Michele visited to retrace her father’s wartime journey – he was stationed in Da Nang for 3 years during the Vietnam War. Prior to her visit she gave us lots of information about his stay here, locations and sites which he remembered. With my research team we located all the sites and places of interest and spent a long and emotional day in and around Da Nang with Michele
At the end of her day with us, and without prompting, Michele said a few words ‘to camera’
Michele Mahone is a US stand-up comic, was an American TV entertainer on the ‘Today Show’ and is still well known in Australia as an entertainment reporter for ‘The Weekend Today Show’. But to us, she is but a wonderful and respected guest and now a lovely friend.
One of the most beautiful memories I had with Michele Mahone was when she played the song ‘Goodnight Saigon’ in the car, we both cried. This was my first time listening to the song, and it got me thinking.
I came from a VC family, my grandfather worked for the VC, my uncles, my neighbors fought very hard at that time and most of them got injured. My parents grew up with lots of ups and downs during the War. My mother’s friend was a VC guerrilla and she still has more than 10 scars on her body and she still feels painful whenever the weather changes. She was one of the bravest and kindest woman I have met and I still remember every single word she shared when I visited her on the occasion of Tet ( Vietnamese New Year). “Each of the scar I carried on my body was like the flowers from the war, and these flowers were to remind me of my younger days, to be grateful with the independence we are having today”
Like the young generations, I was so fortunate that I was born and raised in the peace time. I came from a small village where back in late 1990s, when we usually had the shortage of electricity, most of the families pulled their chairs and sat right in front of their houses under the moonlight and talked about the wars, how they survived, Vietnam’s subsidy period or anything about daily life. The image of neighbor’s gathering and talking, children playing “hide and seek”, peaceful atmosphere of the rice paddy fields, and the stories that I learned are all in my heart. Those were the days that I never forget because this is a part of me.
I always appreciate the wonderful opportunities of meeting many different people from different countries. I love my job so much and I am thankful that my family and best friends inspired me to understand more about my passion and my career path. All of my clients have been very nice, thoughtful and kind towards our Vietnamese people, which is amazing! I met some veterans and their families during the tours. I was lucky that they chose me to help them find their old bases or where their family members served or died in Vietnam. I always remember the trips that I spent with Colonel Hugh Sproul, Justine and Christine, Katherine, Donald E Woodard , Bruce Thompson, Katelena Hernandez and Michele Mahone. Each trip with these lovely people gave me a deeper look at the war from different perspective. Not only Vietnamese, but people who were here during the war also suffered a lot! It was indeed a painful memory for both sides. Usually, I translated their stories from English to Vietnamese and shared with the locals so they can have a better understanding for the other sides. And I love connecting people together. I think I have now found another mission. That was to give veteran and their family members a memorable experiences with Vietnamese in Vietnam.
On another side, I have also encountered many VC, families of veterans on my life journey and really, no-one ever talked about hatred or anything bad about the American people or whoever got involved in the war. They just mentioned about how intense the fighting was, about the loss of their team members, about the strong spirits of “freedom and independence”. I have never met anyone who said to me ” American was our enemy, don’t welcome them, or anything” Never, ever! It might sound strange to you, but it is true. I think, most of Vietnamese people moved on after the war. We never forget our history but what really matters now is how we give our children better living conditions. We believe that one of the best ways to help family better is to give our children a good foundation of education. This explains why so many parents worked very hard in order to support their kid’s education. That is one of the powerful ways to stop the sufferings. Now, when you visit Vietnam, you will feel how peaceful and safe our country is. You can feel the positive energies from the smiles of our hard-working farmers/ workers, cheerful children, the happy faces of grandparents even though they might struggle a lot.