Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Angel Fire, Quang Tri move closer

DONG HA, Vietnam — The Village of Angel Fire, N.M., and Quang Tri, Vietnam, have moved closer to a Sister City relationship.

Earlier this month, the Angel Fire Village Council approved a resolution to approach Quang Tri about becoming a Sister City.

Jack Swickard hands Sister City forms to Nguyen Chi
Dung, head of the Quang Tri People's Committee in
Dong Ha, Vietnam. Between them is U.S. Rep. Steve
Pearce. Joe Yue of Hobbs is on the far left.
To help promote the Sister City relationship, the village asked me to present the resolution to officials in Quang Tri. I am a member of the David Westphall Veterans Foundation board of directors, the organization that supports the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park at Angel Fire.

In mid-February I was traveling through Vietnam with U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce and Joe Yue, owner of the Pacific Rim Restaurant in Hobbs.

Pearce was an Air Force C-130 pilot in Vietnam during 1971-73. I was an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1967-68.

We carried a copy of the resolution; background on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; a description of how Dr. Victor Westphall built the Vietnam Veterans Memorial after his son, David Westphall, a U.S. Marine lieutenant, was killed in Quang Tri Province in 1968 during the Vietnam War; and Sister City application forms.

A friend of mine, Police Col. Duc Sat Nguyen, and Pearce’s office helped arrange a meeting in Dong Ha, capital of Quang Tri Province, with the province People's Committee.

Pearce and I addressed the committee about the importance Angel Fire and the Westphall Committee place on establishing a close relationship with Quang Tri. We described how Dr. Westphall traveled to Quang Tri Province after the Vietnam War to promote the healing of war wounds, and how he carried soil from the Angel Fire Memorial to Quang Tri and then brought back soil from Quang Tri to scatter at the Memorial.

Nguyen Chi Dung, the People’s Committee head, told us he is favorable to establishing the Sister City relationship with Angel Fire.

He also described after-effects of the war, such as a shortage of trees in the province 37 years after the war ended, people still being killed or severely injured by mines and other explosives from the war, and children with birth defects from defoliants used during the war.

When we met with U.S. Ambassador David Shear in Hanoi before traveling to Quang Tri, Pearce and the ambassador discussed defoliant sites to be cleaned by the United States. The congressman said he would work to have the Quang Tri site included in the cleanup.

Additionally, Pearce said an approach to working on other after-effects could involve private citizens and businesses.

After the meeting, several members of the People’s Committee told us they like the idea of establishing the Sister City relationship with Angel Fire and will work with other members to bring it to fruition.

Hoang Nam, deputy director of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the province, will work with me on completing the applications.

Ngo Xuan Hien with simple mine detector.
After arriving in Dong Hoa earlier, we were given a tour of the Project RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War) visitor center by Nguyen Thanh Phu, the center's assistant manager, and Ngo Xuan Hien, development director and public affairs officer.

Phu and Hien told how children and their parents are educated about explosives still being found in rice fields and along roads, as well as job training for people who have suffered loss of limbs as a result of exploding mines and bombs.

They said U.S. organizations have been in the forefront in helping with education and training.

 Pearce said, “The devastating effects of the war were most visible in Quang Tri Province, which is a province on the 17th Parallel that once divided North and South Vietnam. The effects moved me to do what I can professionally and personally to help rebuild and renew the province.

“The hospitality of the people we met with officially and unofficially were proud and resilient people who need help,” the congressman said. “I felt they were very open and honest with us and eager for friendship with the United States and Americans.

“I believe the Sister City designation will become a platform for the growing friendship with people who once were at war,” Pearce said.

“I was impressed Ambassador Shear brought up the Sister City request by Angel Fire,” the congressman said.

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