"Return to Vietnam" chronicles the 10th anniversary trip of 15 U.S. and Canadian G I's and their families back to China Beach, Vietnam, where the soldiers spend two weeks doing manual labor to build a rural health clinic, and also set up free clinics to provide health care to indigent Vietnamese. The trip is organized by the humanitarian organization "Vets with a Mission" that first started such "reconciliation" trips in 1989 and has built over 20 rural health clinics throughout Vietnam.
Many G I's are repeat returnees. Roger Helle had his body blown apart in the early 1970's and was air-lifted out of Vietnam. This is his 12th trip back. Bill Isetts was a riverboatman who returns year after year as a performing clown. Chuck Ward experienced the rejection of his homecoming back to the U.S. in 1972 when anti-war protesters dumped feces and urine on he and his fellow midshipmen as they sailed under the Golden Bay bridge in San Francisco harbor. Jim Sufka, as an infantryman fought in Vietnamese "free fire zones" -- areas of the country where no orders were required to shoot at suspected targets. Now, he is a team leader, who tries to provide perspective to newer returning vets.
The vets work with Vietnamese masons and tradespeople to build the Hoa Hai health clinic on the outskirts of Da Nang, a few miles from China Beach, where U.S. Marines came ashore in 1965 to start the American involvement in the Vietnam War.
The Vets also explore nearby battlefields that bring back memories of fire-fights and long lost friends. Ray Oglesby, a five time returnee explores the royal city of Hue, where retreating North Vietnamese troops massacred over 10,000 civilians. Today, it's still hard for him to accept the communist flag of Vietnam that flies over the citadel. Yet, he returns to organize free clinics that his wife, Dr. Aletha Oglesby conducts with fellow volunteer nurse, Betty Baldwin for indigent vietnamese.
The vets develop friendships with the vietnamese counterparts who work in the hospitals and administer the Ministry of Health's health programs. It's backbreaking work as the layers of bricks reach higher day after day.
The vets also visit sites that bear the marks of the war: Marble Mountain is the geographical landmark with sunlight filtering down into cavernous Buddhist grottos from B-52 craters that top the mountain. My Shon had been the cultural center of the region until bombing raids meant to ferret out the hidden communist troops destroyed most of the archeological heirlooms of this capital of the ancient Cham kingdom. The vegetables are dangerous to eat for Americans and vietnamese alike, due to poisoned tablewater from agent orange spraying in the 1970's. Both sides make the effort to get past the destruction of the war, and focus on the reconstruction and the positive friendship that is developing between the visiting Americans and the vietnamese.
As the clinic building comes to an end, gifts and good-byes are exchanged as the Americans prepare to leave for their home. It will be up to the Vietnamese tradespeople to finish the structure with funding that has been donated by "Vets with a Mission." Doug Stockton remarks how the children are the most precious mirror of hope, and their eyes reflect their belief in a better future. Roger Helle recalls how he left the country in a med-a-vac helicopter in the 1970's and after 29 operations, never thought he would want to return, but "even though I left Vietnam, it never left me. In my heart, it's there." U.S. Marine Ralph Beck muses how unlike the first time he ended up in Vietnam, this time "I came back of my own free will."
"Return to Vietnam" is the story of extraordinary Americans, making a difference.
This product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media. Amazon.com's standard return policy will apply.