Cmdr. H. B. Le, the first Vietnamese-American to command a United States Navy destroyer, had just stepped ashore on a formal port call, making an emotional return to Vietnam for the first time since he fled as a young boy on a fishing boat at the end of the war in 1975.
A youthful and smiling man of 39, he bore the weight of the symbolism of cautiously warming military ties between Vietnam and the United States in the visit over the weekend…
“Stepping ashore was awesome,” he said after landing from his destroyer, the Lassen, which was anchored in Da Nang Harbor. “To be able to return to Vietnam after 35 years and to be able to do it as commander of a United States naval warship was an incredible honor and a privilege.”
He was returning to a very different Vietnam from the one he fled at the age of 5 with his parents and three of his siblings. Most people in this young nation, like Commander Le himself, have no memory of the war.
In the last decade or more, Vietnam has opened its economy, increased trade with the United States and risen from postwar poverty even as the Communist government maintains control of the news media and political expression…
“Gradual and steady,” said Carlyle B. Thayer, an expert on the Vietnamese armed forces at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describing the evolving relationship. “The Americans see a glacier moving, and they call it progress…”
And it is progress. Sometimes, too fast – sometimes, too slow – for some.
RTFA. Interesting stuff.