A Wedding Invitation Beckons My Family to Vietnam

Left- This stone statue stands in front of the entrance of The Jade Emperor Pagoda.

Right- The Notre Dame Cathedral reminds the Vietnamese that the French once ruled this city.

Three years ago, my brother traveled to the Philippines and Vietnam with some of his buddies. Never did he dream that he would fall in love on sight, and marry a Vietnamese girl three years later. When he told me the news, I expressed great delight. Then, he told me that her parents required her to follow Vietnamese customs in marriage. With reservation, I promised him that I would attend his wedding in Vietnam.
Back in 1964, my father, a native of the Philippines, enlisted in the United States Navy as a way for him to become an American citizen. That same year, he met my mother. He served four tours in the Vietnam War. My mother had had reservations about visiting the country that took her husband away from her during their early years of courtship, the beginning years of marriage and the birth of their first-born child. But with my brother paying for her airfare, how could she refuse?
We traveled halfway across the world to witness my brother’s wedding, but we also took this opportunity to tour the country, seeing as much as we could in the short time allowed.
I had braced myself for the hot, humid weather of this tropical country, but I wasn’t prepared for the constant noise of traffic, the continuous flow of motorbikes, nor the near misses of accidents. We crossed streets and unpaved roads with sheer terror that one of the 2 million motorbikes would slam against our fragile bodies. But Steven’s fiancée assured us that if we walked straight ahead, no pausing or hesitation, we would make it across the street OK. I made sure I walked at the other side of my husband through the hazardous streets. Ho Chi Minh is definitely the heartbeat, the country’s engine.
In Ho Chi Mihn we visited the War Remnant Museum. Before entering the museum, an American tourist needs three things: a strong stomach, an open mind, and quiet moments to consider the atrocities of war. This unique museum, formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes, provides a decidedly one-sided view of the Vietnam War. Army tanks, abandoned artillery, and rusted weapons stand outside as a reminder of what American soldiers left behind when the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
Photographs portray images of those affected by Agent Orange, napalm and the My Lai Massacre. No mention of Vietcong murder of civilians at Hue, or thousands of other places throughout South Vietnam during the course of the war, to balance the one-sided perspectives. With no intention of pursuing the war theme, we headed east, curious about the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels.

If you would like to read this article in its entirety, be sure to check out the July issue.