November 2, 2013
The Honorable John Kerry Secretary of State
Washington, D.C. 20520
The Honorable Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense
Washington, D.C. 20301
Dear Mr. Secretaries:
I am writing to seek your upmost attention and personal compassion on a legacy of war issue concerning the Bien Hoa National Military Cemetery in Vietnam, now known as Binh An People’s Cemetery. This sacred ground has been overtly neglected by the Government of Vietnam (GVN) since 1975 and the absence of GVN’s goodwill has prevented the wounds of war from healing in the hearts of American people.
The former Republic of Vietnam constructed this cemetery in 1965 and it was the honorable resting place for over 16,000 South Vietnamese soldiers. As you may recall, all of them were our loyal battlefield allies during the period of your military service. Many of those deceased are now the brothers, fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers of American citizens with Vietnamese heritage.
During the past seven years, the Vietnamese American Foundation (VAF), a non-profit nonpolitical organization, has attempted to bring back the dignity and decency of this forgotten cemetery. The goal of VAF is to render the proper respect for the deceased and to bring much-needed condolence and peace of mind to their families. Sadly, to date, the GVN remains without a national policy or any demonstrated commitment to resolve this legacy of war.
I recognize the need for improving the people-to-people understanding as an important aspect in building the comprehensive relations between the United States and Vietnam. I believe we have addressed the consequences of war affecting the Vietnamese people by providing more than $125 million in humanitarian assistance relating to Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance. Meanwhile, the GVN has refused to address the concerns of the American people.
Therefore, I believe under the context of humanitarian it is prudent and in the interest of American people that the departments of State and Defense include the topic of restoring this cemetery in future official dialogue with Vietnamese officials. This governmental level focus will convey to the GVN the American values and help bring closure to this very painful legacy of war.
On behalf of thousands of long waited families, I sincerely appreciate your leadership and attention.
Nguyen Dac Thanh President