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News ::
Going back to Vietnam (english)
07 Mar 2003
This week more than 70 very special American ambassadors land in Vietnam on
a unique journey of remembrance and healing. Called Sons and Daughters in
Touch , they are the sons and daughters of some of the
58,229 Americans who died in the Vietnam War and whose names are carved in
the black granite of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Washington, D.C.
This week more than 70 very special American ambassadors land in Vietnam on
a unique journey of remembrance and healing. Called Sons and Daughters in
Touch , they are the sons and daughters of some of the
58,229 Americans who died in the Vietnam War and whose names are carved in
the black granite of The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Washington, D.C.

This week they are going back to the land where their fathers laid down
their lives in the name of our country; they are going back to walk the very
earth where their dads fell.

Some are going there simply to walk in their fathers' footsteps, to breath
some of the same air and grow a little closer to someone they never knew.
Others hope that the journey of remembrance might also turn into a journey
of forgiveness; a journey toward turning loose any hatred of the Vietnamese
that still lingers in their hearts.

These sons and daughters - and all America's sons and daughters - hope and
pray that if there is another war with Iraq, there won't be a whole new
generation growing up without fathers.

"They are the Gold Star Children. They have an empty spot in their hearts
where a father was supposed to dwell ... They listen still for the sound of
a footstep they have never heard, and wonder what might have been."

Those are some words I wrote in " We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young
" after I interviewed a number of the children of
men who died in the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. But the words are
meant for all of them.

The delegation landing in Vietnam is led by Tony Cordero, whose father
disappeared in a U.S. Air Force jet on a
mission over Laos on Father's Day, 1965, when he was four years old. A
quarter-century later Tony got the idea to reach out and find others who
shared the same loss.

A 1990 Memorial Day article about Tony and Sons and Daughters in Parade
Magazine brought an outpouring of letters from hundreds of other sons and
daughters all across America. That in turn led to the first Father's Day at
The Wall in 1992. There have been three more Father's Days at The Wall in
Washington, D.C., since that one. Each one larger than the last.

How many Sons and Daughters are out there? The estimate is that one-third of
the 58,229 Americans on The Wall were dads and they left behind more than
20,000 children.

I know a little something about these people from the interviews I did for
the book. I know a lot more because my wife, Karen Metsker Galloway, is one
of them. Her dad, Capt. Tom Metsker
, was killed in Landing Zone
XRay in the battle my book is about. Lives are changed forever by the course
of a single bullet in war.

In search of a view of a father never seen we have visited The Citadel in
Charleston, S.C., where Tom Metsker was a track star
. Karen hoped to
possibly find some old training film that showed her dad in '59 or '60 or
'61 before he graduated and was commissioned in the Army. There was none.
But she did find three of her dad's classmates and track team members who
sat for hours and shared their memories of him.

It is a tough job, trying to construct a memory of someone you have no
memory of ever seeing or hearing. But Karen and a lot of other sons and
daughters go about that process daily.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must also tell you that I am an
Honorary Life Member of Sons and Daughters in Touch, an honor bestowed at
the Father's Day 2000 gathering. I think I have attended every single one of
their Father's Days at The Wall. I must admit my prejudice. I love these
folks.

The delegation will tour Vietnam for the better part of three weeks,
splitting up in small groups to visit the particular areas where their dads
served. They will post some of their observations at
. You can read more about the organization
at .
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