VFW Appeal: Give back those identifying NVA/Viet Cong souvenirs, please
Much like the recent trend on repatriating captured Japanese senninbari thousand-stitch belts and yosegaki hinomaru good luck flags brought home by the Greatest Generation that has increasingly passed on, as those personal items are in many cases the final legacy of Imperial soldiers and sailors lost 75 years ago, the VFW is asking Vietnam-era vets to return the property of individuals they may have taken from the battlefield or traded for on the bunker black market.
Now to be clear, this call is not for weapons, gear and unit equipment, and flags, but personal photos, letters, and diaries. Plus, they hold that such gestures can help pave the way for continued cooperation on getting closure on Americans still missing in South East Asia.
From the VFW:
The VFW national commander is asking all Vietnam veterans to search through their closets and footlockers for documents that might help Vietnam to determine the fate of an estimated 300,000 missing Vietnamese, and personal effects that might help bring comfort to their families.
It is important for the Vietnam generation to recognize that the personal connection they have with their memorabilia will not transfer to their descendants, which means such items will either be donated or simply trashed,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “And even though it’s been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government’s relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away.”
Lawrence said VFW senior leaders have traveled back to Vietnam every year since 1991 to help U.S. government efforts to account for missing and unaccounted-for servicemen and civilians, a number that currently totals 1,588 Americans (1,246 in Vietnam, 287 in Laos, 48 in Cambodia, and 7 in Chinese territorial waters).
He said it is important for the VFW to maintain a “vet-to-vet” relationship with these countries from a non-bureaucrat, nonpolitician perspective, and he said it was critical for the VFW and military family organizations – specifically the National League of POW/MIA Families – to continue to put a human face on a humanitarian mission that transcends politics.
“This call to action is the result of numerous requests for assistance from Vietnamese veterans organizations,” he stressed. “Being requested are personal effects, such as wallets, family photos, and personal letters, as well as detailed battle maps or burial locations, anything that might help Vietnam to recover its own missing. No weapons, please!”
Such firsthand information has led U.S. investigation and recovery teams to successfully search in locations not previously recorded by military after-action reports.
Vietnam veterans can mail their memorabilia to:
VFW Washington Office
Attention: Public Affairs
200 Maryland Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Items collected by the VFW Washington Office will be turned over to DPAA.