A Vet’s Perspective

In preparation for Thursday’s Veterans’ Day story on Thuong Kien “T.K.” Mac, I contacted Bainbridge Island’s Frederick Scheffler, who served in Vietnam and is currently the adjutant at the island’s Colin Hyde Post 172 of the American Legion.

Mac, a former Vietnamese refugee, wrote in gratitude to soldiers who served in the Vietnam War on our “Your News” site.

Scheffler’s response did not get to me on time for the story, but I wanted to post it here.

I served with the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta. Reading this man’s account brings back memories of the young Vietnamese soldiers that we recruited and trained. They all had one thing in common and that was a fierce determination to see their country become what they thought America was. America was a beacon and inspired semi-literate farmers to risk death by participating in the national elections in 1967. The vote was something that was precious to them and they were willing to risk the wrath of the local Viet Cong by voting. They were an example that I will never forget. His story is one that has been lived by thousands of Vietnamese who risked everything to come to this country and make a new life. They have demonstrated their dedication to living the American dream and have excelled. When we left Vietnam in 1975 we left a lot of good people. When the North Vietnamese invaded the South in 1975 these people who had been our friends and comrades paid a heavy price.

The Vietnam War was the coming of age for a generation of young Americans. The world has turned many times and Vietnam has changed from when we went there. It has evolved and gone through some terrible growing pains. Although I fought in that war and lost friends, the war we fought was not against the Vietnamese people. My memories of them is not framed by those we fought but rather by the noncombatants, the children are especially memorable . I have a picture on my wall of 20 of them that we brought medical attention to in a small village on a Mekong tributary. Those are the memories of Vietnam that I hold dear. This man’s perseverance and what he has achieved speaks volumes. I wish him and those who made it to the States welcome and remember those who did not in my prayers.

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