hill that Santos Alvarado and I used to have a listening post. We got in trouble for going back there. Apparently we were suppose to get permission from the gov-ernment authorities. They took our passports and we had to go to the "peoples committee Hall". (or something like that), while the talked to the driver and our interpreter. There was a bust of "Ho Chi Mihn" under glass and yellow communist stars on the walls. Man, that was scary. Even Nghia was a little worried; "not good"; he'd say. eventually they let us go, so we kept going up the coast. I should say , that up till when we got up around Mo Duc, most of the people were really friendly toward us. That changed in Mo Duc, We got some hard looks there. We headed up to where the DMZ had been just north of Dong Ha. Thats where Derris Uetela got killed. Both Dan and Nghia had served in that area. Lot of that area had been taken over by the NVA when they overran it in 1975. Some of the people still wear those NVA pith helmets. Nghia hadn't been back there since 1975. Some of his family are still there. So it was pretty emotional for him. We stopped in Cam Lo and visited with this NVA Lt.Col that Dan had met in 1998. We had tea with him and his wife. He looked at us and said; "In war, I cut off your heads; now, no war, we friends". He invited us back for supper and to drink "beaucoup beer". But we passed on that. We traveled along highway 9 past where camp Carrol was and the "Rockpile". We went as far a Khe Sahn. They have a APC on a block of concrete along side the road there to commemorate the site. Nghia's brother got killed there. They are building a blacktop road with a large suspension bridge on what used to be the "Ho Chi Mihn trail". We visited the "Vin Moc tunnels" just across the bridge in what was North Vietnam. Ngia's son broke the only light we had when we were down in them so we ended up having to crawl out in the dark. We all got a good laugh out of that; es-pecially Ngia's son. Then Dan and I flew back to Saigon and caught a ride down to Soc Trang and met Thuy' friends and family. Good people. Then we caught a flight out. It was some trip. I can't say every-one should go back, but if its in your heart to do it; it will probably be an incredible experience. It was for me. These are the bare bones of it. If you'd like more details or have any comments you can get ahold of me at "

lawilliams@webtv.net " or give me a call at 218-722-0145. catch you later.