It’s been so long we need to catch up 

So I know it’s been a very long time since I posted anything and I apologize because within the next hour I will probably bombard asia pod with 4 weeks worth of memories, experiences, ideas, and what nots. Internet has been a reoccurring issue here but that is not the point of this blog. For the past two weeks we have been living an adjusting to a new environment in Hanoi. I’ll tell you more about that later. Right now I want to do some reflection on Ho Chi Minh City where I learned so much about the history and relationship between America and Vietnam.

During photography class we had a Vietnamese guest speaker by the name of Doan Cong Tinh or should I say The King of the Battlefield…. This guy was such an inspiration. He was the definition of B.A.

Tinh was a northern Vietnamese soldier says that his only weapon was his camera. He is one of the greatest wartime photographers and definitely the best from the Vietnam war.

Tinh’s style of photography during the war was so different than any other journalists during that time. Most of the mainstream photos depict horror and tragedy. Not that the war wasn’t either of those things. But he showed soldiers, men and women, fighting for their country with smiles on their face instead of tears. He told us that he wanted to show the world that Vietnamese people were proud of their country and honored to fight for it’s freedom.

One of his photos particularly moved my emotions because it was a staged photograph during an 83 (or so) day air attack on the north and south border. He had his troop come out of a barrack to smile for a group photo. This was such a huge risk because bombs were constantly dropping. In fact, right after he snapped the photo a bomb fell and the entire group dispersed. Most died or were never found. Tinh lived by miracle. The main man in the photo was assumed dead until Tinh met someone who knew the soldier 30 years later. Tiny went the mans village hoping to reconnect after all these years thinking his friend was dead. When they finally met, the man was not recognizable because he aged so much. Furthermore, he had severe mental health problem from head trauma that was caused by the bomb after the photograph. The veteran was extremely poor and was incredibly unhealthy both mentally and physically and it was all due to the lack of support for veterans. It’s not like back in america where US soldiers get benefits and health services. Soldiers here get stigmatized and left to fend for themselves with all he trauma from war.

Since meeting with his long lost comrade, Tinh has been lobbying for better care for veteran soldiers in Vietnam. He held a benefit for his friend and raised Enoch money to aid him back to health….well back to better health.

Tinh showed us through his photographs that Vietnamese soldiers on the front line were happy and privileged to fight for their country. He explained that they had all accepted death and that made it so much easier to cope with the stress of war as well as making it enjoyable.

It was amazing to see a different side of the war especially since it’s a large part of my reason for coming to this country. If I hadn’t traveled here, met the amazing people I met, and seen the museums and monuments from the American war in Vietnam I honestly dont think that I would have ever understood anything about the war. In American school there is a lot of truth left outside of the curriculum and text books. I don’t recall ever learning about the current issues that millions of Vietnamese people facing such as agent orange, many of whom are part of my generation. Not only are health issues from agent orange passed down from generation to generation but many of it’s victims come from poor villages with zero health assistance. I also dont recall learning that many American children, families, and gi veterans are also suffering from agent orange; however, it is more likely that those Americans are receiving adequate or some health care from the government. Okay now I’m starting to rant and rave about the after math of the war. I apologize. It just pisses me off that my highschool or even middle school teachers never expressed the present day aftermath of the war and rebuilding as a country. I have so much compassion and respect for the Vietnamese people because after such brutality and destruction caused by the US they have forgiven and created a strong bond with America. I have never met so many kind and friendly people as i have here. Considering the horrors of the war it amazes me how eager people are to meeting us and getting to know us in the friendliest ways. Im so glad I came here. I know I went off the topic of this blog so to bring it back i just want to say that in addition to learning about the war from the vietnamese perspective the King of the Battle field taught me another aspect of the war that I was unaware of. That being pride, privilege and acceptance for fighting and dying for ones homeland. It’s the opposite of what Americans experienced which were protests and shame for fighting. The two sides are so very intriguing to me. But I am glad that it isn’t about side anymore rather its about unity.

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