Learning About the Vietnam War

Heather Markel, Travel Writer, Photographer, Speaker, Globetrotter

18 November 2018

I am not proud to be American today.

WARNING: graphic photos are included in this post. Do not proceed if you don’t want to see them. I am ashamed to admit I don’t know much about the Vietnam War apart from key phrases like “agent orange”. I know it happened “before my time” but I don’t even remember studying much about it in school, and certainly not in any detail.

In front of the Vietnam War museum.

Photograph by Heather Markel

While in Ho Chi Minh I decide to visit the war museum. I felt sicked and saddened by the experience, though I’m glad I saw it. I realize the exhibit is expressing one side and done very strongly, but the justification for the war made no sense to me. Seemed like we supported the French in their objective to hold on to Vietnam, and then we took over, and for what? Seemed to me like power and control – really no justifiable reason at all to do what we did here.

“I cried at the visual understanding of our actions, something I could never have understood from school.”

The loss of lives is disgusting, and even worse is the torture we committed, and orphaning children and worse yet, shooting them. I cried at some of the photos I am showing in this post. I don’t understand how anyone could commit these crimes against human beings.

The caption explains how this man and a boy came out of nowhere and the GI’s opened fire on them.

Photograph of a photograph

As if all this weren’t enough the photos of the after effects of agent orange just haunted me. Yes, I heard the term and knew it was some sort of chemical, but seeing the visual impact of the deformities it caused, and then art made by children growing up with it sent me over the edge.

Here I am in Vietnam, more than 40 years after this war ended and I can’t say I feel like a proud American after visiting this museum. The kindness of the Vietnamese people I have met means even more after seeing it. For me, it means that they have chosen to raise their children to love and respect others instead of with a sense of entitlement to hate and feel owed something. That, for me is the positive – when societies that could use past atrocities against the world decide, instead, to never forget what happened, but yet move forward in peace. The Vietnamese people have my utmost respect.

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