Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. There are many words said today to honor veterans: those lost, retired or still fighting. Some take is as a holiday and think not about veterans. For me, it is a very personal day of remembrance and celebration.

My grandfather was a very proud Marine until the day he passed away. He served during World War II, marrying the love of his life on 5 July 1942 in his uniform. Between the two of their families, seven people fought for freedom and each one came home safely.

Today I find myself working on this documentary, a film about Vietnam Veterans and American allies. I watch what is happening at home and abroad, how things are changing, how we can go about our day hardly impacted by today's war, and I work feverishly on the project to get it finished. The day that we share it will bring me such peace.

It is a humbling experience, and one that brings with it a great responsibility: telling the stories of veterans, past events, lives impacted by 40 years of fighting for freedom, and the unfortunate acts against our allies that continue in Vietnam and the United States today. I take one step at a time to work on the project and bring it closer and closer to completion.

For the chance to work on the project, I will always be grateful. My contribution is so minor compared to our veterans, and I hope that it will honor them, make them proud, and help others understand them a little better. It is a great story of love, courage, bravery, sacrifice and honor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fort Hood, TX (follow up)

Mike Benge, one of the cast members for our film (about the Montagnard people who allied with the U.S.A. during the Vietnam War), sends me emails regularly about what is happening in the community. He has been passionate about their plight for so many years, and you can hear the injustice against the Montagnards in his voice when he speaks.

Moments ago, I received an email from him about the Fort Hood, T.X., shooting. One of the victims was a Hmong-American. Here is a press release with more information:

"Private First Class Kham Xiong has accomplished his honorable service to our great nation, the United States of America, I salute him and his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood killed in this terrible shooting," Colonel Wangyee Vang said on behalf of Lao and Hmong veterans from Minnesota and across the United States.

( - St. Paul, Minnesota, Fresno, California, Fort Hood, Texas, and Washington, D.C., November 10, 2009 - The nation’s largest ethnic Hmong and Lao veterans organization is saluting Private First Class Kham Xiong and the other 12 victims of the Fort Hood shooting in Texas. Memorial services will be held in Texas today for the shooting victims attended by their families, President Barack Obama, the First Lady Michelle Obama, and Members of the U.S. Congress, including Rep. Betty McCollum ( D-MN ) of St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Lao Veterans of America, Inc., Lao Veterans of America Institute, Center for Public Policy Analysis, Lao Hmong Human Rights Council, Hmong Advance, Inc., Hmong Advancement, Inc., Laotian Community of Minnesota, United League for Democracy in Laos, Inc. the Center for Public Policy Analysis and a coalition of Lao and Hmong veterans and non-profit organizations have joined with Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt in honoring Pfc. Kham Xiong and expressing condolences to Mrs. Kham Xiong and his surviving children and family.

Private Kham Xiong and many of his family were natives of Minnesota's Twin Cities where there are large Lao Hmong communities in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. U.S. Army Private First Class Xiong was a Hmong refugee born in Thailand following the communist takeover in Laos and Hmong exodus at the end of the Vietnam War.
The press release continues here:

Fort Hood, TX

My shoulders shake and tears uncontrollably race down my cheeks as the Fort Hood, T.X., memorial service begins. The bagpipes start their cries, and the President and First Lady walk down the steps. It is the silence leading up to the bagpipes, and the sights of wounded soldiers taking their seats that makes the music so powerful.

Moments earlier, I read an email from my uncle in S.C. about the many family members that served our country since tomorrow is Veteran's Day. My grandmother is at her house, resting quietly as she grows weaker and weaker with age. The many wounded and mourning families in Fort Hood, T.X., take their seats and the bagpipes begin to play. The weight of it all finds its sweet release, and my tears can no longer be restrained.

I'm sitting in a waiting room shedding tear after tear. All of the moments of this life, and those lives that came before mine, seem to pause in the air around me and reveal how truly connected they all are. My life. The lives of my family members. The lives of strangers in Fort Hood, T.X., and their families.

One of my cast members states in his interview that we are all connected. He states that everyone is someone's cousin. We are all family, when it comes down to it. This brings me comfort as I weep over the loss of people whom I have never met.

My heart is with them.