Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that after more than 40 years he returned to Vietnam while on assignment to Asia. While in Vietnam, he met with high-ranking government officials in Hanoi, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
“In 1967, I joined the Army and was deployed to Vietnam,” Faleomavaega said.
“Forty years later, I was humbled to return to Vietnam and represent the United States and the people of American Samoa, but now in my official capacity as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment.”
“I was especially honored to meet with Vice President Ms. Nguyen Thi Doan who is a remarkable and inspirational woman, having, as a minority, risen to the top levels of the Vietnamese government. Our discussion was meaningful, insightful, and engaging. We renewed our commitment to strengthening U.S. – Vietnam relations, and pledged to work together to increase trade and address other matters beneficial to our respective countries.”
“In Hanoi, I also met with Deputy National Assembly Chairperson Ms. Tong Thi Phong who is also to be commended and recognized for her accomplishments as one of Vietnam’s top national leaders.”
“I also had the privilege of meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Mr. Le Van Bang who I knew while he previously served in Washington, DC as Vietnam’s Ambassador to the United States. During his tenure as Ambassador, we worked closely together to bring resolution to the Daewoosa garment incident and I will always appreciate the courtesy he showed to late Governor Tauese Sunia who I arranged for him to meet at the height of the Daewoosa scandal which the national media brought so much unwanted attention to American Samoa.”
“After meeting with other government officials in Hanoi, including the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly and his colleagues, I travelled to Nha Trang where I served as a soldier from 1967-1968 at the height of the TET Offensive in January 1968. I was deeply moved by the experience and, not knowing whether I would come back alive or in a body bag. I also remembered well my younger brother Taulauniu who also served in Vietnam.”
“While in Vietnam, I thought of American Samoa’s soldiers now caught up in a conflict that brings their families endless nights of worry and concern while serving our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. I pray for the safety of all our men and women in uniform and for their quick return home to their families and loved ones.”
“My time in Vietnam was a clear reminder that good people everywhere want the same things in life. At a closing dinner hosted by the National Assembly of Ho Chi Minh City, I had long discussions with members of their Foreign Affairs Committee who had also served in the Vietnam War. Though we were once enemies, we embraced each other as friends who share the same hopes and dreams for our families and countries. I saw further testament of this when I attended Catholic Mass in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday morning and was surprised to learn that 7-million Vietnamese are members of the Catholic Church which was very impressive and I thought about our own faithful members of the Catholic Church throughout Samoa.”
“All in all, it is evident that, despite our ideological differences, the people and government of Vietnam are committed to building stronger US-Vietnam relations and I have come to realize that Ho Chi Minh was a great leader who only wanted to get rid of 100 years of French colonialism and establish a better life for his own people,” Faleomavaega concluded.