National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), Honolulu, Hawaii
May 27, 2012

By Lieutenant Colonel Julian Tran, U.S. Army

Remarks at the Memorial Day Commemoration

Good Afternoon.

Distinguish guests; veterans of the Vietnam War; Soldiers; Sailors, Marines; Airmen; Coast Guard; and my fellow Americans.
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great honor for me to be here today to express my deepest gratitude to the warriors who had fought for the freedom of South Vietnam.
First of all, I would like to thank the organizer of this event, particularly, Mrs. Nina and Retired Colonel Castagnetti who give me the opportunity to stand in front of you this afternoon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a soldier, I strongly believe that “once a Soldier, you will always be a Soldier”; therefore, to me, you are not a veteran, but you are, and always will be, a Soldier until the day you die. And I, if given the opportunity, would not hesitate to go to battle with you, side-by-side, anyday, anywhere, and anytime. Like you, I’ve deployed and fought in the faraway lands to preserve our way of life and the freedom that we, Americans, all enjoy every day.

The different between your generation and my generation is that, at least my generation, to a certain extent, has received some appreciations from the people that we met once we returned home from war. I am the lucky one; many of today’s servicemen and women are the lucky ones. But for the Soldiers who fought during the Vietnam War – And many of you are here today – they returning home to face the hostility and rejection from a society that has forgotten the value of freedom and what it meant to be an American. Despite under appreciated and bias media propaganda, you had fought well and had never lost a single battle when you were there, from the La Rang Valley, Khe Sanh, Hamburger Hill, and Tet, just to name a few.

You and I, we are Soldiers, and as Soldier we followed orders and executed our missions regardless of the circumstances. We gave 110% - and many gave it all - and are lying here today in this holy ground.

As for me, America has given me the opportunity, not only to live free again, but also to serve the greatest Armed Forces on this planet earth, and to defend our freedom and way of life. And I consider this is the greatest honor of my lifetime. Yes, America is not a perfect country, but I can attest to you that, after having been to more than 35 countries, this country is still the best country on this planet. Those who complain about America; say bad things about America; if you can find a better place on earth to live, please let me know, I will buy you a one-way ticket, destination of your choice, and don’t you ever come back. Because I am so proud to be an American and I sure don’t want to live with you.

Though I was a little boy during the Vietnam War, but I had a great sense of appreciation of the Freedom that we enjoyed in South Vietnam. My brother and two uncles who were officers in the South Vietnamese Army – or ARVN, fought and died to preserve our freedom as well. The Freedom that South Vietnamese people enjoyed until 1975 couldn’t have taken place without the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of ARVN soldiers who fought alongside the American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guards which who they are now called Vietnam War Veterans.

Additionally, my sincere appreciation also goes to families of more than 58,000 names of those warriors are now on the VIETNAM WALL in Washington D.C. WITHOUT YOU, the Vietnam Veterans, WE, the people of South Vietnam couldn’t have enjoyed a period of prosperity and appreciated the value of FREEDOM. Though the period of “Freedom” was short live, we had learned and realized what it meant to be free. And for that, I want to say THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for giving us those days of freedom.
After the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people escaped from Vietnam; untold number of them died at seas or in the jungles of Laos and Cambodia on their journey of seeking freedom. Those people, as you have known them as “boat people” or, as for me, the “land people” because I escaped from Vietnam thru Cambodia. Those refugees had chosen to “live free or die” because you have given them the TASTE of FREEDOM.

General Douglas MacArthur said “old Soldiers never die; they just fade away." For the Veterans of the VIETNAM WAR, I want to say that “you may die of old age, but you will never fade away” because in the heart and mind of millions of Vietnamese people and communities around the world, you will live on forever. Whenever I see a Vietnam War Veteran, I always say Thank you to him, and I would ask everyone to do the same because he had given so much and had done so much for South Vietnam and for America.
I also would ask every American to say a word of THANK YOU to every Soldier past and present; because without them, America will not be where we are today; American will not have the freedom that we have today; and America will not be the greatest country on this planet earth. To all the veterans and Soldiers here today, I salute you.