3rd Place 2015 YWA (Grade 7) – Lily Lee from QSI
The Vietnam War: Change of Perspective
by Lily Lee
In history textbooks, all there is about the Vietnam War is the battles and the conflicts. Everything written on them is simply from an outsider’s view on the 20-year-long war. But my dad, being born in Vietnam, has an insight on what it was like to be an innocent civilian during the war. The war was also known in Vietnam as the “Resistance War Against America,” because America had been the main force that participated in the war. The war was between Northern Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the People’s Army of Vietnam, supported by anti-communist allies. Because of my dad’s side of the family, I was able to understand what the war was really like and look at it from a different perspective. It linked me to all the stories in a different way.
My dad, Joran Lee, was born in Vietnam on October 18, 1966, just ten years after the war began. During his early childhood, the war stayed in the north, in the countryside, so the urban areas weren’t affected. My dad’s life was just like any other ordinary kid in the world; you wouldn’t be able to tell that a major war was going on. His family lived in Saigon and although the battle had reached the bustling city towards the end of the war, they never actually saw soldiers firing their guns in the streets. Along with my relatives, my dad’s family lived in a tall building that my grandpa owned. They were quite rich, with my grandpa working in the Bangkok Bank. My grandma was a “stay-at-home mom”, so she wasn’t much of an economical support to my dad’s family, although she did cook wonderful meals and acted as the family’s “diplomat”.
Life was peaceful then, there were no signs of a war except maybe from reports on the news. My grandpa would grow mushrooms on rows of tree bark. He and my dad would watch sports until late at night, and my aunts and grandma would gang up against the two boys in his family. It was just like any typical family would be. On weekends, my grandpa would take the family to the street markets and they would get small snacks to eat. His favorite snacks were fried little baby crabs mixed with pepper and salt, they were sold in delicate little baskets and were my grandpa’s favorite afternoon snack.
Towards the end of the war, my dad started seeing gunfire from faraway exploding with “booms” and orange smoke, like bloody fireworks. The kids would run up to the balcony and try to see the helicopters, firing their bullets at the enemies and dodging bullets. Not long after the helicopters had came towards Saigon, my dad saw something what many outside reporters weren’t able to capture. One morning, he caught a view of an airliner, with its tail lit on fire, crashing down on top of a nearby building. The second after, there was a report on television that the People’s Army of Vietnam had surrendered. It was an emotional moment. On the streets were Vietnamese soldiers stripping away every piece of cloth that was related to the army. Their boots, their shirts, their jackets, their helmets, their guns, their grenades were scattered all over the streets. The government had chained up all the front doors with metal chains to prevent people from picking up weapons. The usually busy street was empty, only occasional communist soldiers would walk by, wearing their sandals and clearing away the surrendered anti-communist army’s weapons and uniforms.
From a civilian’s point of view, life after the war was even worse than the actual battles. The money they had no longer held its value, and even gold couldn’t be sold anymore. Instead, tickets were given to each family to exchange for food depending on how many family members they had. My dad’s family left after one year of living in the misery. Because they had a relative in Taiwan, they were able to get legal airplane tickets to leave Vietnam. His family was able to start fresh in an entirely different country. Because of this war, many children had lost their dads and families who had lost their economic support from the government. My dad has learned to appreciate having his family around without constantly having to worry about them participating in battles. He learned that the ones having the hardest lives during the war wasn’t the soldiers, but the civilians. The Vietnamese citizens had suffered much during this war and many of them weren’t as lucky to fly away from the country like my dad’s family. Through this war, my dad was able to understand the difficulties of living a life with constant gunfire all day long.
Congratulations to Lily Lee who has won a Pizza Party for her class and an Airbac Backpack sponsored by Airbac and DVpizza.com.