First, we lost our fathers. Then we lost even more.
Some of us lost connections with extended family.
Others lost memories of what our fathers looked and sounded like.
We lived for decades in the shadow of the Vietnam War. But in December 2015,
we took a big step forward. We honored our fathers by visiting the sites where they fell,
and found new understanding by meeting with sons and daughters on the other side.
Six sons and daughters from the U.S. made the inaugural 2 Sides Project trip.
Portraits of the First Six
Mike's father, Army SP4 Curtis Earl Burkett, was killed on February 19, 1971 in Quang Ngai Province. "What I know about my Dad’s death is that he was at the edge of a river and leading a platoon. They were getting ready to cross the river because there were some VC
on the other side. My Dad stepped in and
was caught in a swift undertow. They found him 30 minutes later. He had drowned. I was four years old when he died. His funeral is
my first memory. There was a big black car, and we sat under a tent. He said before he
left: "I never really thought about sons and daughters on the other side, but I think it would be amazing to meet them."
Patty Young Loew
HM1 Jack Young, Navy, first served in the Korean War on the USS Missouri. Years later, after re-upping rather than retiring, he started a tour in Vietnam. He was killed near Da Nang on March 11, 1969. "My brothers and sisters were in their teens when my father was killed.
I was the baby, just two years old. I have no memories of him. But I remember that whenever Vietnam came on the TV, Mom would bristle. I didn’t get curious until I got older and became a mom myself. I found out as much as I could and made peace with myself. It was only later that I felt the profound effect of the reality of the loss. I never harbored ill feelings toward the Vietnamese. All of us kids are innocents. Our fathers made decisions and took sides and all the kids suffered losses like we did." She wondered before she left: will they harbor any animosity?
Susan’s father, James C. Mitchell Jr., was
in the Navy and was killed near Cao Lanh
City on January 8, 1970. "My Dad was a translator in an orphanage village. He was killed two days after his birthday, and two
days before he was scheduled to come home forever. He died when the helicopter he
was in was shot down. He didn’t know how
to swim. I only just found out the details of
his death preparing for this trip. I’m ok with the idea of meeting sons and daughters on
the other side. I don’t harbor any hard
feelings. I can’t say that was the case when
I was 5 or 15 years old."
Ron’s father was PFC Ronald Reyes (USMC
1st battalion / 9th Marines), who was killed
on a hill overlooking Khe Sanh on March 30, 1968. "I was born on February 28, 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive. My dad
found out that I was born two weeks before
he was killed. I know that he at least saw a picture of me. There were periods in school when I researched the war after it ended.
I did the same in college. Just before I had
my first child, my mother had a dream
about my father. He appeared as he would
have been at 18 or 19. He told her “Ronnie’s ok. He will have a daughter.” That was the
last dream she ever had about him, and
soon after that, my daughter was born.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford this trip, but I knew I had to go.
Margaret Von Lienen
Margaret’s father, Robert Saavedra, was a
Navy pilot. He was shot down over the province of Ha Tinh on April 28, 1968.
"I was five years old when my Dad's plane went down. I don’t remember hearing
about it that day. Mom had a mass at the
house afterwards. We used a piece of old furniture as the altar. I never saw a picture
of me with my father until a few years ago, when my brother found one and sent it to
me for my birthday. My cousin gave me
letters dad had written from Vietnam.
I read a couple of them recently and
stopped. It was too hard. I'm nervous
about going to Vietnam, and about
meeting Vietnamese sons and daughters.
What is their reaction going to be?
Weren't our fathers considered invaders?"
Margot Carlson Delogne
Margot is the founder of the 2 Sides Project.
Her father, John W. Carlson (Air Force), was shot down near Bien Hoa on December 7, 1966. "Truth be told, I grew up hating all things Vietnam. I was only focused on what
I had lost. But slowly, as I got older, I realized that my father's bombs had probably killed many people, and that there were sons and daughters like me on the other side who had lost their dads too. As my anger subsided,
I became curious about those children, now adults. What were they like? How had they tried to fill that hole left by their father's death? That's when the idea for the 2 Sides Project came to me. I had to meet them.
And I thought others would want to join me."
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”